If This, Then That, If That, Then This

The problem with making a plan is that the plan often fails. Some unforeseen “thing” happens and the whole plan falls apart.

That’s why I never make a plan. Instead, I make plans. My plans take on the look of a flow chart. It is full of one contingency after another. If this happens then I’ll do that. If that happens then I’ll do this…and on it goes. It is like having plans within your plans.

I review those plans on a regular basis and rewrite them as necessary at the beginning of each New Year. There is no better stress reducer than preparation and that has never been truer than in this particular year.

My “if this, then that” plans could never have foreseen what is happening in the world right now. But the combinations of my “if this, then that” plans do in fact account for nearly every single change and related consequences we’ve seen so far. And for me, as for many of you, some of those have been whoppers.

The whole “if this, then that” strategy comes from a single principle from a life changing book by Dale Carnegie. The title of that book is “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.” It is far from Mr. Carnegie’s most famous work. But people who have also read his legendary “How to Win Friends and Influence People” would give the edge to what Carnegie folks call “The Worry Book.”

The principle says to “Consider the worst that can happen. Accept the worst. Try to improve upon the worst.” I don’t suppose Mr. Carnegie realized it at the time but that translates pretty well into “if that happens I’ll do this, if this happens I’ll do that.

Knowing what you’ll do in difficult circumstances offers you great peace of mind when those circumstances arrive. Making big decisions before they need to be made allows you to make much better decisions.

I guess I’m supposed to be stressed out by all that’s going on around me but I’ve reviewed every single “if this, then that” in my plans. I can’t find a single one that says “be stressed” so there is no stress to be found.

There is no stress because my wife and I are implementing plans we made 25 years ago. Frankly we are a little farther into the “if this, then that” scenarios than we would like to be but that’s fine because we are in complete control of our futures. No one else gets to decide them for us.

You can have that same authority over your life IF you make plans that contemplate every possible outcome. This type of planning takes a pretty serious investment of time but the return on that investment is peace of mind and that my friends is priceless.

I may not get to decide all of my circumstances but I have complete control over how I respond to them. You too can have complete control over the circumstances of your life if you’re willing to make the effort before you need to.

As for me, I’ll just follow my plans because I know exactly where they lead.

Sudden Change

Change can come out of nowhere. As prepared as you think you may be for the unexpected when it arrives it’s still unexpected. But it’s vital that even in the swirl of unknowns you know this one irrefutable fact… you matter.

That means that you must embrace the unknowns and see the incredible world of opportunities before you. Even if at first glance it may look to others as if the rug has been pulled out from under you, always know that you can make the choice to use that rug as a flying carpet to your future.

All change brings with it a sense of loss. That’s perfectly normal. Grab on to that sense of loss, look at it from all directions, become good friends with it, get very very comfortable with it, and then discard it. There are just too many possibilities in the future for you to be concerned about what was in the past.

The world can be a very unfriendly place right now. So make certain that you remain kind. Kind to others of course but also kind to yourself. When sudden, unwanted change comes your way pay particular attention to how you’re talking to yourself. It is far easier to get past the hurtful things others say about you than it is to get over the hurtful things you say about yourself. So do not say them to begin with.

Be kind to yourself. Always.

Whatever you do don’t be mad at the change or the circumstances (or person) that thrust it upon you. Anger is an emotion that burns the precious energy you’ll need for whatever comes next. There is zero return on anger, it is an expensive emotion that no one can afford.

Make thoughtful decisions. Depending on the change you find yourself going through you may be tempted to make quick decisions. Quick does not mean rash. Be thoughtful in your decision making, the future is a long time so try to make your decisions for the long-term. Think things through, the better your decisions today the better all of your tomorrows will be.

Don’t blame others for the circumstances you’re in. Blaming others only slows down your transition to what will be. Change experts describe the time between what was and what will be as the transition phase of change. This is where the rubber meets the road. You will either slip into the past and risk living there or charge eagerly into the future, that choice is entirely yours.

The past presents the opportunity to wallow in a vast pity party. The future presents limitless opportunities for growth and prosperity. I would urge you to seek the future because your next success can only be found there, you’ll never find what’s next by looking behind you.

Many people won’t like to hear this but more than anything else, more than a person, more than circumstances, more then a deadly virus, it’s your past choices, good or bad, that put you in whatever situation you’re in at this very moment. It is the acceptance of that basic fact that will help you make sound choices for your future.

My Grandfather always told me that the most successful people find a way to make a good hand out of whatever cards they are dealt. Play the cards you have whether you like them or not because well, because they are the cards you have. Remember, a pair of threes can beat a pair of Aces if the person with the Aces is afraid to play them.

Now there are some of you who will say “all that’s easy for you to say.” To you I would say nope, not a single word of this is easy for me to say. I would also say listen to what I say but focus on YOU, focus on what YOU think and what YOU do. Remember how this post started…YOU matter.

Do what you need to do to take care of yourself because if you’re not taking care of yourself you can’t take care of anyone else. That reality will never change.

Forward to Normal

I sure have heard from lots of people who are waiting and hoping for things to get back to normal.

While I understand that sentiment there are two mistakes being made when we express it.

