Your Career Abort Plan
August 27, 2013
I can be an obsessive strategic planner. It's actually to a fault. I can tell you the career plans I have laid out until I am age 90. I totally see myself working until age 90, but things happen, and that could easily change. Notice I say "plans," because change can happen at any moment that can derail, change or scrap any plan I have on paper. As the old saying goes, "If you want to make God laugh, show him your plans." So that is why we come up with backup plans to cover any change in the original plan. If you are really good, you will have TWO backup plans for your career future in addition to the main direction in which you are headed today.
When the Space Shuttle would leave the launch pad, the astronauts knew and had backup landing sites in case something went wrong and they had to land during launch and jettison the solid rocket boosters and the main fuel tank. Up until a certain point in the launch phase, there was a time when an abort would take them into a wide circle out over the ocean, Cocoa Beach or Daytona, and back down onto the Shuttle landing strip. Luckily, in all of the Shuttle launches, that maneuver was never required. Hats off to the folks who built those fabulous boosters!
NEGATIVE IS POSITIVE
Then the Shuttle reached a point called "Negative return." The astronauts would call it out over the radio, I always listened for that command. It meant they were no longer coming back to Florida (usually a beautiful weather day) in the event of an abort. They are going on over the Atlantic Ocean and coming down in Spain at a landing site there in case something went wrong with one of the rockets sending them up into orbit. Many times, the launch would be delayed because weather in Spain wasn't good, even though it was a gorgeous day in Florida at the launch pad. Say what? Yep, that's backup planning.
Soon after, there was a press to MECO or "Main Engine Cutoff," where no matter what happened, the mass of the spacecraft was moving so fast that they could coast upward and into orbit and deal with any abort situation from "on orbit." I was lucky enough to watch the last few shuttle launches live, three from my office. One that I saw left the pad, rolled on its back, and trailing the most beautiful gold colored flames out of the solid rocket boosters, headed almost straight north. Others went up and East or Southeast from Florida. It was amazing to watch and one of the greatest things to witness in this lifetime!
The other day, I was thinking about things changing, and started thinking about how you can be prepared for things to change on you very quickly in your career. You lose a promotion. You get a big promotion unexpectedly. Your business gets sold out from under you. You get a windfall profit from something. You get in an accident. You win the lottery. You attract any version of difficulty. There are so many ways, both positive and negative, that your plans can be disrupted.
Things change. Sometimes you cause it; sometimes it's caused on you. The next time career change is thrust upon you and your world is turned on its ear, take a minute and go through the following steps to get back on your right track. Have an abort plan at your side. Reading through this, you can see why always having your written goals in front of you, is doubly important.
STEP ONE: WHY
The first step is to identify WHY the change occurred, or is occurring, or must occur. Guaranteed, there is a reason. Can you find what the reason is? Once you know the WHY, you can then move to step #2 below. There are all kinds of reasons why change happens, has to happen, or will happen. It is your job to understand the cause and effect of change. WHY is the very first step. Don't spend too much time on step one, but an understanding of why will be truly helpful as you work through the rest of the steps.
STEP TWO: GET OVER IT
If it is a change that is immediately perceived as "bad" by you, how quickly can you accept it? You must absorb this as quickly as possible, and allow the change to pass directly through you. Go through the stages of acceptance and get yourself through and past the anger, you being "wronged" and any sense of loss. All of this is baggage that will not serve you, but only slow you down into the next phase, the Re-Framing phase.
Move past allowing the change to bother you. Time is wasting and you need to get it in gear. Give yourself time to accept it, deal with it, and move forward. Imagine the astronauts, traveling at 10,000 MPH, getting angry about the boosters failing. Wrong. They would simply move on to the "next event" as quickly and efficiently as possible for the best outcome.
STEP THREE: RE-FRAME IT
Every change brings with it equal parts of "Good" and "Bad." In other words, change is nothing more than energy changing form. You go from "A" to "B;" it's another step in the journey. You can choose to look at the change as GOOD or BAD. It's your call. I can tell you that many years in a career will teach you that change is good, even though as human beings we don't initially want to change. Look at the OPPORTUNITY of the change. What does the change bring you that is GOOD? It's there, find it. Once you do, you will have framed the change properly to yourself.
STEP FOUR: BUILD NEW PLANS
Back up, back up, back up. Have at least three new directions to split off to at a moment's notice. Back to the shuttle. If we are not going to abort to Florida, we are going to Spain. We know this ahead of time. We also know at what point in the launch sequence that we are going to Spain. This DECREASES the "mourning" period whereby you waste precious time worrying about change or fretting over it after you have had it thrust upon you. Set off at once to plan anew. Your career plans should include a "What if" scenario for just about any career change. Opportunity is everywhere! Grasp it and be ready to accept a change immediately, and make it a change for the better.
STEP FIVE: EXECUTE
With backup plans in your hand, there is only one thing for you to do. Follow your goals, and while doing so, always have your career abort plan. Have TWO if you can. Be ready for anything, every single day. In the event something big changes, no big deal, just hit your abort plan, and enjoy the weather in Spain!