Plan A: Make sure to have a Plan B!

In Touch - Newsletter - #31

Welcome to the thirty-first edition of "In Touch". As always, I would love to continue the conversation so please hit "reply" and let me know what you think.

Story of the Week: Plan A: Make sure to have a Plan B!

Hello from London, where I have come to University College London (UCL) to deliver a 2-hour leadership lecture. Or, at least, that was the plan. On arriving in the UK on Tuesday, I discovered that the members of University and College Union (UCU) are taking strike action for the whole week over issues related to pay and conditions in 58 universities, including UCL. As a result, I can’t stand on stage in the university auditorium and, even if I could, no students would be allowed in. What to do? 

When things don’t go according to plan, a re-think is necessary. And instead of working it out when a problem arises, it is a good idea to always to have a contingency plan in place, just in case things go wrong. 

As soon as I heard about the strike, I started revising my plan and my lecture. Based on what I have done here in London, here are three tips to ensure that a backup plan works: 

  1. Stay calm: Lawyers are familiar with the saying “Lose your head, lose your case” and one of the best pieces of advice that I received from my father was this: “When things don’t go as planned, stay cool, calm and collected.” So, instead of standing on stage in front of a live audience, I will be delivering my lecture online, thanks to and, and the UCL students will be able to attend it remotely. 
  2. Stay positive: Positive thinking can work wonders. It’s all about being hopeful when things initially appear hopeless. By telling yourself that things will run smoothly, no matter the obstacles in your way, you will be taking a giant step towards success. Albert Einstein put it very eloquently: “It’s not that I am so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” So, stay with your problem until you have solved it. 
  3. Don’t stay committed to Plan A: The German admiral Otto von Bismarck was famous for his ability to escape from his enemies, thanks in part to the fact that he always had a complete Plan B ready (so-called not because it comes after Plan A but because the whole concept of second plans was originally called having a ‘Bismarck Plan’ and is now referred to as Plan B (for Bismarck). My Plan B this week was to reach out to WeWork in order to find an ethernet connection and a quiet place from which to deliver my lecture, which I have now rewritten as a 30-minute address. 

The celebrated American Professor and writer Randy Pausch wrote, “One thing that makes it possible to be an optimist is if you have a contingency plan for when all hell breaks loose.” So, make sure that you have the foresight to have a Plan B, in case Plan A doesn’t work out. That way, you’ll stay cool, calm, collected and optimistic in the knowledge that everything will work out fine. 

Words of Wisdom

On how the process of planning helps us understand the risks:

"On preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but the process of planning is indispensable.”

Dwight D. Eisenhower

A Question to Ponder, dear friend. 

“Has the unexpected knocked your door recently? What was your reaction?”

Hit reply and let me know.


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