“Adventure is just bad planning”
–Roald Amundsen, Norwegian explorer and author
Last fall, we returned to the U.S. to finish out our coaching contract with one of our Ironman athletes. The event was around the holidays, so we extended our stay before heading back out on the road.
At a holiday party, a friend asked us,
“That’s great that you’re doing this whole travel thing, but what will you do when things don’t go as planned?”
I think our friend was well-meaning and only asked out of concern for us. But I also think it was his friendly way of asking, “What if you guys fail?”
It was a strange question for us. You see, up until that night we had spent the last 6 months(actually our whole lives as you’ll understand later in this post) learning how to live with things going differently from what we planned.
We had trained ourselves to go places without reservations, simply booking on the fly when we got there.
Most of the time this worked out. Well, there was the time we bunked in with a random French guy after arriving at Tioman Island right at dusk as the sunlight was fading. We only got to know him 5 minutes before we decided to become roommates for one night.
That worked out too, although it was not our original plan. If anyone ever told you French people are rude, they lied to you. The French are some of the nicest people we’ve met in our travels.
We replied to our friend, “You know what? You just roll with it. However it goes, you find a way to get past it and move on.”
I don’t know if this was good enough for him. He didn’t seem quite convinced. I don’t blame him. His question alludes to the instinctive fear that we all have when it comes to uncertain outcomes.
Learning courage…to embrace the doubt and uncertainty, to overcome the fear of plans going awry, to blind yourself to self-doubt and open your eyes to possibility…doesn’t happen overnight.
Do you ever fear that your plans will fail? Does it cause you to laugh at a lot of your big dreams and settle for the “sure” things in your life…the one’s that are “failproof”?
If you define plans not working out as failure, you might as well throw in the towel. Because by your measure, you’re a complete an utter failure.
I hope I’ve got your attention, because here’s a news flash:
Your life is one huge collection of things that haven’t gone as planned.
Some of you went to college and majored in something other than what you dreamed of as a child. Still others among you then took a job in a completely different industry than what you majored in.
You might have even planned to go to a certain university like MIT, but things didn’t work out and you went to a local college instead.
If you focused on your career, you may have had children later than you originally planned. Others may have had children sooner than planned. Some, like ourselves, didn’t have any at all.
Maybe you got married, thinking you found your soulmate. It didn’t work out as planned, and you went separate ways.
Despite these plans that didn’t work out, here you are. You have the luxury of being able to read this on the internet. Your world hasn’t ended. Since you have internet access, I’ll make the bold assumption that there is a roof over your head.
Which brings us to the answer to our friend’s question:
When things don’t go as planned, we do the only thing we can do. The only thing our parents, grandparents, and their parents did. We carry on and move forward with intention.
This is what you have been doing your entire life, without even realizing it. To become self-aware of this fact is one of the most important things you can practice if you want to take bold action in the face of uncertainty.
I’m not against planning. Indeed, a failure to plan is a plan to fail. What I have learned is that it is important to have a plan that allows for the curveballs life will throw at you. I know it isn’t easy. Hell, I still struggle with it myself.
The intoxicating illusion of control has been the ruin of many ambitions. Frozen in a locker of fear, the most spectacular dreams end up never seeing the light of day.
There is a story of how a man died and upon his arrival into heaven was met by St. Peter, who showed him around God’s house.
Heaven was more amazing than he ever imagined, with all the food and drink you could want, and the sun perpetually shining throughout.
St. Peter said the man could enjoy all that heaven had to offer, but he was not to enter the room with the large red door.
One day, the man noticed the door had been left ajar, so he decided to take a peek inside. The room was massive, a huge warehouse filled with boxes like you would see in an old bookkeeping room.
Every box had a name. After a few hours looking he found his, and started to peel open the lid.
“What do you think you are doing?” said St. Peter, who had been observing from a distance.
The man replied, “I’m sorry. I know I’m not supposed to be here. But I’d much like to know what is inside this box that bears my name.”
“This is the room of unfulfilled dreams. These boxes contain the dreams people kept locked in their hearts. The people who never found the courage to open their hearts to pursue these dreams died with them still inside and we ended up storing them here.”
How much more remarkable could your life be if it weren’t ruled by the fear that your plans won’t work out?
What untold legacy could you be leaving for your family and the world, if you were only willing to demand it of yourself?
There is no such thing as a rock-solid, unbreakable, perfect plan.
It is not a perfect plan that makes big dreams come true. It’s the person who is perfectly fine with uncertainty. The person who is willing to forge ahead, even without a guarantee of success.
You are this person, and until now you never realized it. You’ve been forging ahead your entire life, despite so many plans that didn’t work out along the way.
If you’re sitting on a big dream or goal, it’s time to stand up and make it happen. Your plan might not work out, but as you’ve proven time and again, your life moves on and you continue to live it to the fullest you can.
You don’t know how long the rest of your life will be. Don’t reach the end asking St. Peter, “Is there something in my box?”
Now that you’re self-aware of this, we can’t wait to see what dreams are about to be released from you!