The book ‘The Rules to Break– A Personal Code for Living Your Life Your Way’ by Richard Templar, exposes all those ‘well-intended’ rules and gracious advice from teachers, parents, friends that somehow become ingrained in us. The trouble is many of those rules often aren’t true and yet they have a major influence on our lives. Instead of blindly accepting the rules set down for us by other people, we should learn to question them, think for ourselves, and be more fluid in our judgment. This article is the second of a series of articles I have decided to write offering you a selection of rules to break, and today we are going to look into the rule that encourages people to make a plan and stick to it.
Rule to break: Make a plan and stick to it.
Throughout your life, you will have a raft of people from well-intended parents to teachers, spouse, siblings, etc… who will tell you that to succeed in life you need to make a plan and stick to it. Everything we do requires us to make a plan of sorts. Making plans is part of what we do every day, we plan our days at work, our weekends, our food shopping; we have a plan for our short, medium, and long-term goals, and that is how it should be. It is particularly important to plan ahead for the future. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark, and you dig the well before you are thirsty.
Make a plan and stick to it sounds like very good advice. It encourages discipline and perseverance. The sticking to the plan part is what demonstrates one’s ability to persevere despite difficulties and setbacks. There are plenty of great stories of people who kept going despite the rejections. J.K. Rowling’s original synopsis of Harry Potter and the philosopher’s stone was rejected by 12 different publishing houses before Bloomsbury accepted it. In 2004 Forbes magazine named J.K Rowling the first person to become a billionaire by writing books. No doubt that her persistence to continue writing her novel whilst she was a single mother living on welfare paid off.
Those stories of achieving great success through sheer grit and perseverance are inspiring; we rarely hear stories that say, “when the going gets tough, just give up”, but these stories exist, they are just not as celebrated. Consider Isaac Newton who is famous for discovering the Law of Gravity; you may not be aware but before he achieved celebrity status, he wasted many years of his life in his quest to become a successful alchemist. Newton was obsessed with alchemy and spent years trying to decipher strange numerological codes hidden in the bible that he thought could give him the recipe for turning lead into gold. Eventually, he came to realize that his pursuit of alchemy was futile and decided to redirect his energy to more scientific pursuits, which eventually led him to discover the Law of Gravity.
New rule: Life is unpredictable. Adapt, pivot, rectify the plan if necessary.
As a general rule being disciplined and persistent is a good thing. Whatever you do, give it your best shot and try it long enough to figure out whether it is a goer or not. If you quit too early and too often, you may never see your efforts pay off. On the other hand, you have to have enough foresight to see that sometimes your ideas and vision don’t match reality, and being stubborn about it can cost you more than just pride. There is no virtue in sticking to the plan merely because it’s the plan. Sometimes you have to adapt, pivot, and rectify the plan if and when necessary.
Life is no different than the weather, it can be unpredictable. The Brits like to say, “there is no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing.” As long as you are wearing proper clothing the weather does not matter, you can go out and do whatever you need to do whether it rains or snows.
Talking about the weather, the invasion of Normandy by the allied forces during World War II took months of meticulous planning. The planning and strategic team responsible for the invasion of Normandy had to consider the weather, the moon, and tides when assigning a date for D-Day. Air operations required clear skies and a full moon for good visibility. Naval operations required low winds and calm seas to safely transport troops ashore. Ground troops needed to land at low tide when German beach obstacles were exposed and easier to deal with. D-Day required the best combination of all these factors.
Military Generals relied on information from meteorologists and other specialists to decide the best date for the invasion. With all the information made available to him, Supreme Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower decided to set the date on 5th June. In the days leading up to D-Day the meteorologists forecast that weather conditions would worsen; on the 4th of June Eisenhower decided to postpone the invasion by 24 hours, based on the information from his meteorologists that there will be a temporary break in the weather on the 6th of June. Delaying further was not an option, as it was difficult to keep such a large operation a secret for too long.
Eisenhower decided to launch the invasion during that small window where the weather would clear. D-Day happened on 6th June 1944. Historians agree that the D-Day military invasion that helped end World War II was one of the most ambitious and consequential military campaigns of the time and to this day, it remains among one of the greatest military achievements in recent history.
Moral of the story: Have a plan and stick to it in the first place, but be prepared to adapt, pivot, and rectify the plan as and when necessary.
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