Operation Plan B

Car Crash 6 cropped

   There is no Plan B.

   Ever seen that t-shirt? Here’s what I’d like to know – why isn’t there a Plan B? Back-up plans make it less intimidating to go after Plan A.

   There is one question I always consider when deciding whether or not to take a risk: “What’s the worst-case scenario?” What can I potentially lose, break, or damage – and can I afford to lose, break or damage that thing? What will chasing that dream cost me if it tanks? Will I lose a little money? some money? all my money? How much can I afford to lose? Same with time – how much lost is too much? (No matter what else it costs, pursuing a vision will always require time.) Will the time, effort or money I put into that dream cost anything in terms of relationships with family, friends or colleagues? Is there a risk to reputation? Health? And if any of these risks materialize, what then?

   What’s the worst-case scenario? And is there a fix?

Plan B is all about the fix. What will you do if the worst happens? That’s your Plan B.

   Now if you’re thinking that having a Plan B is for sissies, let me ask you this: Do you have car insurance? Life insurance? Home owners’ insurance? Medical insurance? Aren’t those all Plan B’s? If you get into a car accident (and that’s not Plan A) who will pay? Who gets sued? Not you – if you’re insured. Here’s another: some folks make a pre-nup before the vows in case the marriage goes, well, less favorably than hoped. Plan B. Or this Plan A: vacation on the Riviera. But if money’s tight, it’s Plan B: Peoria (Illinois, not Africa).  

   Face it – we all have Plan B’s.

   In Jane Austin’s Northanger Abbey, the not-so-nice Isabella becomes engaged to James Moreland – and stays engaged to him until she’s certain of an engagement to Captain Frederick Tilney who has way more cash. James, poor chap, is her Plan B; if she can’t find someone worth more, she’ll settle for James.  (I won’t tell you how that turns out.)

   I’m certainly not suggesting that your Plan B be a “settle” proposition but rather a plan in place to give you the courage to go after Plan A – to fulfill your dream and, ultimately, your destiny. Buy that beach house (to write in, of course) – just make sure you have flood insurance. House on the Pacific coast? Flood and earthquake insurance. Debating a college education? Go after that degree – what’s the worst that can happen? It’ll take longer than you thought? Time’s going to pass anyway; will you have anything to show for it? How about money – will your dream cost more than you thought? Maybe. But are you satisfied with your current wage?  Or what happens if you open that business and – worst-case scenario – it’s an epic fail? What then? It depends. Define “failure”. Does that mean that you have to debrief, regroup, remarket, and then take another crack at it? Or does it mean that you go bankrupt and lose everything? If, given the competition and the market, ruin is a possibility then perhaps the acceptable risk is too much. And if that happens, perhaps there is no fix.

   Maybe there is no Plan B.

   If there’s no possible Plan B for a worst-case scenario, then perhaps the better part of wisdom is to move on from that Plan A.

   What if there are no foreseeable catastrophic consequences should you experience a dream fail? For example, what if you write that book and then no one’s lining up to publish it? I can’t guarantee it’ll be published but I can guarantee what will happen if you don’t write it: for the rest of your life you’ll regret not giving it a shot.

   What if?

   That’s another essential question: What if I don’t activate Plan A? Will I be able to live with myself or will I regret it for the rest of my life? Regret is a bankruptcy of the soul for which there is no Plan B.

   So – formulate your Plan A, prepare your Plan B and – launch.

   The world is waiting.







The Myth of Perfection

Diamond    I once saw a cartoon of a skeleton woman wearing a dress and high heels; she was seated next to a sign saying “Waiting for Mr. Right”. Evidently, she’d been waiting a long time and Mr. R. never showed.

   Or did he?

   Was she so preoccupied with finding Mr. Perfect that she missed Mr. Right?

   What if things or people or situations don’t come packaged the way we think they should? Would Beauty have missed the beauty in the Beast? Would Prince Charming have passed on the cinder girl?

Would Mr. Darcy have bucked the social hierarchy to marry Elizabeth?

   What about situations other than marriage? What if our kids aren’t the children featured in the Hallmark movies? Have you ever looked up to the sky and said, “God, whatever made You think that I’m equipped to handle this child? I’m just not that good.” Or maybe you’ve said, “Why can’t I have parents like he has?”

   Sometimes we have to mine deep inside of a person to find the diamond. But before we start feeling too put out by having to do all the work, let’s remember that we, too, are jewels-in-the-rough and that if we sparkle at all, it’s because someone’s been willing to put the time and energy into drilling through our rock-hard places.

