I taught at VanArts this morning, by which I really mean I talked for two hours and hoped those beautiful young minds would learn something from my string of disconnected thoughts. One of the things I talked about, though with my tendency to digress, I have no idea which rabbit-hole I was down when my time ran out, was poetically titled: Planning Is Just Guessing. But With More Flow Charts. It was #8 on the list of sermons I planned to dazzle them with.As far as sermons go, I’ve had shorter titles.
When I made the transition into vocational photography, I’d already had my entrepreneurial feet wet for several years. In some way I’ve always had them. As a 10-year old my mother actually let me go door-to-door for a week before Christmas ( I was 10, she was The Age of Moms), selling the most hideous hand-made Christmas ornaments. Due to my own overwhelming cuteness as a child, I sold a great many of them. Due to the fact that I made these things out of bark, dried plant matter, and googly-eyes, my overhead was low. High gross sales and low overhead meant I saved a good chunk of money for my first computer, though, unable to hang on to my money for that long, I spent it all, as I recall, on little Dungeons and Dragons figurines. Dwarves and dragons and stuff. Wow, was that a digression. So ahem, I made the transition into vocational photography with big plans. Really big plans.
Almost none of them came to pass. Life has a way of happening around us, inflicting itself upon us with very little regard for our own plans, never mind the clever flow charts and critical path diagrams we spend so much time making because it makes us feel like we’re doing something. If we aren’t moving forward, at least we can talk about what it will look like when we finally get traction. Might as well sit around a crystal ball as make all those charts, but it’s harder to get a line of credit for your business when you walk into the bank with one.
Planning is good. Don’t get me wrong. It serves us well when we need a starting point and a string of what ifs. I’m great at planning. Notebooks full of lists and drawings and little check-boxes, and the only thing worse than planning too much is not planning at all. It’s foolish not to do your due-diligence and think things through. Here’s the point it’s taken me 4 paragraphs to get to: you can only plan for one what you’ll do, not for what life will do to you.
Many of us look to the New Year like a blank slate. I think every day is a blank slate, so I have the advantage because when I make a mess of a day I can start over tomorrow. When others make a mess of their day they’ve sullied the entire year and at this point you’ll have to wait 361 days to start over. Given my propensity to muck things up first before turning it around and making something of my efforts, it’s best to keep my fresh starts on the shortest leash possible. Another digression.
If you’re beginning the New Year with great plans of world domination, then I salute you. When I was in physical rehab I had a white board beside my bed on which the nurses insisted I write my daily and weekly goals. I wrote on it once. Under daily goals I wrote: Same thing we do everyday. Try to take over the world. World Domination is a worthy goal. Hard to do it without plans.
Harder still if you hold so tight to those plans that you don’t see better opportunities in the twists and turns of life. No plan survives contact with the enemy, as they say. Not one for having enemies, I’d rather see it as contact with Life itself.
Hold those plans with an open hand, folks. Don’t spend so much time looking down at them that you miss what’s happening around you. Opportunities come from conversations with real people, and reacting to the unexpected things life brings you, not flow charts. They come from leading a busy, interesting life, and reacting well, and quickly, to the things you never saw coming. Life happens, don’t let your clever plans blind you to the things it brings your way.