My eldest returned home from her painting class, pulled up a chair and flopped down on it, looking peeved.

I knew something was bothering her or she would have proceeded to her room to change and freshen up before talking to me. Hmm, I said to myself. Big game afoot!

I was in the middle of writing a tricky kind of paragraph so I continued writing. Which is not to say I was not conscious of her simmering away beside me. For all that, she still waited for me to finish so she could talk. Yes, she’s angelic that way. All three are, bless them.

When I finished the paragraph, I asked her casually about her class. She told me it was fine in a voice laden with doom. I wouldn’t have turned a hair if she’d told me that the skies had swooped down and swallowed up a largish part of the town, people and all. Hmmm!

She simmered a few seconds more. “Ma,” she said at last, “err… today Sir was saying something.”

“Uh-hun?” I said. “About what?”

“About the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) course. I told him that I had decided not to enrol for BFA and then take a diploma in jewellery designing but was going for a degree course in jewellery designing directly. He didn’t like the idea,” she said, dejected and confused. There we go! I KNEW this was going to happen.

“Uh-hun! Why? What’s his opinion?” I asked.

“He said I should go for BFA first and then get into jewellery designing. That way, if I changed my mind about studying jewellery designing, I could do something else. At least I will have a backup plan.” Her voice had taken on the same half-belligerent half-querulous tone as her teacher must have used when he talked to her.

This article is not about the teacher—he is entirely incidental. Also, we think differently. Naturally, he was trying to guide her in the way he knew best. He was teaching her to be prudent and safe, to have a fallback option—to have a Backup Plan.

There's no reason to have a plan B because it distracts from plan A. ~ Will Smith Share on X

I have no grouse with having a Backup Plan. But this phrase must only be applied to strategy, not to the goal!

In the present instance, my daughter’s teacher was advising her—not to create a backup strategy to get admission to a degree course in jewellery design (her goal)—he was advising her to have a backup goal! I cannot understand what people mean when they want to have backup goals!

Identifying and choosing a career isn’t like recreational shopping. When you visit the market to buy a comfy pair of shoes in black, you don’t come home with new curtains for your room instead! A backup plan is to shortlist a bunch of footwear outlets where you may find the shoes you are looking for—not change your very goal and buy curtains because the ONE footwear shop you visited did not have the shoes you wanted!

I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s the definition of daft.

I never had a plan B. I feel if u have a plan B, you are giving yourself the chance to never accomplish plan A. My plan B was to accomplish plan A. ~ Behdad Sami Share on X

I have never heard or read about any successful person who didn’t go for his goals with single-minded devotion and a fanatical focus. They don’t have fallback options. They know what they want and what they will never settle for anything BUT.

They have backup strategies, not backup goals. If one strategy doesn’t work, they try another. They don’t say, “Oh, the hell with it! I’ll go play in the garden instead” if their one strategy doesn’t give them the results they wanted.

A commando unit sent on a rescue mission will not bring back a goat because the plan they made to rescue fellow officers failed!

Fall-back plans for goals are the ultimate escape clause. It is the surest way of sentencing yourself to a mediocre life. I hate the concept. If we compute the loss of life in terms of lives not lived to the hilt, I am sure we will find that the obsession to put up a safety net first has caused more devastation than wars have.

You may find that an exaggerated statement. I don’t. To have the capacity to live greatly yet to hold yourself down to mediocrity is to renege on life. It is worse than death. At least there is a clean finality about death.

There is no plan B for passion. ~ Chris Gardner Share on X

Let’s say I want to go to Pune to attend a book fair. I’ve never been to Pune and I consult travel agent on how to get there. I finalize my travel plans and book my tickets. Unfortunately, I am not able to find a confirmed booking. Do you think I ought to make a backup plan to go to Delhi because I can get confirmed tickets for it?

But there is no book fair in Delhi!

What of it? You’re getting confirmed tickets! Moreover, if you wait in Delhi long enough, surely they will have a book fair there too someday! Be patient!

This is the point at which my limited intelligence blows its blessed brains out.

After she qualifies to be a jewellery designer, if my daughter finds that it is not as satisfying/ fulfilling as she thought, she can always change tracks then and attend some other course.

In a career that spans over three decades, I have changed tracks more times than I remember now. Whatever I have done, I’ve done to the hilt—with all the focus and passion I am capable of.

The work I do today is utterly different from what I started with. To attempt reaching a goal with a divided focus—to run for two finishing lines simultaneously, not even in the same league—seems a sure-shot way of reaching neither.

Hernán Cortés’s conquest of Mexico is a legend. In 1519 he landed in Mexico with 500 men. He knew he was outnumbered by nearly 300 to 1. To prevent his troops from retreating and to give them the do-or-die ultimatum, he set fire to his ships. His troops had no option but to win—a or to die trying. No prizes for guessing the outcome of that battle. Of course, they won.

The best fights are those fought by those without a Plan B. ~ Mokokoma Mokhonoana Share on X

A child on the threshold of the most difficult decision of her life is confused as it is. She is scared and plagued with doubts. She is fearful of the choices she is making. She is not sure of what she wants or whether she will regret her steps later.

To such a child, you want to say, “Oh, I think you should have a backup plan too you know… just in case you goof this one up!”

Don’t you know you are giving her the message that you don’t have faith in her abilities? That you suspect she will fail? Then you wonder why the youngsters of today—barring a few evolved souls—are uniformly confused and have no direction in life!

Thinking of Plan B muddies up your chances of succeeding at Plan A. ~ Charlie Day Share on X

When did you let them choose ONE path and teach them to put all their effort, all their focus and all their attention on just that one thing? When did you reassure them that their plans are not cast in stone; that if their path turns out to be the wrong choice, after all, they can change later and that won’t be the end of life? What is it we are raising—kids or super-computers for God’s sake?!

People’s priorities change as they grow into themselves. Why are people desperate to get it perfect the very first time? Why do they give their children the you’re gonna miss the bus feeling?

Kids need to be taught that the strategy to reach a goal can be flexible. Children must never be told that they get only one chance at making a success of their life. As parents, it is our job to respect their intelligence and resilience so they can learn to respect them too. Show them that there are millions of options and unlimited chances in life!

To do that, you must believe it first. Do you?

Written on: 27th Feb 2010