The struggles with having a PLAN B, but not so much with burning a few ships.

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

There is nothing better than a short road trip with three old friends* to generate a wide range of conversations and topics; the spectrum ranging from the benign, through the downright crass, to the "somewhat brilliant". One of these conversations brought out an idea that included the PLAN A and PLAN B that would lead to its realization. 

To this I chimed in, "In my experience many times your PLAN B becomes your PLAN A as people end up defaulting to PLAN B when things get difficult". This "self indulgent profoundness" continued when someone pointed out that invading Vikings would burn their ships, and in doing so, leave only two available options... success or death. After that, the conversations continued to ebb and flow through the spectrum but it did leave me with two nagging questions -

  1. Did the Vikings really burn their ships after they invaded?
  2. Why would I suggest having a PLAN B negatively impacts the effectiveness of your PLAN A when I believe it's important to have a PLAN B?

I wasn't able to definitively confirm the Vikings burned their ships, but did find references to a legend that the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés ordered the burning of the ships when he landed in the New World so his men would realize there was no chance of retreat; to be victorious, they would have to give it their all. There are also similar references throughout ancient times, so I think we can safely say at least one military leader in our storied past came up with this motivational idea. 

With the issue of the charred remains of Viking ships put to bed and the meaning tucked away, I needed to understand the issue of PLAN B becoming PLAN A by virtue of prudently having a backup plan; I was struggling with the contradiction it inherently caused because I truly believe having a PLAN B leads to a better chance of success. After a little thought and introspection, it became clear that I misspoke and was simply being loose with language that was confusing everything. Please let me explain and correct my error.

I probably should start with two simple definitions:

An objective: a thing aimed at or sought; a goal (or in the case that started these prose; an idea).

A plan: a detailed proposal for doing or achieving a goal.

Where I got myself into trouble was playing with loose language regarding the definitions of a GOAL and a PLAN and then struggled with the concept of not having a contingency plan(s) to drive success as a result. What I should have said was "In my experience many times your GOAL B becomes your GOAL A as people end up defaulting to it when things get difficult", which strangely enough brings us back to the Vikings.

The Vikings (or Hernán Cortés) had a single goal... their GOAL A if you will, that was to invade and conquer. They didn't have a GOAL B that was to invade, see how things went, and if it just wasn't working as they had hoped go somewhere else. This is what I was trying to say with my loose language but was ultimately said much better by burning a few ships - You should only have one GOAL; any more and you will surely default to the easiest and never achieve what you really want.

And with this whole issue of loose language all sorted out, having a PLAN B made more sense than ever. Achieving goals aren't always easy and the best laid plans may not always work out as expected. Having a contingency plan, a PLAN B per se, makes it easier to adapt to the situations that stand in the way of achieving your goals. 

There is also another advantage to having a PLAN B - With it's very existence it ensures you have your GOAL, have looked at the situation, and developed a PLAN A; inherently, it also indicates that potential challenges and the proverbial "wrench(s) in the machine" have been identified and that actions to address them are in place... all increasing the probability for success.

So celebrate your PLAN B! It is a nice indicator that you will succeed.


* Thanks to Huey, Dewey and The Duke for a great road trip, and our continued search for a great tasting bourbon.