When Planning Doesn’t Fit

Simon Sinek is insightful.

I watched an old TED Talk the other day and it helped me see why people are so disinterested in planning. Planning is too logical. People want their lives to work out for emotional reasons, not for logical reasons. They may use logic to prove out what they decided emotionally, but that is after the decision is made.

One of life’s fascinating problems is, you cannot dream and plan at the same time. They use different parts of your brain.

You can watch the TED Talk here. It has been viewed more than 42 million times so it may not be totally foolish.

So where does planning fit?

In a recent video, What Leaders Get Wrong, Simon deals with two kinds of structures. As he calls them, the finite game and the infinite game. The finite game has rules, known participants, and an objective. (A way to tell how you are doing and when you are done.) Like a financial plan.

The infinite game has both known and unknown players, changeable rules, and its only objective is to perpetuate the game. Like life.

Investing is more like an infinite game so you will be forced to adjust a little using your own context and your Why.

Planning fits into life by trying to organize and optimize the parts. Finite games like a financial plan must never dominate, they must merely make the game of life easier.

How to think about it

In the first video Simon talks about the golden circle. What, How, and Why

This is a fine approach to life plans, but when it comes to specific plans, like debt reduction or retirement planning, or lifestyle management, there are many hows that could get a given what. There are also more than a few whats, and not so many what withs.

Specific plans attach to life plans by allowing the why to define the what and then using resource scarcity and the resulting priorities, to find the most efficient how.

If you step away from why to how for something like an education saving plan, you will lose the power of being specific in your context. You will lose efficiency. It comes down to noticing how things work here in the real world.

In Simon’s model

Why is a strategic question. It is about effectiveness. It has emotional meaning. Doing the right thing for reasons that motivate you to carry through. In his model the what is an outcome and there is an assumed method to get it. Your life is not so simple. How is never strategic. It is always tactical, so when trying to implement, it is important to notice a variation.

Fit tactics to the general plan.

How is a tactical question and it is not about effectiveness. It is about efficiency. To achieve that you must work your plan a little differently. It goes this way.

  1. Why – Purposes, beliefs. Emotional. The source of inspiration and motivation. The inner circle
  2. Strategic steps, The “W” questions. What do I want, What do I have to get it with, Who is involved, When do I need it, Where will we be? There is a new why question here. What if? These steps establish limits and priorities and establish a timeline that is stress reducing. You need not finish everything in a day.
  3. Choosing tactical steps to implement the specific strategic model. Tactics are everywhere. Most are packages. Tools if you like. Tools carry forward the history of human experience in a single step. Easy to acquire and use. Hard to decide which is best. Best = powerful, flexible, durable. Resources will limit which are available to you. How do you find a good-enough solution? Usually with help.
  4. Logistics or Implementation. You must “Just Do It” at some point. Helpers help. Detail matters. Logistics also requires review and frequent connection to the planning loop and the Why. People waste time and other resources sticking with what was a temporary plan in the beginning and it has now outlived its utility.

Other than controlling the “W” questions to match your personal why, you should seek an advisor, or helper for the rest. Tactics and implementation are not fertile areas for do-it-yourself success.

The summary

Create an effective life dream because it will motivate you. Then, and only then, work out ways to be efficient in the use of your resources.

Bonus value. The system works well with things other than financial planning.

I help business owners, professionals, and others understand and manage risk and other financial issues. To help them achieve their goals, I use tax efficiencies and design advantages to acquire more efficient income and larger, more liquid estates.

In previous careers, I have been a partner in a large, international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business.

Please be in touch if I can help you. don@moneyfyi.com 705-927-4770

One Comment on “When Planning Doesn’t Fit

  1. Very nicely written , fully agree.

    Being a huge fan and follower of Simon Sinek myself , have been closely following Simon’s videos related to why playing “Infinite Games” is the way forward in life for achieving fulfillment.

    Based on a recent video of his , felt inspired to write a blog with some high level information on Infinite Games and the checklist associated with playing of infinite games.

    Hope this spreads motivation around.


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