Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Project/Life Planning and Execution

"He who asks questions cannot avoid the answers." -- Cameroon Proverb

I get a lot of calls and emails for help from January through April. "Can you help me plan for this year?" My answer is almost always yes (dependant on my time availability and the request) but my question to the person asking...Why are you planning 2008 in 2008?

Each year around the holidays I develop a one year, three year, five year and 10 year plan of BIG goals. I brainstorm ideas with two rules: 1) the pen doesn't stop for 5 minutes for each goal time frame and 2) there are no bad ideas - everything is included. I do this for each area of my life.

I am a project manager by trade. My job is to organize large groups of people and coordinate the planning and execution of multi-million dollar budgets and hundreds of people; often across the globe with the associated cultural differences that go with that. I apply that same logic to triathlon; which is probably why I like it so much and why I've had some minor success in the sport. Most people are not talented enough to roll out of bed and decide on April first which Ironman or half Ironman they'd like to qualify at.

One of the advantages I believe I have in the sport is I believe in committing totally to one goal. Other races are just "learning experiences" or "workouts" along the way. Most people race too much along the way and just haven't prepared adequately physically or mentally for their goal.

This happens in life too. How many folks do you know who planned to have a child but didn't specify when and plan their life accordingly? Likewise, how many people do you know who are on the unplanned plan? They had a child and then said, "Maybe we should get married?"

My philosophy on planning comes from my swimming experience. If you were a swimmer you understand what I say when I tell you that most of the time you are totally exhausted at swim meets during the season. You are really only working for ONE DAY. The big day. The "A" race. The whole enchilada. Every experience. Every workout. Every weight session built for one day in the future. It was a complete investment emotionally first and then physically every day. By example, my plan for 2009 and some of 2010 was born in November of 2006. I've had debates with some great triathletes and pros about my approach but this is what I need to do. I'm not "throwing away" 2008 but my goals are pegged on something else. In order to get there in 2009 I will be racing tired in 2008. That is the deal and I'm OK with that. In 2009, I promise you my key race will make some noise. First, I have to do the work that I believe is necessary to achieve those goals.

Legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden has a seven point creed:

"Making the Most of Oneself"

1. Be true to yourself
2. Make each day your masterpiece
3. Help others
4. Drink deeply from good books
5. Make friendship a fine art
6. Build a shelter against a rainy day
7. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day

Coach Wooden also is quoted as saying, "You can't live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you." This is my belief regarding the ALS work I've done as well as the Cancer, CF and Lung charity work. Add in some of the "free" coaching I've done...I've had quite a few "perfect days". These folks could never repay me and that is fine with me. When I started in triathlon, a lot of great triathletes helped me and I will never be able to repay them . Never. This is the golden legacy of our sport (helping others) should you choose to embrace it.

Financial Planning and help: Remember the credit tip I gave you? It works! Additionally, my challenge to you is to save money. When I owned my insurance and financial planning business 98% of American people didn't have several things in their financial life set:

1) Not enough life/disability insurance - you are insuring your ability to make money for your family

2) Not enough cash in the bank

3) Too much credit card debt. (We used to joke; "How do you get 19% on your money? Pay off your credit cards!"

"If you never plan where you'll be, you'll probably end up somewhere else."
-- Yogi Berra


  1. Very thought provoking - its interesting to see how you tick! Really like your ideas about setting a 1 year, 3 year, 5 year, etc etc goals. More people should do that!

    As for the finances - YES, people don'understand the importance of emergency money and no credit card debt! Thank goodness Nate and I have a catastrophe fund - for stuff like what happened in CA. It's all paid off without any credit card debt! Phew! Then again - we're lucky and we plan stuff out.

    Thanks for this post - makes me feel I'm on the right track, and I appreciate your advice!

  2. Most people I did planning for started with about $600 in the bank and $25,000 in credit card debt. This plus being under insured with children and no will. Yikes! The unplanned plan (State issued will if you didn't write your own) in Illinois is down right insulting and robs you of money and your children. It is terrible!