The first mistake is waiting. DON’T wait! If you’re waiting for what was normal to return I’m afraid you’re going to have a heck of a long wait. Some people and organizations will emerge from the current situation with the potential to be more successful than they were before. They are not going to create that success by waiting.

They are actively evaluating the events swirling around them to determine what they can control and exactly how they can control it. The key word in the previous sentence is “actively.” They are not ruminating over what is. They are creating what will be whenever “what is” is over.

Don’t wait, begin this very moment to determine your exit strategy from this pandemic. Determine what you do right now. Determine what you’ll do when the world reopens for business and how you will maintain that momentum when things start to feel a little more normal.

Speaking of normal…why would anyone want to go “back” to normal? You will not find your future success behind you. It is simply a waste of time and effort hoping for normal to return. It’s not coming back!

I have no better idea than anyone else what “normal” is going to look like a year from now. But I’d bet your next paycheck that it is not going to look like last year’s normal.

Instead of hoping to get “back to normal” you need to be looking forward to normal.

Normal will be different than normal used to be. We can’t fully go back to what was and that’s okay. Abraham Lincoln said “The best way to predict your future is to create it.” We have an incredible opportunity right now to create the next bit of our future. Don’t let that opportunity pass you by!

I know we all love normal. I’m not a bigger fan of change than anyone else but this much I know for sure….things are going to change. They only question we have to answer is this: Is change going to happen to you or is change going to happen because of you?

If I have to be on the change bus I’d much rather be driving. There are plenty of steering wheels to go around, will you join me in determining the future direction on your life?

Don’t Run From Change

You, like everyone else, prefers to do what you’ve done before. You, like me and everyone else, well, pretty much everyone else, likes doing what you are comfortable doing. You know what works and what the heck, why reinvent the wheel. After all, if it ain’t broke why fix it.

 

I can’t say for sure but I doubt if that “if it ain’t broke” philosophy ever really helped anyone excel. Eventually somebody comes along and breaks what’s been working fine for you. I mean what exactly was wrong with cassette tapes and VHS recorders? They worked and more importantly than that, I knew how to work them. 

 

But along comes somebody who makes them obsolete by inventing these little plastic coaster looking things that held a lot more music and video. And now those are gone too. My CD player was working  fine when I threw it out, so was my turntable for that matter.

 

What is wrong with people who can’t leave well enough alone? Well nothing is wrong with them because if not for them I’d be writing this on a typewrite. If not for them, you wouldn’t be reading it.

 

It’s normal for people to resist change. I could write pages on the psychological reasons for that but each of us has our own personal reasons for resisting change too. Those frequently trump even logical reasons for accepting the change.

 

As normal as it is to dislike and even fight change it is also often self-destructive. We fight in order to maintain control because we make the mistake of thinking that with control comes safety. 

 

If that was ever true it certainly isn’t true anymore. 

 

Consider the dilemma of the antelope. When lions hunt antelopes, the pride’s dominant male stays where he is. The female lions — the real hunters, swifter than the male — sneak around to the far side of the herd, fan out in a wide semi-circle, and lie down in the grass. The dominant male, bigger but slower, really incapable of catching the antelope by himself, takes on the job of suddenly leaping up and roaring at the antelope. He’s good at it. The antelope bolt from him — and run straight into the trap laid by the waiting females.

 

For the antelope, safety would lie in running toward the roar. Safety comes from deliberately picking out the thing that is most terrifying, and moving toward the source of the fear. No antelope has ever been known to do that. Very few people can either — but people are the only ones who can learn to deal with the change that they fear.

 

So what about you? What do you fear the most? What conversation do you dread the most? Who in your business or family do you not get along with? Who can you not bring yourself to forgive? What change have you wasted precious time and energy on fighting? 

 

Whether you know it or not, they will be your most powerful teachers of change. Moving forward, toward the fear is the safest and most productive thing you can do. 

 

I’m certain there would be more antelopes in the world if they could move toward that threatening lion. I’m sure there would be more successful people in the world if they invested their energy to seek out their difficult, scary situations so they could work through them. 

 

I feel the need to admit here that I have frequently run from the lion myself. With that admission I can also say that whenever I found the courage to run toward the lion it worked out pretty well. 


Will 2019 be the year you face your lions? Will you run at them? Run past them, over them or through them? You can do it, you absolutely can do it, the only question is… will you?

Are you in Control of Your Life?

Think back to last January. Remember the resolutions you made? Maybe you decided to skip the almost always worthless resolutions and you set meaningful goals.

 

What has changed as a result of those resolutions or goals? More to the point, what have YOU changed. What are you doing differently this year?

 

I ask that because nothing in your life will actually change until you do. 

 

If you want change in your life then you should know that true, long-lasting change is more likely to come from what you stop doing. Most people seek change by trying something new but the change doesn’t stick because they failed to stop doing something else. Real change most often happens when you stop doing something that you do everyday, or nearly everyday. 

 

Would you like to have more control over your life? Then don‘t burn the first 15-30 minutes (or longer) of your day on social media. Invest that time instead in planning your day. Social Media might be of benefit to you but planning your day will be a benefit to you. Maybe for you it’s not social media that becomes a time suck. Whatever it is that mindlessly wastes your time you should understand that mindfully planning your day will provide you with more control over your life. 

