Monthly Archives: February 2014

When It Doesn’t Go According to Plan

My friend Jay Delaney and I worked together when he lived and worked here in Florida, not that long ago.  He always has the best way of looking at plans, one of my favorite subjects.  Jay points out that improvisation, and the ability to creatively deploy whatever you have at hand, whatever is right in front of you, is key to creating your map.  And that is the name of Jay’s blog:  Create the Map.  Here is a Guest Post by Jay, generously loaned from the wonderful Create the Map:

What do you do when you’ve spent all that time crafting the perfect plan, and it just doesn’t go according to plan? It rains.  You run out of money.  You get fired from a job.  People are unenthused about your brilliant idea.  Do you give up?  Abort the mission?

No.  You adjust, and you keep moving forward.

I’ve learned that one of the greatest skills in any creative endeavor or in any job is this: the ability to improvise. I once took an improv class, and the fundamental rule I learned is that you must always say yes to whatever scenario, line, or cue you’re given.  If your improv partner asks if you want to hitchhike your way to Albuquerque, you better get that thumb up in the air.  Each yes propels the scene onward; a no would bring it to an abrupt halt.  And I’ll admit, I’m not so sure that kind of improv was my forte, but I’ve definitely developed an ability to improvise in my work and in my creative life.

The beauty of improvising is that it’s empowering. It invites you to use your creative energy to troubleshoot whatever comes along.  And it’s a powerful tool to tame the perfectionist within.  When you map out a path expecting that it won’t go quite according to plan and expecting that you’ll have to improvise at some point, it makes it less catastrophic when challenges arise.  You begin to realize you don’t have to have every single contingency accounted for.  I’m not suggesting you become pessimistic and assume that the worst will always happen. I’m just suggesting that you expect to rock your improv skills. And I’m suggesting that you be open to the surprises that await you and see them as opportunities instead of burdens.

There is such a thing as too much planning. I’m an advocate for planning and goal-setting, but too much of it can be a bad thing.  Preparation can become an excuse to keep you in the safe zone.  To keep you in the purely conceptual realm.  To keep you from taking action.  Sometimes you have to accept that it’s time to stop planning and start doing.  Sometimes you have to just take the plunge and learn as you go. The best advice I ever got for making a movie was to pick a date to start shooting and just do it.  That’s what I did when I made my documentary.  I knew I’d never feel completely ready to start shooting, but I picked a date and I got started.  Stop just dreaming about what you want and start doing the hard work and heavy lifting needed to make it actually happen.

You don’t have to have everything figured out from the get-go. You can adjust.  You can edit.  You can revise.  You can learn as you go.  Sometimes I have a hard time with this.  I’ve also learned that a certain amount of naiveté in any endeavor can be a true advantage.  You don’t know what you don’t know, and that can save you from analysis paralysis.  If something is new to you, use the naiveté to your advantage.  If something is not new for you, then by all means don’t sit back and analyze it to death.  You won’t ever be able to anticipate all the twists and turns that will come your way until you dive in and get started.

Don’t wait for the perfect plan or the perfect time to get started. It won’t ever come.  And if you sit around and wait too long, the inspiration may vanish.  If you’re inspired to do something, to create something, to make something, then take action.  Now.  Right now.  (You have permission stop reading now and start doing.)

Action breeds inspiration, not the other way around. I’m a firm believer in this.  I’ve learned it from experience.  I know some people sit around waiting until inspiration strikes or until motivation hits them like some thunderbolt.  It’s when we take action and have our wheels in motion that we open ourselves to new opportunities, new adventures, new lessons, and new insights.

Create the Map is not about planning each and every step of the journey before you’re even out of the gate. It’s about creating your own unique path each step of the way, as you’re traveling.  It’s about learning as you go.  Creating the map each day of your life as you live it.  Learning by doing.  Learning by listening.  Learning by taking action on what matters to you.  Now.