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Lesson One

In 1 on December 30, 2008 at 7:56 pm

Thanks to Daniel Pink for this inspiration. HIS words (from the book) are in RED.

Lesson One: There is no plan.

In Daniel Pink’s book the first lesson Johnny Bunko learns is, “There is no plan.” That carefully crafted, do A, B, C and then you’ll retire with all the money you need to travel, play golf and *enjoy* life will happen. Wrong. What happens is – LIFE happens. People die. They get fired, married, pregnant, move, get sick, discover something that interests them, change jobs, get laid off. Hate their job. Hate their boss. Hate life. Love life. Want to find themselves. Lose themselves. It happens. So, there is no plan. That’s no excuse to drop out of school, but it’s no excuse to plan yourself into a strait jacket either.

“Make smart choices,” not random ones. Diana, the magical advisor that pops up when Johnny snaps the chopsticks, explains:

You can make career decisions for two reasons – instrumental or fundamental.

Instrumental = You make a decision based on the belief it’s going to lead to something else whether you like doing it or not, or whether it’s worthwhile or not. Like getting that college degree, then going to law school – as if that plan will lead to a $100,000 a year job right out of the gate.

Fundamental = You take a job or join a company because it will let you do interesting stuff in a cool place or cool stuff in an interesting place, even though you don’t know where it will lead.


The “dirty little secret”? Instrumental reasons usually don’t work. Things are too complicated, too unpredictable. You never know what’s going to happen so you end up STUCK. The most SUCCESSFUL people — not all of the time, but MOST of the time — make decisions for FUNDAMENTAL reasons– even if they don’t know exactly where it will lead.

I dropped out of college to move to Colorado. I had $50 and a gas credit card, my backpack, a sleeping bag and camping gear and no plan whatsoever. Two weeks or so after I got there, I had a job – fixing shoes in a small strip mall shoe shop. The job involved resoling shoes, repairing saddles (this was in cowboy country remember) and doing something totally unrelated to anything I had done before, but fun and in an interesting place. I learned something really, really important.

Most people can be trained to do just about anything, if they’re interested in learning it.

I remembered that for a long, long time and still believe it to this day. Follow your heart, not a plan. Make smart decisions, not safe ones.

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