“Plan B”: The most legendary of all plans. The last hope for many leaders in risky situations.
It’s not easy to catch. Most of the times someone says “We need a Plan B” or hopefully asks “What is our Plan B”, it just means “We are in serious trouble”. If you run a risky business, and you have no contingency plan, then you are in real trouble. The benefit of a second plan in case the first one fails is beyond question. Except you ask Helmuth von Moltke: “No plan survives contact with the enemy”.
The higher the target, the more probabilities we try to catch. Everyone and everything is focused on the point of success. Eyes on target. There is nothing beyond that point, until you reach it. Then enjoy your success, lean back, you’ve done it. Those are the greatest moments, and the greatest traps. It’s like reaching your highest flight level, turning off the engines, and enjoying the glide – downward. If you start looking for new targets at this point, you are late. Perhaps your engines will not start running again.
Up into space
History has many outstanding persons who focused their life on one point and went down in history reaching it. Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin will ever be remembered as the first human in space. Those 108 minutes on April 12, 1961 marked the peak and the end of his spaceflight career.
He was honored “Hero of the Soviet Union”, the people loved and admired him, but he was not allowed to return into space. Gagarin was reduced to an icon. The risk of losing him to an accident was too high. He did not even have enough influence to save the life of his friend Vladimir Komarov, for whom he was the backup pilot on Soyuz 1. Gagarin protested that additional safety precautions were necessary for the Soyuz 1 mission. He was ignored, the mission failed, killing his friend.
Being disappointed, he went back to his job as a fighter Pilot, where he died on a routine training flight seven years after his space adventure.
Back to earth and below the surface
What about Howard Carter? He will ever be remembered as the discoverer of Tut-Ankh-Amuns grave. His brightest moment was when his friend and financier Lord Carnarvon asked “Can you see anything?” and Carter replied with the famous words: “Yes, wonderful things!”. After the discovery of Tut-Ankh-Amuns grave, Carter retired from archaeology. Gone aimless, he began to withdraw from society, living in his house at West Thebes before returning to Britain.
Back to normal
Ok, these are not your businesses. You do normal things, leading some people, reaching some milestones, right?. Routine. Do you love that? (If the answer is yes, then you may stop reading here.) If you work with passion, you probably hate routine, and for sure you love challenges. So let’s assume you meet the challenge of your life. Go for it and make it a perfect run, but from the beginning keep in mind this is only the highest challenge so far, and there is always a bigger one.
Once you made it and step aside to enjoy your success, let some memories pass through, one of your successors will overtake you. It might be your deputy. Success is no state, it’s a race in stages. Do not mistake the end of the current stage with a final target. Once you reach it, it is a new beginning. What feels better, having reached a big target in the past, or reaching it?
Giovanni Battista Belzoni, the forerunner of Howard Carter and many other Egyptologists, lived this way. Gagarin had no choice, but Carter had. So have you.
How about your plan in case of success? What will you aim for next?