Just do it

I have always subscribed to the motto “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” For example, when I hike, I always have a pack larger than what I need. I carry extra food and water. I also carry a knife, first aid kit, matches, shell jacket, etc. I was even worse when I was a teen. I had short, mid and long term plans for school, work, love, travel, recreation, etc. Even when it came to video games, I always strove for perfect execution, whether that meant not losing any of my troops, stat-maxing or repeated use of the “SAVE GAME” button.

Like most things in life, there are advantages and disadvantages to this way of living, and some degree of moderation is better than taking an extreme position.

While I developed a reputation for being detailed, I also missed out on opportunities because I never got past the planning stage. Alternatively, I’d plan so much that things would go too smoothly, and the “thrill of the experience” was lost. A mundane, but apropos example is “over-leveling” in a video game–yes, you beat the game, but your forces are so powerful that the challenge is lost and the experience is no longer enjoyable.

"Helmuth von Moltke the Elder"

Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke the Elder. It would be impossible to take a military history or strategic studies course without at least hearing about him. (Picture from clausewitz.com)

Ironically, I knew the problems with over-emphasizing planning because–like most of my knowledge–I studied the problem academically. I took a military history class with Dr. David Bercuson in my university days, and part of the class discussed military theory. According to Helmuth von Moltke, a field marshal during the time of German unification, no plan survives first contact with the enemy. (The quote is falsely attributed to Carl von Clausewitz, under whom Moltke studied.)

Now, this statement is as misunderstood as much as it’s misquoted. Moltke doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t plan at all. Moltke meant that plans should be flexible and consist of multiple options that can be acted upon as circumstances dictate. Put more simply, planning cannot be linear or rigid, and the ability to make quick decisions based on rapidly-changing and incomplete information is just as important as being able to plan for the first confrontation with the enemy.

Getting back to real-life, the problem I (and many others with a theoretical, intellectual, and/or idealistic bent) encountered is that I either planned too rigidly that I failed or I became so obsessed with accounting for all variables in the planning process that I never even began the battle.

Some big changes in my life in 2009 knocked some sense into me, and I decided to try living by Nike’s motto of “just do it.” I started hiking in the fall and wanted to do more of it, so I started asking everyone I knew to go hiking with me. When I couldn’t find people to go with, I went by myself. I was intrigued by scrambling, so I decided to try that too. I attempted an early spring solo ascent of EEOR (and while getting over a flu, I might add). I learned how to rock climb and mountaineer. I took a job in a different city. I wanted to get better at skiing so I went skiing by myself and tried my first black diamond runs in whiteout conditions. I started running. I started fishing. The list goes on.

As much as I would like to think that I had a spontaneous and whimsical streak, I didn’t. I still did all of the usual things I did like read books, talk to experts, and make plans, but I never lost sight of the ultimate goal to “just do it.” I also accepted that no plan will ever be bulletproof, some unexpected events are bound to happen, and adaptability is more important than memorizing a lists of SOPs.


About jbsantos
Polling, politics, PR and outdoor pursuits.

One Response to Just do it

  1. Pingback: Mt. Kidd, north – August 29, 2011 « Santos Sez

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