Your Best Plans Won’t Get You to the Finish Line

Tonight is Valentine’s Day. I’m supposed to be spending a romantic, low-key night with my husband, watching free movies on demand, and eating kettle corn and homemade chocolate covered strawberries.

Instead, I smell slightly of vomit.

The plan was to put the children to bed early and leave several hours in the evening for the grown and sexy. I even showered and shaved like some kind of newlywed. As I helped the toddler get ready for bedtime, he gifted me his entire dinner plus the rainbow colored Tic Tacs he ate for dessert. I took one look at the mess on his clothes and promptly decided to throw them in the trash rather than torture my washing machine with the sludge.

As I looked at the mess on and around my toddler, the third-grader started screaming, “A BUG!” Now, I can take a bug. But I have a… situation… on my hands. I turn to look at the bug and it’s one of those hateful millipedes with creepy legs. It must die. I grabbed the wipes and a toddler shoe and took out all my frustration on the world’s second ugliest insect.

So. I spent the day of love scrubbing rainbow puke out of the carpet while hubby hosed down the toddler like a hazmat victim. Once the sweat broke out on my upper lip from the vigorous scrubbing, I knew there would be plenty of grown tonight, but no sexy.

Rewind a few months. My family is taking our first trip to Disney World. I’ve been planning for months. Again, the plan was to get the children to bed early, pack, and wake up everyone by 4:00 a.m. so we could make our 7:00 a.m. flight.

Nope. 12 hours before that flight, my little guy broke out in crazy hives and an impressive fever just before he went absolutely nuts. Itchy scratchy screamy and as red as a lobster. Benadryl did nothing. I tossed him in the car in his pajamas while my husband texted me directions to the only children’s urgent care facility still open late enough for us to make it.

At urgent care, the boy did things I probably shouldn’t repeat on a public forum. Let’s just say it was gross and required the receptionist to wear shoulder length gloves to clean up. I commend the urgent care doctors and nurses of the world who totally pretend you aren’t covered in bodily fluids while they treat your sick child.

Turns out it was nothing. Some kind of allergic reaction. Four hours later we arrived home, exhausted and sleepy. Nothing was packed. We missed our flight by 15 minutes.

I have many more stories. Not all of them include vomit. But all of them include active children and foiled plans.

After nearly 40 years on this blue planet, I think I’ve finally learned the importance of flexibility.

You see, by day I am a corporate marketer. I own my own small firm. I serve multiple clients. I organize a tiny team of subcontractors and vendors. I solve big problems. I plan. I execute. I organize. I achieve. It is a satisfying profession for a natural born planner.

All that means jack squat to a child. To them, I am mom. Defender of their universe. I am present. I get them on the bus and off the bus. I listen to really bad riddles. I sing pop songs loud and off key. I administer kisses that magically make pain disappear. I bring enough Krispy Kreme for the whole class on birthdays. I know just the right medicine for just the right ailment. I ask Google when I run out of answers. My so-called plans? Meaningless.

So now when my plans fail, I don’t sweat it. Figuratively, I mean. I was totally sweating for real while scrubbing that carpet.

In business, the same rules apply. Even the best plans will only get you about 70 percent of the way to any goal. At some point, someone is going to vomit all over your project. Someone else is going to drop the ball at a critical point in the project. You’re going to run out of budget. Leadership will cancel the assignment or change the rules. A pesky millipede of a co-worker will sabotage your management efforts.

The only want to close the gap is to think on your feet, create a plan B (and C and D), suggest a new way of thinking, clean up the project or start all over from scratch. It’s rarely expected, it’s never easy and it can sometimes feel like the last straw.

You’ll make it. You always do. Stay flexible. Stay loose. Make your plans but don’t expect them to get you to goal.

You know that Disney flight we missed? One look at the bags under my eyes and the wild, desperate look in my dilated pupils and the ticket agent booked us on the next flight just one hour later. And since the little guy was not 100 percent we made our first Florida day our “lazy day” of hanging around the pool and exploring the resort. It couldn’t have gone better if I’d planned it that way.

And Valentine’s? Well, there are 364 other days to be grown and sexy. For now, I need a shower.

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