Rules for Intrepid Living: Rule #10

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Rule #10. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned.

Back in August, in my post about Rule #3, I said, “If you wait until you have sorted out every single step in a plan, you’ll never get anything done but planning. Sometimes you just have to get started and work out some of the details as you go.” This is good reasoning for starting now instead of later, but it’s also worth noting that no matter how much time and effort we put into planning, things will never go 100% according to plan.

As Helmuth von Moltke, the 19th Century military strategist said, “No operation extends with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the main body of the enemy.” We say, more colloquially, “No plan survives first contact.” This seems to be true in all things, not just battle. Camping, construction, writing, and certainly wedding organization always require some amount of deviation from the plan. It simply isn’t possible to plan for every possible eventuality, every potential obstacle, and every minute detail in this world where we are surrounded by thousands of moving pieces.

Of course, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do any planning. You should always file a “flight plan” every time you travel, camp, or go on any adventure. This should include details about where you’re going, who you’re with, and when you should return. Leave this with a person you trust as well as any officials that require it. If possible, update those parties any time you need to deviate from the stated plan. This is for your safety. If you get injured, lost, or have any other problems, someone knowing that you’re not back when you should be as well as your path of travel can be the difference between a minor mishap and a serious problem. It could even save your life.

You should always have a “bail out” plan as well. As hard as it is to back away from a challenge, sometimes it’s necessary. It doesn’t matter how much money or time you’ve spent to get to the mountain, if conditions aren’t right, don’t make the climb. Having a plan in place that reminds you to bail if conditions are bad will help keep the ego out of the equation. Unless you’re an elite performer, don’t deviate from your bail out plan. Hell, if you are an elite performer, you still probably shouldn’t circumvent your bail out plan. It’s always better to be alive and safe wishing you were on a mountain than to be injured (or worse) wishing you weren’t.

Other than these, however, understand things aren’t going to go exactly the way you plan. That’s okay, the unexpected and unplanned things are part of what makes an adventurous life worth living. So plan to be as safe as you can. Learn how to use the tools you have at your disposal. Prepare as much as you can. Remember the wise words of MacGyver, “I’ve found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable.” Then be ready to follow his example and improvise a solution to any problems that come your way that you couldn’t have predicted. That’s why we prepare, plan, and practice in the first place; so we can remix our own solutions as needed.

Don’t disregard the value of planning because we can’t always fly by the seat of our pants. But recognize the limitations of your plans. Be as ready as you can be for whatever comes your way by acknowledging that we can’t plan for everything. Prepare as best you can, and plan accordingly. Just remember, nothing ever goes exactly as planned.

“Rules for Intrepid Living” is an ongoing weekly article that gives potential guidelines for how we can all live a bit more of an intrepid life. 

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