   So – what about the neighbor, the roommate, the employee, the co-worker, the student – even the boss or pastor who’s not perfect? Ditch them and find one who is? (Good luck with that.) What about the situation or opportunity or job that’s not perfect? Keep walking?

   I’ve known a fair number of people over the years who’ve passed on a job offer because it wasn’t the perfect job – it didn’t have the work load or salary or hours or perks that they thought they deserved. In their views, starting at the bottom – or even the middle – just wouldn’t do.  Give them the top job with a big salary and lots of autonomy – or give them nothing. They would wait until someone came along who really appreciated their value and was willing to give them what they believed they were due. 

   Some of them are still waiting.

   Perhaps it’s not the perfect job for your qualifications and experience. Ask yourself: can it be? Given some hard work and time, does it have potential for growth, development, advancement, promotion? If not, can it be the stepping stone for the experience needed to reach that riper plum?

   “Perfection,” per se, is not always perfectly packaged.

   “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a classic for a reason: we’ve all been tempted to do it. Haven’t we all been attracted to that thing sporting lots of shiny tinsel and frosting only to find that what was inside the package fell far short of the promised hype? And I don’t mean book covers only.

   If we check any antique store or yard sale or even grandma’s attic and dig around in the corners, behind the tables, and underneath the cobwebs, we’re bound to find some precious treasure – priceless even. It may have to be dusted off and it might even need to new part or two, but it’s the real thing; it’s the forgotten diamond just waiting to be mined.

   We need to be willing to search places no one else is willing to search. We need to ignore outward appearances and be willing to dig down to the heart of a matter, a person, a situation, a seeming opportunity. We can’t simply wait until perfection finds us because – it won’t.

   Jewels don’t just mine themselves – whether in people or situations. The gold, the diamonds, the emeralds, the pearls – they’ll be forever buried.

   Except for you.





To Walk Alone

Policeman with BB Team

   What is leadership? In a nutshell, it’s the ability and the willingness to walk alone – whether anyone goes with you or not. Leadership is courageous; it’s the will to go where others fear to go – regardless of the consequences. Leadership is visionary; it’s the ability to perceive or imagine a trail that no one else yet sees or even believes in. Leadership is honorable; it’s the determination to stand for what’s right in the midst of temptation, compromise, and corruption.

   True leadership is rare.

   Alas, however, not everyone who possesses the persuasive ability to attract followers uses those skills for noble purposes. Many times over the years I’ve had to pull aside a strong-willed, classroom trouble-maker and inform him that he has leadership skills – which means he has a choice. Either he can use his leadership abilities to lead others down the wrong path or he can influence them to do right.

   One who has leadership skills and yet is afraid of his followers is dangerous. He or she will always do whatever is necessary to please those followers without regard for whether what pleases them is right or wrong.

   True leaders, on the other hand, don’t worry about whether or not they have followers; real leaders naturally attract followers.

What real leaders are truly concerned about is their own faithfulness to their followers even when that faithfulness is not popular with – yes, those followers.

   Are you a parent? Have you ever had to say “no” when everything inside of you wants to say “yes”? Have you ever had to deny yourself or watch your own behavior for the sake of your children? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you an employer? Have you ever had to roll up your sleeves and set the example of hard work and commitment to your employees hoping that they’ll one day make that same commitment to your business? Have you ever had to sacrifice yourself in terms of hours, energy and even pay so that they’ll benefit? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you an employee? Have you ever had to take a stand among your colleagues and co-workers for what you won’t do: gossip around the microwave, “borrow” office supplies, fudge a timesheet or expense voucher? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you a teacher? Have you ever had to require students to do the hard work that they just don’t want to do? Memorizing math facts when the calculator is just “easier”, rewriting a paper even though it’s not necessarily fun, studying for a test rather than simply cheating on it? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you a student? Have you ever had to stand up to a bully for your own sake or that of another when everyone else just stands by and cheers on Goliath? Have you ever taken a stand to behave in a classroom when others think it’s funny to disrupt the class? Then you’re a leader.

   If your decisions are not guided by fear of what others think, then you’re a leader.

   If your sole concern is not what’s best for you but what’s best for everyone, then you’re a leader.

   If you’ve ever had to look into the wind to cast a vision for the sake of the greater good – regardless of what’s visible to the greater masses, then you’re a leader.

   If you’ve ever had to walk alone for the sake of what’s right, then you’re a leader – even if no one’s ever told you.







