If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, as the business coaches of the world like to say.
This is a truism which is not just relevant for business success, but also for your own personal and professional success.
Planning for success is just a roadmap. It isn’t the journey, as no roadmap could ever be, but the right roadmap will guide the way to who you want to be and where you want to go.
Yet to arrive at that place you want to be, you need to know your destination in advance (what you want), and then work out the pathway to reach that destination.
With a good roadmap, you can even anticipate obstacles and difficulties along your journey and plan your route accordingly.
Going on a road trip is a great analogy for your journey through life, and one of the best and most scenic road trips I’ve ever taken is the drive from Denver, Colorado, to Las Vegas, Nevada.
In my carefree younger days, I rented a Mustang and hit the road with a friend I’d met along my travels through the USA. It was around the end of March, springtime in the northern hemisphere, and the weather was perfect.
Without a cloud in the sky and no threat of rain or snow, we drove over the snowcapped Rocky Mountains via Aspen and descended into the Nevada desert. On either side of the highway, huge mesas and giant cacti dominated the landscape, reminding me of classic cowboy scenes from all the old John Wayne westerns.
Then, 10 to 11 hours later, as the evening dimmed and we approached the sparkling lights of Las Vegas, the massive disc of the moon lifted above the desert horizon and I could almost hear Dean Martin crooning from the tumbleweeds, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie… That’s amore!”
We pulled into our hotel on The Strip, tired from the long drive but eager to hit the bars and casinos and have fun. The day had been a success. We knew what we had wanted to achieve and had arrived safely at our destination.
My point about planning is this:
Why, when we would never spend 8 to 9 hours in a car or bus or train not knowing where we were going, do many of us spend 80 to 90 years of our life not knowing where we want to go?
A lot of people resist planning, especially the carefree and young, because they fear it will take the spontaneity and fun out of life.
Yet, my travelling buddy and I had plenty of spontaneous moments during our road trip to Las Vegas. We’d had fun pulling over to the side of the road for scenic photos of the mountains or desert, having leisurely meal breaks, and chatting with locals at the roadside diners.
Planning just sets the route. What you do along the journey is up to you.
In my book, Samantha Honeycomb, I originally included a scene where Samantha encountered a free-spirited dragonfly called Derek. He was a cool, surfer-dude, drifting on the wind without a care in the world, happy to go wherever the breeze took him.
Derek ended all his sentences in ‘man’ or ‘yeah, man’, and I kind of had a soft spot for him, but my editor killed him off. With a stroke of her pen, she eliminated him as ruthlessly as any flyswatter.
“He isn’t necessary to the story,” she wrote in blood-red ink at the side of my manuscript.
I was slightly put out, and slightly more devastated at losing a favourite character, but I understood my editor’s reasoning and accepted his premature demise. Although I did secretly resurrect him in a brief sentence when Samantha noticed a dragonfly hovering above the sunflowers in the Crazy Lands.
This encounter causes her to ponder the difference between his life, drifting from moment to moment without any goals or aims, and her intense desire to reach her goal, Beebylon, the magical hive where honey drips from the walls and dreams come alive.
The underlying message I was trying to convey with Samantha’s encounter with Derek the Dragonfly (may he rest in peace), was that drifting through life without a destination to reach or a plan on how to get there probably kills spontaneity more ruthlessly than any editor or strategic planning will.
Drifting from job to job, partner to partner, town to town might seem like a bohemian and spontaneous lifestyle, but it is more reactive than bohemian, more stifled than spontaneous.
It might be fun for a while, but if you become like a pinball ricocheting from bumper to bumper you’re more likely to get tired and worn out than achieving any significant success you want for yourself.
So planning and goal setting is essential if you want to achieve even a modicum of success during this lifetime, and just as essential to becoming the person you want to be.