When life gives you lemons…
We’ve all heard that old adage. “Make lemonade!” you instinctively reply. Or something else humorously sarcastic for those of us who are sick of this saying. But, how many of us have been truly knocked out by a life-punch? How would you have approached that situation differently if you had a second chance? What if you had already built a plan for it and reacted based on that?
Let’s hone in the subject matter’s scope to the typical work project and then expand outward to a more general sense of life itself. The experience here can lend itself either way.
The Necessity of a Contingency Plan
Quick quiz: have you seen or discussed a contingency plan for your project(s) or company in the past 6 months? If no, you’ve got a problem and regardless of where you are on the so-called totem pole, you need to raise a red flag. The first step of creating a contingency plan is simply asking “what could happen?” Any one can do that and assuming others are is a risk you shouldn’t be a part of.
This all may sound like paranoia but consider those who study martial arts. They have built muscle memory that instinctively kicks in (pun intended) when the threat of a fight appears. There are situations from earthquakes swallowing servers that bring your e-comm site down to your team all getting bed-ridden-sick right during the final stretch of a critical project sprint. You won’t be able to turn every type of scenario into butterflies and sunshine, but having a contingency plan gives you a guided path to follow instead of spinning around like a Reactionary Headless Chicken. #bandname
Whether you’re a part of a corporation maintaining a digital ecosystem or a software vendor pumping out projects for clients, neglecting to ask “what could happen” carries significant risk. It takes a little bit of effort, but think of it as an umbrella for that eventual rainy day.
Okay, now that you’re sold on this, go here for guides on how to create a top-notch contingency plan!
What would I do if…
- …if I lost my job?
- …if a loved one passed away?
- …if I got sued?
- …if I got a terminal illness?
These are dark thoughts. It’s a bit stressful to think of earthquakes taking down your site, but personal worst case scenarios are depressing thought-paths. You’ve probably considered a “what if” question or two in solace when your mind is allowed to wander. But, you probably haven’t sat down to specifically think of it and devise ways in which you would respond to these scenarios. Which is why I recommend you set a date. Sitting down with the intention of thinking through these possibilities can be cathartic and bring a peace-of-mind. Personally, I have a Google Drive trove of “so this happened, Stay Calm and Do X Y Z” documents that I create on a regular basis. And, of course, there’s a Trello board too.
And the thing is, for the longest time I would make a mental note of “I need to write this down”. I had seen coworkers and family lose their jobs. I had seen divorce shake up families. I had seen children with disabilities. All of this hurts my soul and I wanted to write down the “what if this happened to me” as if to take it off my chest and put the feelings elsewhere. But yet, I kept not doing it. Not until I finally blocked off some time. It felt so good afterwards that I scheduled a recurring reminder.
I wonder if meticulously writing down my plans for responding to misfortune is like a mental martial art that trains me to make appropriate judgement calls in the heat of the moment. And the event doesn’t necessarily have to be something I spent time planning for. I’ve had a few stretches in life that were really challenging and that made me realize I’m not immune to really bad days. It makes me incredibly thankful for what I currently have because there’s no promise the great cosmos gives me that I’ll have it tomorrow. So maybe I am a bit paranoid and writing these things down is overkill, but it makes me feel at ease. Ultimately, your personal zen is what matters, so do what it takes to have it and protect it.
Google often makes us lazy. Consider stopping right now and spending five minutes or so jotting down how you would respond to some worst case scenario of your choosing without consulting Google (or the next best thing). Just you and your mind. Meditate on what you write and let me know if you got any value or if it was a waste of time. Inquiring minds want to know!