What is your Plan B?
November 01, 2003
Most recently I read a story about Antonio; an Italian boy who loved music, but whenever he tried to sing the music that was in his heart, it came out so badly that all his friends laughed at him. Next to singing, the boy loved to hear the violin. He had a pocketknife he always carried with him and we would whittle all sorts of things with it.
One day Antonio learned that the greatest violin maker in all Italy, the great Nicolo Amati, lived in his village. Antonio began to whittle a violin and worked many hours on it. When finished, the boy walked to the house of Amati, who just happened to answer the door. The boy handed the master the small violin he had carved and said, “Sir, I love music, but cannot sing. I wish with all my heart I could learn to make violins.”
The great Amati smiled, looked at the small gift and said, “Beautifully done. You want to make violins? And so you shall. In time your violins will make the most beautiful music ever heard!” And so, Antonio Stradivari became the pupil of Nicolo Amati and in time made violins that equaled his master’s.
Consider the successes of the likes of Henry Ford, R.H. Macy, Soichiro Honda, Bill Gates, Walt Disney, The Beatles, Elvis Presley, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison. The common thread among all of them is that their eventual successes were only attained after many failures early on in the careers.
Resilient leaders are not deterred by the disappointment that comes when Plan A is no longer an option. Success comes when Plan B is embraced and that can make all the difference. In business and in leadership, plans do not always turn out as we hope. In these times of testing you have a choice. Here are three things to remember when Plan A falls apart and Plan B falls in your lap and you are tempted to throw in the towel.
Plan B creates opportunity. Stradivari’s contribution to music was not to be found through his voice, but through his hands. He joined the passion of his heart with the skill of his hands and made his mark on the music world with it. The challenge in leadership is not to lay down what is in your hand but to use it. It may not be Plan A, but Plan B turned out incredibly well for Stradivari and it can for you if you choose the right attitude and give it all you have.
Plan B redirects your skills. Upon the outcome of this Hollywood legends first screen test, the director of MGM noted, “Can’t dance. Can’t sing. Can dance a little.” Undeterred, Fred Astaire went on to become an incredibly successful actor, singer and dancer. He kept that note in his Beverly Hills home to remind him of where he came from. As a leader, you will face many challenges and you will at times hear the voices of those telling you that it can’t be done. But in the end all that matters is what you believe in your heart and having the courage to pursue it; even if it is Plan B.
Plan B prepares you for a rewarding life. In many respects Plan B is not just about opportunities, but overcoming adversity. While his name is synonymous with some of the biggest films in the modern era, this movie director was rejected three times from the University of Southern California School of Theater, Film and Television. After so many year , Steven Spielberg returned to school and completed his BA last year.
The blessing of Plan B is not always easy to see in the beginning. The blessing of Plan B is realized when we embrace it and begin the journey it takes you on. Wise leaders are flexible enough to know that when one door closes it is not the end; it’s just the beginning of living out your dream in a manner you didn’t expect.
What is your Plan B?