Wednesday, October 30, 2019

WEDNESDAY WISDOM: Don't Be Too Sure of Yourself - The Limits of Planning


"The trouble with the world is that the stupid are so confident while the intelligent are full of doubt."  Bertrand Russell 

I am by nature and by vocation a long-term planner. As I've gotten older, I've come to see that good planning can lead me in the right direction, but once I arrive in the right neighborhood, I'm likely to enter a zone of uncertainty. In that zone, planning becomes less useful, and inspiration and smart thinking are needed to finish the journey. Here are a couple of examples:

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing. Being an early space-flight junkie, I watched a number of documentaries on the subject this summer. The climax of those videos showed tense moments during the flight of Apollo 11.  

Years of intensive planning and meticulous preparation had placed Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in the lunar module a few hundred feet above the moon's surface. Unfortunately, they were hurtling toward a large crater and boulder field at their intended landing spot. Had Armstrong not jumped in at that moment to manually fly the craft to a safer landing site, they would have crashed on the rocks or been forced to abort their mission. All that planning and preparation would have been wasted. Thanks to Armstrong's quick thinking and exceptional piloting skills, they landed safely and the rest is history.


Raising children has many parallels to space flight. When I was much younger, before I became a parent myself, I read a statement that I thought was funny at the time:

"Before I became a father, I had six theories on how to raise children. Now I have six children and no theories."

What's ironic is that we now actually have six children. However, I can't say there were any magic formulas, secret recipes, or grand theories we applied along the way. We tried to be strategic and purposeful as parents and we attempted to follow healthy and wholesome patterns, but frequently we had to play it by ear and make the best decision in the moment.

This is not to say we weren't guided by certain eternal truths and pole star principles, because we were. But those served primarily to put us in the right ballpark. From there, we encountered a zone of uncertainty and doubt. Within that zone, we had to rely on inspiration, good judgment, intelligent decision-making, and a large measure of faith and hope.  

Now, looking back, it appears that we did a pretty good job. All six of them grew up to be remarkable adults, and we love and are proud of each one. But I'm not altogether sure how that happened. I now have six exceptional and talented children and no sure theories.


As Marcie and I move closer to our twilight years, we continue to make plans. We anticipate retirement from work and perhaps living closer to our children and grandchildren. But experience has taught us that planning can take us only so far. The further we go, the less certain we become. Eventually, we'll be required to "fly manually," to walk by inspiration, faith, and hope.  

When we reach that zone of uncertainty, we'll be guided and encouraged by a sweet statement from an unknown author: "Be okay with not knowing for sure what comes next, but know that whatever it is, you will be okay."  

Yes, we will be okay, come what may. We may not know where the path of life will lead us, but we'll enjoy the journey together, assisted by our six wonderful children.

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