Planning ahead

Setting a goal is not the main thing. It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.
Tom Landry
Legendary coach of the Dallas Cowboys
1924 – 2000

Each morning, I read certain comic strips in the newspaper. I read the comics for two reasons: they provide a bit of humor in an otherwise stressful world, and they often contain a kernel of truth.

I don’t normally read the Garfield strip, but my daughter pointed out an installment that contained a valuable lesson. If you aren’t familiar with the comic, its main character is a cat named Garfield. Garfield is a stereotypical “fat cat”: lazy and opinionated.

In the first panel, Garfield says, “I believe in planning ahead.” In the second panel, he says “because,” and in the third panel he completes the thought: “If you spend enough time planning you never actually have to do anything.”

I got a chuckle out of the cartoon, and I recognized the lesson contained in the strip. So many people engage in planning, but they spend most of their lives planning and never get around to doing anything.

Now, we all need to do a certain amount of planning. But planning is like knowledge: the value is not in the planning itself but in using the plan. Planning is worthless without action.

I know so many people who love to plan but are deathly afraid to act on their plans. They keep planning in an effort to make their plans perfect. A poor plan well executed is infinitely better than a great plan that’s never implemented.

Are you using planning as a crutch or an excuse for failing to act? It’s okay for Garfield to think planning is great because it delays action. But it’s not okay for you — not if you want to achieve your goals. Part of a good plan should be a firm date for implementation. The sooner you act on your plan, the sooner you’ll discover the flaws.

Don’t wait for your plan to be perfect before you begin to put it in motion. No matter how solid your plan, it generally won’t survive the first phase of implementation without some adjustments. We can never anticipate every contingency, so don’t try.

Let your motto be “Ready, Fire, Aim:” plan, take action, and then use feedback to refine your strategy. Because endlessly planning in order to avoid acting will never get you where you want to be.

In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.
Theodore Roosevelt
1858 – 1919

Copyright © 2014 John Chancellor


Planning ahead — 4 Comments

  1. I recently have had conversations with two of my clients along the lines of this post. They spend so long planning and editing their marketing materials that they never get to the point of completing them. Consequently, they go for months without promoting their products. Their existing customers begin to forget about them and new customers are not being recruited. While creating quality work is important, perfecting it repeatedly is holding them back. At some point you have to say, “This is good enough,” ship it and move on to the next project. If you don’t; your competition will.

  2. Susan,

    It is obviously a problem I see with lots of clients (and at times I fall into that trap). You are correct, it is better to get the product out and let me market gives us feedback.

    Thanks for sharing your insights.


  3. I love that strategy …….” Ready, Fire, Aim “.. That is one I need to get framed and on my office wall.Thanks for that golden nugget.