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Is it wrong to have a back-up plan?

Published on 25th January 2016

"The minute you have a back-up plan, you’ve admitted you’re not going to succeed." Elizabeth Holmes, Theranos founder and CEO. 

 As the daily wave of social news feeds washed over me, and as I simultaneously checked emails and sipped my tea (serious multi-tasker I know), one item caused a mental pause. You see I love a good sound bite, a witty quote or a positive slogan. I love it even more if it involves sport, motivation or achieving goals. I am in fact a well-known sucker for almost any and all motivation videos as long as they have some equally wicked voice over or an uplifting musical score. 

So reading this quote by Elizabeth Holmes made me stop, re-read and then think about what it means to me. I’m not here to judge whether she’s right or wrong, rather what does it mean within my own world, within the parameters in which I exist, and in context to the things that I believe in? 

A big part of my own goal seeking strategy in life (sport, business or personal) is to focus on high levels of self-belief. The kind of self-belief that echoes resolutely with Elizabeth Holmes’ comment. Either do or don’t but commit 100% of your effort to whatever path you choose. If I doubt my ability to achieve a goal or objective then I am not 100% committed and therefore introduce a higher likelihood of realising those doubts. 

But wait a minute. Being all fired up and optimistic is one thing but no-one is successful all the time and even fewer people are successful at their first attempt in achieving something significant. History has shown repeatedly the truism, ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again”. 

So where does the truth lie? Should we endorse this statement as a lesson of excellence or condone it’s real world impracticality? 

Well I think the truth is that whilst it’s great to exude positivity, the complexity of achievement requires more than just commitment. Reading “Matt Fitzgerald’s new book, “How Bad Do You Want It?: Mastering the Psychology of Mind Over Muscle” it paints an intriguing picture of the brain’s ability to influence our sporting performance. Noticeable is the fact that many people who achieve sporting success have to had to learn adaption and coping techniques that only develop after repeated attempts and failures to achieve their desired goals. It is therefore only through this learning process that the plasticity of the brain develops and enables complex skills and outstanding performance to be achieved. 

Sure sport isn't business, but success is success in any arena and there are parallels in both pathways that cannot be ignored. 

Perhaps therefore it is an appropriate time at the start of the year, as we plan our goals, to consider how we will achieve them. I will certainly be committed 100% to the pursuit of my goals, but I’ll also be looking at every option I can to reach the end goal, just in case my ‘do or die’ mantra falls short.