The Joy of a Good Plan Well Executed

johnhannibalsmith

I’m a child of the ‘80s. While that may mean many things…yuppies, valley girls, and glam rock…to me that means really awesome TV. To me, MacGyver will always have a mullet, and B.A. Baracus will always pity the fool. Anyone remember Simon & Simon? That’s a show rife with Jungian archetypes…

One of my early TV heros, speaking of old B.A. Baracus, was the indomitable Hannibal Smith, leader of the A-Team. Somehow I never got to be Hannibal when we “played” A-Team, but it was his cunning, ingenuity, and resourcefulness that everyone looked to in order to get the job done. His famous line?

I love it with a plan comes together.

Who doesn’t love it when a good plan comes to fruition? I’m sitting in the airport this morning, and we all know that this entails a planning process that starts days, if not weeks, ahead of time. All of the hassles…parking, tickets, boarding passes, bags, security checkpoint, all of that…and much of that is out of your control. Somehow, though, the plan of packing, checking, repacking, online, figuring out transportation on the other end, it all seems to be working out so far. I know, it’s not an accomplishment on the level with saving a small town from a pack of renegade outlaw bikers, but hey, I think old Hannibal would be proud.

The key part of Hannibal’s statement is not the plan, however…it’s the joy that is felt when that plan actually happens. The sense of relief, satisfaction, appreciation that we were actually able to predict, with some level of certainty, that events would unfold as we wanted them to.

Planning is huge for veterans. We love timelines, schedules, itineraries. Backwards planning is sometimes key for success: figure out when you want something to happen, figure out what steps need to be taken before you get to that point, and work backwards from there. While it’s great for military operations, it also works for life…sometimes.

My beautiful and long-suffering wife and I were married in 1999. We got married in her hometown, and parts of my family were able to make it in. Because of the groups of people, we were staying in one hotel, my parents in another, her family was all there…lots of stuff. As she was getting ready, I decided I would be nice and do what a good Noncommissioned Officer does, and create a dual timeline. I started out with the time the wedding was supposed to start, what times we needed to get to our respective families, and worked backwards from there. Proud of my planning ability, I presented this excellent plan to my bride-to-be…who smiled sweetly, crumpled up the paper, and threw it over her shoulder. “Southerners don’t do timelines, honey.”

One of us made it to the church on time that day, though. Guess which one?

The joke is on me, though…my meticulous planning, my irrelevant timeline, ultimately didn’t matter…we still got married that day. And there was joy in that day, just as there is joy in remembering that day.

Think about a time in which you planned a complicated event and it came off. Maybe not perfectly, but it still happened. That sense of joy, of satisfaction, often made the hard work worth it. If it was challenging, how much more fulfilling the success?

Have you ever watched a sunrise? You could have done it this morning. Or yesterday. You have the opportunity to do it tomorrow, God willing. But I remember one particular sunrise, and the sense of satisfaction I enjoyed. In the late ‘90s, at Fort Bragg, there were thousands of ways to jump out of aircraft; by yourself, with people you didn’t know, with people you did know. One of the most common ways, at least in my day, was known as a Mass Tactical operation, six or seven different aircraft kicking out hundreds of paratroopers in the span of thirty minutes or an hour. These jumps usually happened sometime between 2300 (11PM) and 0300 (3AM), a set of hours collectively known as “0-dark-thirty.” If you were jumping with your unit, each organization had a rally point on the drop zone; you were supposed to land, collect your equipment, and move tactically to a designated spot on the drop zone to meet up with the rest of your crew. Sometimes there was a follow on mission, if the Commander was feeling tactical, but often it was just a place to gather at the end of the jump. You sit in a circle, parachutes in the middle, leaning back on your rucksack, and break out the smokes while you wait for the rest of the guys. You look left and right at your buddies, they bum one of your smokes, and you both smile while watching the sun rise. Satisfaction in a job well done. Joy when a plan comes together.

Often, plans don’t come off the way they were “supposed” to. There is much to be said about making an 80% plan, with 20% flexibility. There were probably a lot of things out of my control this morning that could have derailed my plan to get to the gate on time, and I prepared for that possibility. I built enough time in my plan. Adamantly sticking to a 100% plan at all cost is sometimes as foolish as going in with a 20% plan.

What plans do you have, and what do you need to do to make them happen? Have you figured out your contingencies, analyzed the possibilities, and then stepped forward with boldness in order to get done what you need to make happen?

When you have, remember to take time and recognize the joy in a good plan well executed.

Did you enjoy this post? You can read it and many others like it in the first Head Space and Timing eBook, available for purchase on Amazon now.

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