The Limits of Planning
The Limits of Planning
Blog: From the Director
Posted Friday, July 24, 2015

Like many Michiganders, I took a summer vacation. And as I always do, I planned the trip thoroughly ... from flights to sights to accommodations to restaurants, but still leaving a few details to spontaneity and serendipity.

This summer's trip was to Newfoundland, where winter was very grudgingly giving up its grip. Everything about summer was slow in coming, and the thousands-of-years-in-the-making icebergs that had drifted down from Greenland were several weeks later than usual to disappear off Newfoundland's coast.

It was a trip that once again reminded me of the limits of planning.

Understand, I am an ardent advocate of planning. First, I am my mother's son who would often say that "Happiness is having a plan." Second, I'm so obsessed with planning that I committed to writing two decades ago what should happen when I die, which actuarial tables inform me should be even longer than two decades in the future. 

But once again, all my planning for this vacation failed to provide its best moments. The best accommodation was the one I did not book in advance; the best restaurant was the one I had not heard of before we departed from Michigan; the best iceberg adventure was the one we had on our own after taking a wrong turn, not the commercial tours we took in groups. 

Planning is a necessary part of leadership and it is essential for the success of any enterprise. But so is staying open to hunches, going with your gut and learning from mistakes. This often makes for the most memorable vacations as well as the most meaningful vocations.

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