 

How much have you complained this year? Here’s an even more important question. How much have you complained this year about the things in your life that you have complete control over? 

 

Don’t complain, change. Take control of those controllable parts of your life and make a plan that leads to positive change. Nothing changes by itself. All change comes about as a result of somebody doing something differently. If the change you seek pertains to your life then you must be that somebody. 

 

Here’s one final question for you. Do you want to drive the change that affects your life or do you want your life to be driven by change?


If you want to be in control of your life then take charge of change before it takes charge of you! 

The Benefit of Living an Uncomfortable Life

A while back I was managing a program and someone asked me about a decision I had made. I responded that I was comfortable with what I had decided. I also said I was comfortable with the thousands of other decisions I had made for the program too. 

 

I’d say less than a minute later I realized how arrogant that sounded. It also wasn’t exactly true since I work hard at being intentionally uncomfortable. 

 

One of the biggest obstacles on many people’s journey to success is comfort. The split second you are comfortable with where you’re at you’re not there anymore. The moment you’re comfortable with all of your decisions is the same moment your decisions become less effective. In the instant you become comfortable doing something your pursuit of doing it better stops.

 

If I could give anyone advice to help them be consistently successful I’d tell them to live as uncomfortably as they can stand. Actually it would be to live a little more uncomfortably than they can stand. 

 

The world is ever changing. The marketplace for every business is morphing in ways unthinkable a couple of years ago. Being comfortable, for even a day or two means risking being left so far behind that you may never catch up.  

 

Comfort is an expense that no organization can afford. If your goals include growing or even if your goals are merely to survive the next five years then you must embrace discomfort now. Virtually nothing works the way it did even a few years ago and it’s likely that what works this year won’t work next year.

 

As a leader you must push yourself to uncomfortable places. You must help your people get comfortable with being uncomfortable. You must ensure that they are uncomfortable with the mere thought of comfort. 

 

Uncomfortable people grow, uncomfortable organizations succeed and their success is lasting. Comfortable people are vulnerable and so are comfortable organizations. They are vulnerable to extinction.

 

If you’re comfortable saying things like “we’ve always done it that way” then I hope you’re really comfortable because those may be the final words ever spoken on behalf of your once successful organization. 

 

The benefit of living an uncomfortable life is surviving and even thriving in a world that uses old ideas only as a measuring stick against new ones. 


It’s fine to relax so go ahead and uncomfortably relax because uncomfortable is the new comfortable. At least it is for those people and organizations that hope to still be successful in the months and years ahead.

Old Advice

Someone asked me a few day ago how I write this blog, they wondered if I had a bunch of posts “in progress” that were partially written that I selected from when I needed a post and had no fresh ideas.

 

Well, that’s is sometimes the case. I most often write early in the morning and once I start a post I usually finish it in one sitting. Sometimes I write when something makes me mad, those posts are often left unfinished and are seldom published. (I know there are lots of people who would like to see those posts but I don’t think so, perhaps I’ll save those for the book I might never write)

 

This particular post is one of those “mad” posts but I’m most certainly going to finish it and I’m definitely going to publish it… I owe it to the limited thinkers who made me mad in the first place. So here we go…

 

Ordinarily I’d say doing something a particular way just because it’s always been done that way is a terrible reason for doing it. Continually repeating a process “just because” indicates lazy thinking and can result in inferior results. I frequently tell people that just because something isn’t broke doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be. 

 

The most successful people are always on the lookout for a better way of doing most everything. 

 

But every once in a while there isn’t a better way. Doing something the same way over a long period of time turns out to be the best way to do it. If you’ve seriously considered alternatives to the way you’re doing something today and found those alternatives to be lacking then don’t be afraid to stick with the status quo. But don’t quit looking either.

 

As leery as I am when I hear someone say “we’ve always done it way” I’m just as troubled when I hear someone say “we’re changing because it just seems like it’s time for a change.”

 

We’re changing because it’s time for a change is a horrible reason to change. You might just as well buy lottery tickets because your chances for success are about the same. Change for the sake of change indicates the same lazy level of thinking as “we’ve always done it that way.” 

 

You have no idea if the change is in the right direction, you’ve likely invested very little time in considering why it is being done the way it is and even less time considering the consequences and expense associated with the change. If the change works out you just got lucky and if you’re counting on luck then don’t count on much success.

 

Which brings me to the reason for this post. In trying to help someone understand why something was done the way it was done it was hinted to me that my “old advice” was of no use anymore. 

 

The person seemed to indicate that experience was in fact a handicap and advice stemming from experience should be discounted or just outright ignored. 

 

Wisdom doesn’t always come with experience; sometimes experience just shows up alone…. but not very often. Failing to use another person’s experience is an unforced error. It’s costly, it slows down progress and it’s just not very smart. Smart people learn from their mistakes, the smartest people learn from the mistakes of others.


If you choose to ignore the experience of those who have gone before you then you do so at your own peril, and let there be no doubt, it is perilous indeed.