First you jump - then the net appears

publication date: Jun 2, 2011
 | 
author/source: Janet Gadeski
Just how deeply do you want what you want - for your campaign, your charity, yourself? Actress Martha Henry, now selecting applicants for a summer of training at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, told CBC's Michael Enright, "I don't want to hear that someone's doing a teaching degree in case it doesn't work out. It's a sign that the person isn't fully committed."Janet Gadeski photo

Later in the interview, recalling her early involvement with the National Theatre School, she commented, "You have to know that this is what you want more than anything else in the whole world. It's too hard otherwise. Conviction of your calling is all that gets you through the hard times."

The downside of Plan B

Whew! In a world where we're taught to have a backup plan at all times, this sounds like an extreme-risk approach to the things that matter most. But what if there's an edge to be gained from choosing not to emphasize Plan B - which is, by definition, not quite as desirable as Plan A?

From another viewpoint, consider what happens to our commitment, our willingness to drive what we know is right or best for our organization, our donors, our clients, when a little voice inside reminds us, "It's OK if this doesn't work. We can always do Plan B instead."

Doesn't that phrase feel like taking our foot off the accelerator? Right away it sounds like Plan A might not be quite as essential to success as it first seemed. We're settling, and it doesn't feel good.

The power of commitment

Complete commitment creates power. If you've ever procrastinated on a project, and then exceeded what you thought you could accomplish once you had no other choice but to do the task now, you've tasted the power of commitment. You set all other distractions, and even other worthwhile tasks, aside to get this one thing done - because you had no other options.

Now I'm not suggesting that procrastination is commitment. It's not even a strategy for creating commitment. It's more like a happy accident when it works, and a sign of really poor time management when it doesn't. But once in a while, by chance, it does show us what we can do when we have no other choice but to deliver on that one thing.

It may be that tapping the power of total commitment requires us to set aside the search for other options: those exit strategies and live-with compromises that sap our drive even as they reassure us that the world won't end if we miss this goal.

Staying committed to the best choice

But what about due diligence, we ask. What about risk management - professionally, organizationally, personally?

Here's the thing. The best way to minimize the risk of Plan A not working out is to throw everything you have into making it succeed. That means setting aside any thoughts and plans of what you'll do if it fails.

If too many doors slam shut along the way, trust yourself to recognize it. Those closed doors will point you towards Plan B at the right time. You'll know that since you gave Plan A everything you had, and it didn't work, Plan B is now your best choice. Incorporate what you've learned from the crash of Plan A, and approach your new endeavour with the same single-minded commitment.

Send Letters to the Editor to janet@hilborn.com; follow Janet at http://twitter.com/CFPed


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