One Plan is No Plan

Day 020 Week 03 Q1 Saturday, January 20, 2024

I have heard a Navy Seal say, “Two is one, and one is none.” Having one of something is like having none at all. This speaks to the importance of backup plans. 

Personally, this has been driven home many times in four completely different parts of my life. In the early years, when giving demonstrations of new products or technologies at Bose, where I was an acoustical engineer, and when performing live as a musician. And later on, when pitching investors or creating tradeshow booths for Fortune 500 companies,   

One thing you can always count on, except in the simplest of situations, is the unexpected. If this is very disturbing to you, you might want to deal with machines more than people, except come to think of it, devices and apps also do not do what you expect. Okay, so come to the conclusion that the unexpected can not really be avoided.  

Planning is a wonderful thing to do as it helps you to address what-ifs before they occur. Just do not count on the same problems to occur; different ones will show up. So planning is great as long as you do not hold too tightly to the expectation that this is what will happen. 

The truth of the matter is life requires a great deal of improvising. As a jazz musician, I have grown to think of jazz as my operating system for everything. That includes business, vacations, relationships, and even casual meetings. Being very comfortable improvising does not get me off the hook for planning. I do a lot of planning and actually love it because of my experience always having backup plans experience.  

In part, as an engineering nerd, I was already predisposed to planning and, as a performer, to rehearsing, but when I got out into the real world, I quickly found that people who could not reliably communicate and perform, either got fired, demoted, or ignored. They did not get ahead. And if they are a Navy Seal, they might die.

I know that some people think entrepreneurs are flakey, unreliable, and difficult to have relationships with. I can tell you from experience that successful entrepreneurs are very risk-averse. They have to be. Most entrepreneurs fail because they do not manage risk well.

Innovators are the superadaptors of the species. They use their innovation superpower to always be ready no matter what. They plan and plan again and plan a third time, and they update their plans, and they learn lessons empirically from being in the world.  

Innovators iterate until they prevail. And they all know One Plan is No Plan.