Planning Is Never Wasted

Planning matters because our lives are complicated, and resources are scarce. Planning reduces complexity and ideally uses resources a little better.

Planning is not “un fait accompli” – something completed. It is a process and operates over long periods.

Why is that so hard?

People want answers without thinking about how the form of the answer changes the problem. They can be easily misled into believing there is a simple, complete answer, and once implemented, the problem of complexity, application of resources, and effort go away. That is the way children think, and it’s a crucial error.

The article recreates a complex Peter Thiel thought and assesses it in two sentences, “Definitism views the future as knowable, and predictable to an imperfect but workable extent. It believes the creation and execution of plans in light of well-thought-out predictions leads humanity upward.”

How you think about it makes a difference, and that difference is brilliantly presented in a Gaping Void image. You can see the article here. Gaping Void provides far better than helpful information, and their blog is free. You must sign up here. Do it now, before you forget.

Planning is a process and recognizes that you plan because you will live in a fuzzy future.

Some people see the future as so unknown that planning will be futile, so why do it? That’s the indefinitist approach.

While men plan, God laughs.

That old saying may well be true, but God laughs at the plan, not the people.

The article points out another possibility. When man doesn’t plan, God laughs harder. In that case, God is laughing at the people.

Planning is about predicting. Anticipating is another form of the same thought. You will find anticipating is the key to the future. Plans discover links and anomalies that you can act on earlier. That is a real value.

The Gaping Void image, with a few additions, makes the whole process make sense.

Know what you want, when, what with, and with whom. Finally, know why you want that and not other options. Then find ways to get it – tactics. Implementing your choice is logistics. Reviewing and revising as necessary is an important part of logistics.

That’s part of learning what the whole thing means. It lets you avoid problems and seize opportunities.

Plans can be changed, but not without thought. The thought required to change a vision is immense. Changing a strategy is easier but still needs a supporting reason Usually, something important has changed. Tactics can change for a reason. Possibly a new and better version of what you are doing. Implementation is a month-to-month thing. Did you put $X in your investment plan? Quitting means you have never developed your vision.

No one quits on their vision without a very good reason. Revising how you change methods is not quitting. It is perfecting. Do not get trapped into the quitters never win idea. Some things should be stopped almost instantly.

Some plans fail.

Failed plans almost always have a single problem — they start with tactics. Without a strategic supporting vision, conflicts and voids soon become apparent. People often quit rather than redo the plan from the beginning. Sometimes they just guess another tactic.

Planning is an ordered four-step process, and you cannot develop a good plan by skipping steps or doing them in the wrong order. Never forget a thought presented by the best skate sharpener I have seen, the late Hal Flaro. “Speed is not a good substitute for quality.” Neither is a low price.

When you develop a vision and probabilistic strategy, the tactics you employ come with an implicit, added point. “This is what this method is for.” Attaching the tactical to the strategic vision adds a data point. Even if the tactical choice later shows itself to have been weak, knowing what it was for and how the first choice failed allows you to change your method and know why. That clarifies the purpose and motivates the planner to continue.

Every mistake adds or confirms meaning.

Plans that work are evolved plans.

Every plan fails, but if you pay attention, the second one fails a little less than the first one. Nobody ends up with a life plan that was begun, executed, never amended, and succeeded. Life is too complicated for that.

Revising a plan to make it a better predictor of the future is the mark of a planner who intends to succeed.

God smiles at these plans.


I build strategic, fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways to achieve spending and estate distribution goals. In the past, I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, 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. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning. I have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.

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