In one of Isaac Morehouse’s recent podcasts he had a variety of smart people talk about their thoughts on Backup Plans. I found the podcast really interesting and decided to use it as a prompt for a blog post. So, here are my thoughts on backuup plans.
Backup plans are not really something that I’ve ever had or given much thought to. I tend to just jump right into things without much thought to whether they will work out or not, so I don’t really prepare for any alternatives. Often I fail at what I do, but I just kind of get backup and keep on moving in whatever direction appeals to me. When I decided to join the Army I walked into a recruiter that day and took the first offer they gave me. When I decided I want to go to college at the College of Charleston I applied only to that school. When I was interested in the Koch Associate Program I applied to it and didn’t look at other career options. When I decided to bike across the country I quit my job and started peddling. Etcetera…
I think part of this is just my natural level of risk aversion, or lack thereof, but it is more than that. Throughout my week I often utilize the Stoic technique of meditating on worst case scenarios. I don’t dwell on what could happen in a bad or obsessive way, instead I think about bad possibilities and how I would handle them. For instance, I’ll spend five minutes or so thinking about how I would handle it if my partner was hit by a car, or if I was paralyzed, or if I lost my job. By visualizing these things and thinking about how I would respond it gives me a fluid “backup plan” to handle the worst case scenarios. And when you can handle worst case scenarios the day-to-day hiccups in life don’t really bother you.
I think, in some ways, we all kind of do this. We are often in our heads thinking about what we would do if we witnessed a bank robbery or needed to perform CPR or if the Russians paratrooped into our small town (WOLVERINES!!!!). Usually these things are so fantastical that thinking about them is more an exercise in creative thinking than actual stoic meditation. It is more difficult to think about things that could actually happen.
So, I don’t really have a backup plan for my current life, instead I just roll with the punches and follow my desires. I realize that my life is a bit unique and it is somewhat necessary for this flexibility. When my primary life is fluid in every way from day to day, my backup plan is necessarily fluid as well. It is like Isaac said in his podcast about Goals, you need to just trust the process. The process is going to provide natural backup plans when your expectations turn out to be wrong.