May 14th, 2010
06:35 PM ET

Your backup plan is your plan

Chris Guillebeau
AC360° Contributor

My favorite part of reading case studies and interviewing entrepreneurs over the past couple of months has been hearing a number of stories with a recurring theme. In dozens of variations, the stories usually sound like this:

"I was down to my last $400 and simply had to make it work…"

"I gave up the option to take a reduced role at my job and just went full-tilt…"

"I didn’t know what I was doing, but I finally overcame everything I was stalling on and just started …"

Refusing the backup plan is a key theme of many successful entrepreneurs and other heroes. A good backup plan creates safety, security and a fall-back option—things you don’t want when you’re trying to change the world.

Will Smith put it like this: "Your Plan B interferes with Plan A." I like that. Why not stick with Plan A?

The Pilot, The Plan

Turning down the safe advice ("be careful, take your time," etc.) makes some people uncomfortable.
When you proceed full-on with no backup, you might encounter questions or supposedly unassailable examples of why backup plans are necessary.

You’ll hear something like "Airplane pilots always have a Plan B," as if it’s an open-and-shut case that you’re wrong to chart a course without considering the contingencies. And when you are presented with such logic, you are expected to say: "Oh, you’re right! It really is better to play it safe. Gosh."

But hold on a minute. Personally, I want my pilot to safely land the damn plane. Assuming that’s Plan A, I’m happy to stick with it. Anything else doesn’t sound like a good plan to me.

We can change our tactics and maybe even our strategy, but let’s not change the goal. The goal is: be awesome. Change the world. Win. In short: Your backup plan is your plan.

Don’t get me wrong; I know that change is a scary thing, and I don’t think prudence is inherently bad. If you need to proceed with caution, proceed away.

But I also know that sometimes the fail-safe plan gives us a safe way out of what we really need to do. It holds us back from greatness. And if there’s anything we don’t want when attempting something truly important, it’s that. Full speed ahead!

So how about you over there… what’s your plan?

Editor’s Note: Chris Guillebeau is a writer and world traveler. He publishes the Art of Nonconformity blog at ChrisGuillebeau.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisguillebeau.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Beyond 360 • Chris Guillebeau
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. VY

    I think the whole idea of having plan B is great, but what happens when Plan A doesn't work out and you've never really think of EVER having a Plan B. You give up Plan A because you spent almost half of your life "sure of" Plan A will happen, but you have to give up Plan A because it's the only thing that will bring you peace (now you know because you're a little bit older and wiser, but you know deep down inside that Plan A was what you're really good at (passion. So what do you do? Does it means that you're a quitter???? because you've given up on Plan A..that's when Plan B just happens to be there without you ever contemplating about it...I guess a famous poet raises that question...Plan B can be the road less traveled. You don't have a clue of what will happen..is that good or bad? I guess it's how you perceive it to be.

    March 25, 2011 at 10:46 pm |
  2. JeffryK

    Having a plan B does not mean giving up on plan A. Similarly Plan B does not have to be mutually exclusive with plan A. In the Pilot example, "Airplane pilots always have a Plan B," yet many airplanes have a pilot, co-pilot and navigator, when only one is essential.

    November 8, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
  3. Berly

    I like having a Plan B, C, and D. I have multiple talents to tap into to make my cog turn. Sometimes it's profitable, sometimes it's enjoyable, other times not. Any given plan keeps me satisfied and diversified. Even when I have no plan at all, a plan comes along. I love all of the gumption, free thinking, jump starting this recession is having on America!

    November 2, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  4. jimmie castello

    want a job...join the military...problem solved...no unemployment...we can become a military nation...and stop paying taxes for anything else! "forget your troubles ...come get happy...get ready for the judgment"

    October 14, 2010 at 9:00 pm |
  5. Terri Reed

    Can BP come at the oil line (pipe) from the side? It is miles underground, under the gulf waters floor.
    Can they drill at an angle and collapse it, seal it from that angle?
    Or why not just pull the pipe out?
    Are they trying to salvage the line?

    May 29, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
  6. Patricia Hasley

    Interesting comments....the simple truth Plan A doesn't always work....Plan B is often times our reality......
    An awesome and amazing guy recently wrote a book called Plan B. Pete Wilson is his name. Check out the book......
    Life is full of sudden changes and real devastations.....Embracing Plan B ....... that is my goal....

    May 16, 2010 at 9:44 pm |
  7. Nancy Needhima

    I am just now launching my company and yes I am offered a Plan B, a safe and secure source of income but it's my worst nightmare for a profession. Interestingly I am more qualified to pursue the proposed profession as opposed to running the company I am establishing. So I am actually treating my Plan B as a catalyst to trigger my drive to stick to Plan A and 'make it work'. I'm only mentioning this to show another face of Plan B.

    Of late I find lots of pleasant and encouraging articles on AC 360 blog. A very welcoming change.

    May 16, 2010 at 3:31 am |
  8. Amanda Walton

    hmmmm... interesting .. What great points, something to really think about.

    Thanks for great advice to those aspiring entrepreneurs that need that final push to open the door.

    Kudos and H.A.N.D. 🙂

    May 15, 2010 at 8:50 pm |
  9. teresa, kent, oh

    Change is actually EASY: it's the NOT KNOWING that'll get ya.

    May 15, 2010 at 7:45 pm |
  10. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    I love this article and I'm sticking to it.

    May 15, 2010 at 2:07 pm |
  11. Coretta

    Thanks! Very informative, I never really perceive it that way. Things that make you go hummmm!

    May 15, 2010 at 9:09 am |
  12. hansenhouse

    I lost my job about a year ago, and as I quickly began looking for a full-time position, I searched for "consulting" and "freelance" work as a back-up.

    I realized a couple months into looking for a job, that my backup plan was my plan. Now I've formed HansenHouse Communication, and have a job – my own job!

    This is a perfect entry for a Friday afternoon. Thanks for posting, and I'm off to share.

    May 14, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
  13. Dennis

    In Buddhism, there is no "back-up plan". The goal is to be victorious in all aspects of our lives, our families and society. We start every day to be victorious. Then we start again tomorrow with the same goal. Of course there will be obstacles to keep us from our goals. That's t be expected. Nothing great is achieved easily. To think otherwise; to have doubts; to second guess ourselves is not being a Buddha. So go on and "Be Awesome". That's the way it should be.

    May 14, 2010 at 7:27 pm |

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