In my mind, there is an important difference between preparing for failure and having a backup plan.
-Preparing for failure indicates that you are putting a safety net in place to cushion the blow of failure.
-A backup plan, on the other hand, means that you have a secondary set of actions which you can take, should the first set of actions not prove successful.
The first has you focusing on loss, the second has you focusing on meeting with success. Having a backup plan reminds me of a quotable-quote from my childhood: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again”. Preparing for failure reminds me of another quote from the infamous Homer Simpson: “Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is never try”
The difference between these 2 trains of thought was brought to my attention recently.
My apprentice, Aaron Laferriere, was testing my patience. He appeared to be confusing “Thinking about doing something” with actually doing it. I felt that he was getting far too comfy and taking most things around him for granted. So, in true form, I decided it was time for a lesson. I set an absurdly low sales target for Aaron(A2) and stated that if he did not hit that target, he was not welcome in my home and that he could sleep at the shop.
The next day, I drove him to the shop. I brought along a sleeping bag to leave at the shop to serve as a reminder of his fate should he not move the bar a little bit and push himself to meet with a certain level of success. When we got to the shop I provided a quick little sermon, hoping to boost his spirits and get him revved up for the day. I mentioned that the sleeping bag was there as a reminder of the discomfort one feels when they come face-to-face with the consequences of their actions (or lack of actions in this case). “After all”, I said, “You don’t see me bringing a pillow down here for you”. A2’s response… a sheepish grin. I opened his backpack, only to find that he had put a pillow in it.
I was taken a-back as it appeared to me that he had beaten himself before he even got out of the gate. He had prepared for failure.
Of course, I took his pillow and left, though this situation has disturbed me greatly for the past 2 days.
Ultimately, his mindset did not disappoint. He spent the next 2 nights sleeping on the floor at the shop. In his time there, his discomfort triggered a couple of pretty good ideas. Unfortunately, those ideas are still rotting on the vine as the discomfort he was feeling did not translate into putting said ideas into action.
We are immersed in a “done-for-you” society. If there is a choice between reaching our goals and maintaining “comfort”, comfort appears to win out 9 times out of 10. The sickening thing is that the premise of comfort appears to be on a downward sliding scale. Today we are comfortable sleeping in a bed. Tomorrow, a pullout futon is fine. The next day, an old couch will do. The day after that, sleeping on the floor appears to be acceptable. Where is that magical line where “enough is enough!”?
In my life, I have recognized “chronic comfort disease” rearing its ugly head on many, many occasions. I know for a fact that it is an easy disease to diagnose. It is medicated with heavy doses of action, made effective by completion chasers. The persistence of this disease is discouraging as it sets in again as soon as you’ve downed the chaser. The wonderful news about the disease is that it is SO incredibly easy to medicate. Make no mistake, this disease is every bit as lethal as any other on the planet. It is more insidious than any other disease as it steals life from you while you are still breathing. You are completely aware of it’s presence but it numbs you to the fact that it is there. Most people are only truly aware of the disease’s full effect once on their death bed when they are struck by the thought “what did I do with my life?”
For A2’s sake, I hope that final question is answered with one last movie-of-the-mind… a movie so long that it plays far beyond his final breath.
Like A2, we all have the opportunity to do amazing things with our lives… all we have to do is medicate.