Feeling Alone On the Shelf?

Teddy in Window II

   Moses – 40, Abraham – 25, Jacob – 20, Joseph – 13, Hannah – 19, David – 20, Elizabeth – 40, Jesus – 30.

   What do these numbers represent? Years. Each of these people did years – decades, even – of seat time before God deemed that they were prepared enough to launch into their destinies.

   How long have you been sitting on the shelf of your dreams, collecting dust and wondering why it’s just not happening? Maybe you haven’t even made it to the shelf yet because you don’t have any idea what your purpose is or why you were even born.

   Moses wondered that as he spent 40 years on the backside of the desert after fleeing Egypt, heartbroken that he’d “blown” his destiny. David wondered that after being anointed king at ten years old and then hiding in caves for sixteen years, running for his life from King Saul. Abraham wondered that after God had promised him a son but 25 years later after both he and Sarah had become too old to have children, it still had not happened. Joseph wondered that after he was sold into slavery at seventeen and then sent to prison, forgotten, until he was 30. Rebekah waited 20 years to have Jacob, Hannah waited nineteen years to have Samuel, and Elizabeth waited 40 years to have John the Baptist.

   The Son of God waited for 30 years before He was released into ministry.

   The truth is that it’s all about the prep time.

   You doubt?

   What we, from human perspectives, have trouble comprehending is that the knowledge, wisdom and skills we gain here on earth won’t be used simply for the 80 or so years we’re assigned to Planet Rock, but rather we’ll be applying that prep for all eternity.

   Some say that we won’t work after we die because work was meant to be a punishment. However, Adam and Eve worked before the Fall, caring for the plants and animals in Eden. Granted, they enjoyed working there but that’s a different point. The significant thing is that they worked. God had prepped them for a job by giving them dominion over all creation and they kept busy exercising that. That their work was enjoyable and fulfilling is the nature of “work” in paradise. Work didn’t become a grind until sin entered the world. God also worked when He created creation. How do we know? Because we’re told that He rested on the seventh day.

   Through the centuries, there’s been all manner of speculation regarding precisely what we’ll be doing when we get to heaven. Of course, that depends. Remember, however, that before we take permanent residence in heaven, Christ will rule as King here on earth for a thousand years. During that time there will be a government – so there will be people serving in governmental positions. You may recall Jesus promising His servants that they would rule over cities based on their faithfulness on earth. The Bible also says that during that time, there will be no war and that people will turn their weapons into ploughshares. The need for farm tools would imply that there will be seed planted and crops harvested during those 1000 years. Otherwise, we’d be beating our swords into golf clubs and basketball hoops. Not that we won’t be doing those things. If you coach now, you’ll probably be doing it then.

   What else?

   Will people need to go to school? I would think there’ll be all kinds of schools: reading, writing, math, certainly, for those who haven’t had the opportunity to gain that knowledge yet – and make no mistake – millions in the world today have not had the chance to get even basic education. In addition, there’ll be thousands of Bible teachers all over the world instructing people in every nation in both the elementary and the deep things of God. And there’ll be pastors and worship leaders, too. I imagine as well that there’ll be instructors for many of our current subjects: languages; writing and music and art and cinema and dance; contracting and construction; businesses of all kinds; media and entertainment and sports – you name it. The difference will be that all of those industries will operate in honesty, integrity, and faithfulness to the Lord.

   Here’s what we probably won’t have: medical personnel and hospitals because there won’t be any sickness or disease; law enforcement and prison guards because there won’t be any crime; military services because there won’t be any war or threats of; and social justice and social service agencies because there won’t be any people in need, being abused or being discriminated against.

   But fear not – there will be plenty to do in that millennium.

   What about when we actually get to heaven? Will there be any work to do there? I don’t know exactly, but from the accounts of people who’ve visited there, no one’s idle. Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash have been spotted leading worship – just proof that we continue to do in heaven what we’ve been gifted and prepped to do here on earth. Who knows? Maybe there are other planets on which we’ll minister with our giftings as well. (Disclaimer: the Bible does not say that. I’m just using my God-given imagination.) Remember: it’s never too late to develop our giftings, no matter how old we might be. Case in point – my dad graduated with his Master’s degree at the age of 75.

   So – take that class, get that degree, open that business, write that book. And don’t be discouraged thinking that you’re too old or that the “prep time” is taking too long. You’ll be off that shelf and using what you’ve learned before you know it.