Photo: 7854. Source: Pixabay
Recently, one of my teenage boys was driving home on a frosty evening and – as has happened to most of us – he slipped off the road. He called and asked if I could bring our truck to pull him out. No problem. I threw a tow chain into the back and trundled off. Only the road was too slick. After we hooked his car to our pickup, the tires couldn’t get enough of a grip on the fresh snow. Then we called for roadside assistance. It took some time for them to arrive, but through a combination of better towing gear and more experience, they extracted the car with only a little trouble. The son arrived home safely, a little chilled and chastened by his experience.
One of the most important lessons we learn from our missteps and stumbles along the way is to have a plan. And when that doesn’t work out, have a backup plan. For years our family has subscribed to a roadside assistance service. We’ve never used their full complement of towing and starting and trip planning and insurance products, but in any given year we use some of them. It’s reassuring to know where to call to get help.
There are limits to planning, of course. The very nature of an emergency means that something unexpected is happening. We need to be flexible, to improvise, to adjust our method to the conditions. President Eisenhower, whose logistical genius helped the allies win World War II, once remarked, “Plans are worthless, planning is everything.”
Plans are worthless because the situation on the ground is never what we expect. Planning is everything because the process makes us account for all the variables that can affect the outcome. Plans can be worse useless if they make us rigid in our approach and we fail to adapt to new developments. Planning is most helpful when it causes communication, coordination, and cooperation with others who have critical inputs and information for us. Our plan may assume that the road is clear with no obstacles, but reality turns out be different.
Two views of Broadway: same road, different context. Source: Wikipedia
Whether we’re planning our careers or planning a vacation or planning our finances, a plan sets out objectives and constraints; requirements, resources, and limitations. Let’s face it: circumstances change, crowds get in the way, roads get slippery. With a plan, we have somewhere to start. So let’s start.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Charter Trust Company
“The Best Trust Company in New England”