The importance of Plan B in pursuit of success

One of the most frustrating experiences in life is failure to execute one’s main strategy or achieve one’s main primary goals. This applies to all fields – politics, business, sports, academics, or more generally, in respect of one’s career.

Failure to rise to stardom, or indeed inability to accomplish goals is more of a norm than an exception among many people, yet it does not have to be that way. One lesson that frequently tops the list of reasons that explain under-achievement in life, is poor planning. Leave events to chance, and the result is that more likely than not, your dreams will die before they see the light of day. Planning is thus, the Himalayas of success and one overlooks it at one’s own peril.

Pericles is among my favourite ancient Greek Generals and Statesmen, who ruled Greece towards the end of the Persian wars and into the beginning of the Peloponnesian wars in around 431 BC. Pericles’ superior planning, oratory, and shrewdness, among other factors, led Athens to the height of its political power and its artistic achievement during the Periclean Age.

International Development Expert Dr Greenwell Matchaya

All the battles he won, superior planning was always an integral part of his strategy. Not only would he have a master plan, he would have several fall-back plans to minimize the possibility and impact of defeat.

Planning your battles and goals meticulously can immediately or later inform you whether the goals you seek to pursue are indeed feasible or not. It can also decrease the probability that failure to achieve one goal using one plan ushers you in total despair and annihilation.

Consider what would become of a job seeker who puts all his eggs and hopes in that one post at a very top institution, but out of misfortunate or some other reason he/she couldn’t foresee, he never gets short-listed or, if shortlisted, he never gets the job. Such a job seeker would be extremely mortified, the rejection would usher him/her into a state of anguish, he/she would almost resort to cursing many functionaries in the recruitment chain, and at least in the immediate run, the job seeker may be discouraged from undertaking further exploits on the job market. The latter step can lead to further delays in success.
Secondly, consider the cases of politicians and those who support them.

Just as an investor, a politician or those who support politicians expect some sort of return from their capital investments thereto, otherwise, if political practice would have zero or negative return, capital and talent would move from politics to other areas with high returns within the economy.

Again, true philanthropist with untold wealth would be the only key people active in politics, but we know this is not the case. It should be said a priori that expecting a return from investments in politics is not immoral, but seeking profit maximization at any rate therefrom is likely to be questionable.

Equally, planning can save those who invest their time and resources in politics from disappointment. A politician who sells all his assets he accumulated through the pursuit of other businesses, and in turn invests all the proceeds from such a sale, into a pursuit of a political position, equally sets himself for a huge disappointment should the political position fail to materialize. One would then find oneself desperate for survival, and perhaps ready to undertake anything to eke out a living, yet this would have been avoidable.

What is common about the specific the job-seeker and the specific political investor in the scenarios above is that each of them plans without much regard of diversification. By implication, developing several battle plans in life is analogous with the concept of diversification in wealth management or in investing. If you have been able to run a successful career and/or business and you have some money, you will be taking too much risk if you decided to keep such in only one form, because should misfortune befall that one form, you could end up losing it all. Granted, some risks cannot be diversified away, but it is often the case that diversification, if well thought through can limit risks on ones portfolio of investments and at the same time maximize portfolio returns over time.

If you are a job-seeker therefore, you should always have a second plan i.e. Plan B which you would resort to should that best job in your dream company fail. This also applies to the entrepreneur wanting to invest in new ventures. Diversify your risk, invest some time in developing plan B. Plan As are often known to fail especially with poor planning but also because often there are many factors that are at play in the determination of outcomes for most important exploits you undertake.

As a job-seeker, you may have planned considerably and put all your time in beautifying that CV and cover letter, but unknown to you may be the fact that actually, the post already has an anointed person who will take it up regardless of how they performs in the interview. In other words, your effort in preparing for that job interview is in vain before you even begin. It may also be that you will be facing a panel that simply won’t like you, either because of unwritten issues outside your control including age, race, tribe, language or indeed faith.

Thus, a plan B is always useful to limit the fallout of an unexpected rejection. Many of you will likely have in mind that one person who was invited to interview when he shouldn’t have, and indeed he passed that interview when he shouldn’t have. When this observation is correct, the reasons are often those you couldn’t do something about.

Similarly, the politician who invests all his time and money (assets and assets reduced to cash) in pursuit of just one political post e.g a ministerial post, or a presidency or Member of Parliament, or CEO of a government institution, would more likely end up a sad story. Firstly, politics has many risks and having just one plan therein is dangerous.

If you support a politician and you consider this as the only investment of your time and resources, your case is similar to that of an undiversified job-seeker. The result of poor diversification in politics is that upon failure, desperation sets in, and you can justifiably or unjustifiably find yourself undertaking further dangerous measures to recover your lost time and money, often to no avail.

The take home message should be that whether you are an entrepreneur/business person, a politician, or indeed a white-collar job seeker, invest time in planning just as the most great generals of the past, including Pericles, Alexander the Great, General Publius Scipio Africanus, Napoleon, etc used to do.

Further to such superior planning, please, let us not put all our eggs in one basket. Diversify, invest in surveillance, in networks, and in relationships. More often than not, being academically excellent is not good enough- this is why the world is often characterised by the less intelligent in leadership positions. You have to develop other abilities, and you can explore that as you work on your Plan B.

****The author is an International Development expert with qualifications in Economics, Law and Leadership and welcomes feedback at: [email protected]

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Douglas Mughogho
Douglas Mughogho
7 months ago

Fitting article for this time of year👌🏾

Eliam Kaponda
Eliam Kaponda
7 months ago

I like this,it’s motivational most of us we do fail due to like of plan B as such we blem ourselves that we are not lucky forgetting that lucky goes with effort

Luka
Luka
7 months ago
Reply to  Eliam Kaponda

Most of us fail due to the lack of a Plan A.

Joshua Banda
Joshua Banda
7 months ago

Wow ! Wonderful and timely as we enter 2022. Thanks Doc

Gasten Msefula
Gasten Msefula
7 months ago

Wow. Thanks for the word of wisdom. It’s very true planning in every endeavor is vital. Secondary, following the footsteps of great planners, like Alexander the great and Napoleon. This is nice staff, Dr Matchaya. Keep it up.

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