“If You Fail to Plan, You Are Planning to Fail!”

“If You Fail to Plan, You Are Planning to Fail!”

What happens when you fall into the second part of Benjamin Franklin?s most famous quote.

Image for postPhoto by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

It is the most ponderous of quotes, isn?t it? Seemingly obvious to its reader. And yet ? day after day ? we find ourselves dealing with the consequences of not planning.

?If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!? Benjamin Franklin

The message from dear old Ben is impeccable, but still, we fail to grasp its significance. Instead, it seems a rather nave belief takes hold. Chance will see us good; it won?t let us down. Everything will be okay.

Of course, this is a myth for one very good reason. Entropy.

Entropy ? Beyond the Science

Entropy is a word rarely heard, ostensibly lost in the depths of the English language. In part, this is because it stems from thermodynamics. The science sounds complicated and for this reason, most of us avoid it.

We might choose to avoid the science, but we can?t avoid how the science of entropy affects us. Beyond science, entropy explains how random chance can be.

At this stage, allow me to quote James Clear. In his article, Entropy: Why Life Always Seems to Get More Complicated James explains how entropy presents itself to us.

What is entropy? Here?s a simple way to think about it:

Imagine that you take a box of puzzle pieces and dump them out on a table. In theory, it is possible for the pieces to fall perfectly into place and create a completed puzzle when you dump them out of the box. But in reality, that never happens.


Quite simply, because the odds are overwhelmingly against it. Every piece would have to fall in just the right spot to create a completed puzzle. There is only one possible state where every piece is in order, but there are a nearly infinite number of states where the pieces are in disorder. Mathematically speaking, an orderly outcome is incredibly unlikely to happen at random.

Simply put, entropy is a measure of disorder. It is always with us, surrounding us and the life we live in. Oh, if that wasn?t bad enough, entropy increases over time.

Entropy and the path to ruin

Do nothing, and with time entropy will bring decay and increasing disorder. It?s an indisputable law of nature. And yet, we ignore it, believing instead that chance will see us good. We?re back to that deluded thought again; everything will be okay. We might even ask ourselves a question.

What?s the worst that can happen?

A clever question perhaps. But one never truthfully answered, not at the depth it needs to be anyway. Instead, confirmation bias will give us an approving nod. Ignoring the unbreakable law of thermodynamics, and throwing us into the wheel of chance, that can only lead to yet more chaos and disorder.

Some choose not to fight entropy. They find themselves on a path to hell. One where disorder rules. Left unchecked, entropy only leads to a downward spiral.

Picture a kitchen where no-one washes up.

With the passing of yet another meal, the pile of dirty plates grows. As it grows, what might have started as a neatly organized pile soon becomes a balancing act. The wobble only gets worse as more dirty mugs, bowls, and plates are added. And then, a crash ? followed by another as gravity takes hold ? then the plates are no more. Just broken pieces scattered on the floor.

Imagine a bank living without order, or a society without rules. Anarchy, decay, and disorder will take hold in the same way the plates smash themselves on the floor when no-one washes up.

On a more personable level, the effect of entropy is equally as profound. Look at the chaos that drugs and criminal behavior bring. These are tools that make living in a disordered way easier ? it?s a slippery path to more chaos.

The indisputable law of nature wins again. But it doesn?t have to be that way. No, there is a way to not be ambushed by entropy.

Live with Purpose and a Plan

You don?t have to leave everything to chance. You can slow down and delay the effects of entropy with effort. The key is to live with purpose and a plan.

Living with purpose limits the effect of chance on life. When someone lives with purpose, well, stuff happens. You might desire a holiday; thus, you need to save money. Now you have a purpose. Something you can put some effort into. Naturally, the holiday needs planning. When will you go? Where will you go? How will you get there? All exciting questions which contribute to developing a plan.

A plan brings structure. It stops you from standing still, from taking the pain of decay which entropy brings. Instead, it brings the opposite. It reduces the effect of chance and gives purpose.

What about Benjamin Franklin and his masterful quote?

While Ben might not have been up to speed with the laws of thermodynamics, but he understood the value of having a plan. By planning, he was opting for some semblance of order.

Indeed, it gave Benjamin Franklin a fine life. One of which we look back upon and admire. He achieved so much, with his legacy living long past his death. The United States of America would not be what it is today without his critical input.

?If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!? Benjamin Franklin

His quote is widely admired, and rightly so. It?s a nod to planning to fail with it?s insight to the risks that come from chance, decay, and disorder. Benjamin might not have known it then but living with a purpose gave him a method of holding back one of the laws of nature.

As Ben observed, without a plan ? what he had was the potential to fail. With a plan, well, Ben understood he had more of a chance to succeed. By planning he could ask second-order questions. Questions that offer consideration to alternative outcomes naturally gave a great chance of success.

This is the essence of planning. Planning awards purpose and offers control ? and crucially ? it helps reduce the impact of entropy. This is the real value that we should all hold dear to our hearts from Benjamin Franklin. It was an early lesson, one that echoes throughout history.

So, don?t ignore it, or live in ignorance of it. Remember if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.

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