To Plan or not to plan?

According to The Secret, the capacity to conceive of the ‘how’ is not essential for accomplishment. But it certainly can help. The story of how Fred Smith created Federal Express and grew it to become a Fortune 500 company in record time confirms this view. Smith started out with both a clear idea and a clear plan for how to achieve it. While doing his MBA, he conceived of the idea of establishing a courier business that would deliver packages across the USA overnight in comparison to the three to five day delivery offered by UPS and the US Postal Service. His strategy was to establish a hub system at Memphis so that flights coming from all major cities could reach the hub before 2 am, unload their parcels for resorting, reload with items bound for their return destination and land back home early morning in time for delivery during the day. His objective and his strategy were inseparable aspects of the plan he executed and the results he achieved. Today FedEx is a $32 billion company!

Planning works. The only question is whether the visualization of ‘how’ is always essential and always beneficial. Experience confirms that it is not. Many people have difficulty imagining how to achieve a goal that is very far removed from present realities. There is a proverbial story of a man who got lost while driving in a rural area. He stopped to ask a farmer for directions to his destination. The farmer replied, “There is no way to get there from here!” That is often the understanding of the physical mind. If so, it is better not to listen to it!

A person earning $8000 a year may be able to realistically envision $18,000, but he may find the effort to formulate a means of earning $80,000 is pure fantasy. In such cases, the inability to imagine realistic possibilities or a personal sense of incapacity become a bar to higher accomplishment. Countless stories can be cited of people who fail to take advantage of magnificent opportunities that are offered to them, just because they cannot imagine themselves achieving at a much higher level.

There are also many stories of people who accomplished tremendous results because they were determined to achieve, even though they had no idea how that achievement it would be possible when they started out. Sabeer Bhatia traveled from India to Silicon Valley in the mid 1990s as a young software engineer with an aspiration to earn millions. After a few years working for others and hearing stories of so many people becoming millionaires in the computer industry, he decided that he must achieve that goal himself within a short time. He and a friend came up with the idea of Hotmail and sold it to Microsoft a few years later for $200 million. He knew what he wanted to achieve and willed it powerfully. Only later did he discover the means to achieve it.

In 1961 when President Kennedy announced the goal of the US space program was to land a man on the moon and bring him back again by 1970, the technology had not yet been invented that could accomplish it. Reaching the moon was not an insurmountable object, but bringing him back again from the moon’s surface presented serious challenges. Yet America achieved that goal — six months ahead of Kennedy’s deadline.

When France, Belgium and Netherlands collapsed under the onslaught of the German army in 1940, Britain was left virtually alone to fight the Axis powers. A month after Winston Churchill became Prime Minister, the Germans commenced the intense day-light bombing of England in what became known as the Battle of Britain. Churchill delivered his stirring proclamation to the enemies of Britain and to the world:
“We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…” Probably no one in Britain or anywhere else on earth could honestly say that they knew how Britain could stand up alone and survive the German bombardment, let along win the war. Yet when Churchill spoke, few could doubt that he was absolutely determined to keep his word. He refused even to consider the possibility of defeat. He may not have known how, but he surely was determined to win at any cost. Churchill knew the essence of The Secret: “You create your own universe as you go along.”