Friday, May 12, 2017

Plan not to Plan

"Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans"

- Allen Saunders

"Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities.
Dreaming, after all is a form of planning"

- Gloria Steinem

A friend of mine just pointed out that my “6 Steps to accomplish anything” (see previous post) is missing an important step: “Planning”, therefore it should be appended and renamed “7 Steps to accomplish anything”
An argument ensued

There are two distinctive points of view on the nature of the universe:
One: The Western point of view.
The universe was born in a gigantic “Big Bang” and it is nothing more than a complex mechanical interaction between its various material parts.
Two: The Eastern point of view.
The universe is an intelligent, living organism, growing and evolving.

So do you need a plan to accomplish a task, or are passion and vision enough to carry your actions through? Well, depending on the way you see life and the universe the answer can be both.
Here are two similar but different stories of starting a business.

Many years ago, right after my arrival to the US, I met Maria, a remarkable woman.
Somebody at church told me about this restaurant Maria had opened and highly recommended it.
One evening I decided to check it out. The place was literary a “hole in the wall”.

The place was a narrow corridor with small tables lining up against the wall, on one side and the open counter of the kitchen on the other. What was remarkable about this small place was the huge queue of customers lining up outside, waiting for a table or to pick up their orders.

I decided to wait in line and my patience was rewarded with a meal worthy of a five-star restaurant at the price of a fast food joint.  I started a conversation with Maria, the owner, cook, and waitress and we became good friends as usually happens with compatriots meeting in diaspora.

Her story was simple. An immigrant couple from Eastern Europe coming to find the American dream in the land of freedom. Her husband took a job as a genitor in a large business building. She couldn’t get a job because of the language barrier but decided she will have her own business, that she will open her own restaurant.

She started making sandwiches, which her husband will take at the office building every morning and offer them for sale to the office people. Nothing happened until one day when one of the office employees out of time or maybe feeling pity for the man, bought one of the sandwiches.

It took that first sale and the news about the amazing food Maria could prepare spread like fire.
Pretty soon she was doing catering for birthdays and social gatherings. Her husband had to quit his job to help her out with the ever increasing business and as soon they save enough money they rented that “hole in the wall”, Maria’s first restaurant.

The Los Angeles immigrant community has thousands of success stories of immigrants coming without speaking the language, without any money or business knowledge, and becoming successful entrepreneurs just with a dream and unstoppable passion.
But you don’t have to be an immigrant to have a dream and a passion. Remember how “Apple Computers” started? It was a couple of young kids starting a business in their parent's garage. Do you think they have a plan to become one of the greatest corporations in the world? I don’t think you can plan that even if you wanted to.

Here is another story of an immigrant trying to start a business in the US.
Many years ago I was talking to one of my American friends about Maria restaurant story and we decided to join forces and finances and open our own restaurant.

We found the perfect location in Burbank, talked to the building owner and started making our plans on how to accomplish this. With our plans drawn we approached the  Burbank chamber of commerce about our little enterprise.  Our enthusiasm was shortly lived and went down in flame. The problem; BEUROCRACY.

Anybody that has ever done business with the government knows that they do not share the same enthusiasm about doing business as you do. They also are very y unyielding about their rules and regulations. If they say you need handicapped access to the kitchen, then you have to build it even if this is a family business and you don’t intend to hire anybody else – just to give you an example,

So we had to abandon our dream because if we had to do it the way the city of Burbank wanted us to do it the cost would have been far exceeding the capital we had.

Planning no matter how well done doesn’t guaranty success. There are numerous stories of well-planned businesses that have failed gloriously. Only passion knows no defeat. People that have dreamed with passion have always found a way to success.

And then another side of planning: Over planning.
I’ve seen so many of my friends eternally planning to do this or that and never accomplishing anything.
There is no perfect plan. You can always make it better. Therefore there is no perfect time when a plan should be implemented. You can spend the rest of your life planning and never actually start anything.

On the other hand, I’ve never seen a person with a burning passion that can be stopped by the lack of a plan or money or time.

So what do you think? To plan or not to plan? This is the question J

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