The only plan that is guaranteed to success is God’s plan for salvation.
Other than that, we are naive to assume that our plans will proceed as outlined, never needing to be changed, and that success is guaranteed. How do I know: 35 years of experience plus lots of examples in history.
A friend once opined, “Assumption is the lowest form of knowledge” I agree. Further, my grandfather, more than once, directed this question to me: “Bruce, why is experience the best teacher?” “I don’t know.” was my response. His never to be forgotten response was, “Because it is the most expensive.” Some powerful insights that can save you a lot of pain and frustration.
Another good friend, Bob C., was the one who really brought to my attention the necessity for flexibility in planning. This is the required response to any plan when it “needs to change”. As a military man, he put it this way, “One of the basic tenets of training military officers the art of war planning is that one should not assume than any plan will fully succeed once the battle starts.” This starts to put hands and feet to the relevance of both “assuming” and the value of “experience”.
Bob was kind enough to add some history to the observation.
"In military training, and may I add in life, we must prepare for the unexpected and yet be flexible enough to respond to whatever unforeseen tactics or circumstances the enemy may bring to the field of battle."
Ring any bells for you? It sure does for me.
Let’s take a look at a couple of real life applications away from the military and connected to civilian life:
- Our individual spiritual journey is full of unexpected challenges. A long time ago, I thought I heard it said that the road would be smooth once I got my spiritual priorities right. Well, two things, we never get them “right” in the total sense, and if we did I’d be as big a part of the problem as anything outside of myself. In addition, the spiritual enemy makes a practice of confusing and trying to refute the best of spiritual plans. Flexibility and the ability to correct our course of action is then a practical and necessary mandate.
- Our financial journey is another one where the “best laid plans“ are almost guaranteed to require change. Our financial planning models suggest that we can know what to do, when to do it, and project what the results will be. While very reassuring the reality is quite different. It is always the uncontrollable variables that destroy a good plan. Interestingly, one of those uncontrolled variables is every investor, particularly the ones that respond to change by changing course regardless of the circumstance. This response is often simply driven by fear. Not a good emotion when being intentional is the valued operational goal.
- Our family journey is another one full of unexpected changes. My wife Judy is fond of saying or reflecting, that she was going to “get married and live happily overeater”. Talk about unexpected challenges and necessary changes.
Bob, with his Air Force background included a quote from an Italian airpower theorist, General Giulio Doubet: “Flexibility is the key to air power”.
Now let me expand on that: Flexibility is the key to virtually every success. This is true whether we are talking about our spiritual journey, our financial journey, or our family journey. And then, success is still not guaranteed.
On a relevant note, it is also true that following a set of success principals will inform your plan and guide the necessary and flexible response.
As this article is pointed toward the financial journey, here is a key principal:
“If you don’t get started saving, there will be none!”
Well, “sure” you say, “but you don’t know my circumstance?” Regardless, the principal is true.
Now then is the time to be flexible and adjust to the circumstance, and still start saving.
Here is another one:
“Saving tax deferred is better than just saving”
You ask, “What does that mean”. It means putting aside monies before you pay tax on it rather than afterwards. Just makes sense. You will save more because you save on taxes. Here is the challenge, make sure you are saving through a 403(b)(9) church plan if you can, next through a regular 403(b) plan, and finally though an IRA if the other options are not available. Here is another the challenge: Do Something! The next challenge: Do it in the best way. And here is the last “great idea”, be flexible enough to start and “win the battle” of funding your future ministry.
Bob’s lesson to me from his background is “no plan survives contact with the enemy”. For sure your best intentions to follow the two principals outlined above will not survive your first attempt, or maybe your second, or even your third. However, the battle will be lost if you do not embrace the challenge of being “flexible” and finding a way to impact your future, to “win the battle” and impact the world.
Bob’s closing thought to me was this, “This lesson is not just isolated to military planners, but definitely a lesson for a wise man, or woman, to apply to life in our 21st century as well”.
Well said, and thank you Bob.
Share your Trusted Advice as we journey with Trusted Advice along The Way.