Why would we want a plan B?

Won’t having a backup plan rob us of the adrenaline rush and the high stakes necessary to truly succeed? Why would we want to give ourselves an “out?”

Because there is exactly one certainty in life: it often doesn’t go as planned.

If the only variable at work was your own effort, your own commitment, your own focus, then sure, it would make sense to completely commit yourself to your goal by not having a backup plan. If there was a direct, unerring, simplistic connection between your efforts and your results, then sure. Don’t have a Plan B.

But let me ask you: what kind of a fantasy world do you think you’re living in, if you truly believe that your level of commitment or your level of effort is the ONLY variable at work?

There are going to be monkey wrenches thrown into your plans that have nothing to do with you.

There are going to be monkey wrenches thrown into your plans that you will have absolutely no way of predicting.

There are going to be monkey wrenches thrown into your plans that will change your perspective and approach.

There will be monkey wrenches thrown into your plans that will change your goals themselves.

You really think we’re living in a world where you can simply succeed by “going all in?”

Be real. Live with me in the real world, not the candy-coated fantasy world created by some self-help authors in which anything is possible if you just believe hard enough and commit yourself to “moonshots.”

Children believe in magical thinking, in which the only variable that is operant in a project is their ability to fully commit. Children believe that their worlds are created wholly by their own thoughts and will.

There’s a reason why children are particularly susceptible to magical thinking of this type: because it is an enormously immature worldview.

Grown ups don’t have the luxury of believing in magical thinking.

Grown ups acknowledge that there are things that will impact their plans that they cannot control.

Grown ups do not live in a candy-coated world of denial, in which they can safely eschew backup plans because, gosh darn it, they’re going to think their way into a tangible result.

Understand: Plan B doesn’t have to suck.

Plan B, in fact, should have as much going for it as Plan A, in some respects. It should be a contingency plan that still reflects your values and goals.

Plan B should be a way for you to keep moving in a direction you decide, even if Plan A doesn’t work out for whatever reason.

Put another way, if you don’t have a Plan B, and Plan A doesn’t work out— you’re then at the mercy of others peoples’ goals and values. Your magical thinking has painted you into a corner.

The self-help “experts” who tell you to go “all in” don’t address the downside of that risk. They correctly point out that risk is often involved in generating meaningful results…but they let their followers down when it comes to managing that risk.

Oh, yeah, that’s another thing grown ups have to think about tin the real world: risk management.

By the way: if you need the adrenaline rush of having “no other choice” but to succeed at Plan A, simply because you’ve failed to come up with a Plan B in anticipation of succeeding at your “moonshot,” then you are being poorly advised about how goal achievement happens in the real world.

In the real world, “moonshots” are the end results of dozens of unsuccessful attempts.

“Moonshots” are most often borne out of not just Plan B, but plans W, X, and Y.

Be a grown up. Have a Plan B.

Then work like hell to make Plan A happen.


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