How Important is Your Plan to Your Outcome

How Important is Your Plan to Your Outcome - www.alliepottswrites.comA three-day weekend loomed in front of us and our plan was to have no plan. We’d sleep in as much as the children allowed. We’d stay in. After being away from home most weekends in August, my husband and I were looking forward to tackling a few projects but generally doing nothing more than relaxing. It would be a weekend to simply enjoy being a family.

It was a good plan.

I’d no sooner stepped out of my bedroom Saturday morning when I was met in the hall by my eldest son and his best friend, Biff. “Mom! Biff invited me to go with them to a mud run. Can I go? Can I?” I blinked. I hadn’t drunk enough coffee that morning to be able to process that level of excitement. It was a wonder I’d even gotten into my day clothes already.

I stalled. “Those things usually cost money.”

“My mom will take care of it,” Biff assured me.

I felt like there was something I was missing. Kiddo would be out of the house all morning? He’d be exercising instead of alternating between begging me to allow him to binge-watch his latest favorite cartoon (there are only six seasons, mom), creating Lego minefields, or complaining about how bored he was and I wouldn’t have to pay for it? It seemed too good to be true.

It was.

We learned no such offer had been authorized. Sure, Kiddo was welcome to come along (the more the merrier!) but the insurance waiver clearly stated that a legally responsible adult must be present along with every child. One of us, either my husband or I, would have to go with Kiddo else live with a weekend long case of ‘you are the worst parents ever!’ There went our relaxing morning.

My husband and I faced off like gunslingers at noon in an old western.

“It’s only a couple of miles,” my husband pointed out.

“You are the one training to run another marathon,” I reminded his father.

*do-la-doooooo wha wha whaaaaaa*

“Please?” I swear Kiddo batted his eyelashes. (Don’t ask me where he learned that trick).

My husband broke first. “I’ll go change.”

LT, our youngest, caught wind of the conversation. He had no idea what a mud run was, but his brother and father were going. He would not be left out or heads would roll (as would the rest of him as his tantrums are typically full body affairs). Then all four of us were at the starting line with the elder Potts guys in their work out attire and me and LT standing on the spectator side with a camera and their spare clothes.

A fog horn blew and then they were off.

How Important is Your Plan to Your Outcome -
This is after he swam across a pond. My washing machine is demanding a raise

A short time later, two incredibly filthy smiling faces crossed the finish line. I know they were smiling because the only part that wasn’t covered in brown was their shiny teeth. The shoes they’d worn were tossed in a pile which would be industrially cleaned and donated to those in need. A large tanker truck provided the water needed to remove the mud from Kiddo’s ear. Speakers blasted music while LT grabbed fistfuls of grass and rubbed them into his hair and across his belly in order to look like one of the participants. We hadn’t brought a change of clothes for him, but I found I didn’t mind. Not one part of the morning had gone to plan, but it was still a good morning.

No. It was a better morning.

I am a planner by nature as much as by habit. I set goals. I track milestones. I know how to keep a program advancing, but though it is making me twitchy writing this, there are times you have to focus on the outcome, but let the plan go.

“Stay committed to your decisions, but stay flexible in your approach.” – Tony Robbins

I was supposed to have another book out by now, but my characters rebelled. I found myself asking what was more important? My outline or my outcome.

I thought my outline was a good one. I’d put real thought into it. I’d spent hours if not days planning and pacing. I’d created character profiles and scene summaries. I’d researched setting. It should have worked, but it didn’t, and ultimately I allowed myself the flexibility to adapt moving forward. I picked outcome.

Though I hate that it has taken so long to get to this point, I have to admit my characters were right. I rewrote my plan. I altered my method. I’ve received my feedback from my beta readers and all that is left to do is a few manageable rewrites and work through my final edits before sending it out to the next round of advanced proof readers (if that sounds like something you’d enjoy, please contact me at allie AT alliepottswrites DOT com).

The path to publishing this book may have deviated from my plan. It’s taken a few twists and gotten messy along the way but my commitment has never wavered. With a little patience and a whole lot of support, I will publish this book and it may just be better than I ever planned for.

Almost according to plan

popcorn spill
Image courtesy of Flickr

Lured by the promise of unlimited popcorn and free movies, I once took a job at one of those giant megaplex movie theaters. I was only in my teens, but so were most employees, and after only a few months on the job I was promoted to Team Leader. My first assignment? Prepare the concession stand for a regular business day.

I was nervous the day I arrive. I had never led a team before, at least not through a corporate mandate, and I certainly had never “opened” a concession stand. I didn’t even know who would be there to help me as Team Leaders were expected to keep the newer hires on point but weren’t responsible for assigning shifts.

Movie theaters feel quite a bit different before patrons arrive. For one, the lights are on at full brightness illuminating all the popcorn kernels, candy wrappers, or greasy fingerprints the cleaning crew missed from the night before. It is also quiet. Almost too quiet.

Another employee entered the lobby, making me jump. It was Sean. Sean had recently been promoted to Supervisor, a rank made obvious by the maroon polyester vest he wore and was technically my superior in this organization (the rest of us wore black). Although I had never worked with Sean, I was relieved as I took his presence to mean that at least one of us had some additional experience.

“So, what do we need to do first?” I asked.

“I was hoping you knew.”

You might have heard crickets chirping had the theater’s speakers, not at that moment, begun to blast a selection of top 40 pop tunes which would repeat on a loop for the rest of the day. We stood there equally dumbfounded for a couple more minutes, but no one else showed with a checklist of opening duties. Training wasn’t the theater’s strong suit.

“Umm, I guess I’ll sweep?” I suggested.

As we finished cleaning the floors and wiping down surfaces, a manager zipped by (they do exist!) “You need to get the butter ready,” he announced before disappearing once again.

Butter package
It definitely does not look like this at the theater and yes, you can believe it is not butter. (Image from Wikipedia)

Lamont loves coating our popcorn in butter on the rare occasions that we get to enjoy going out to a movie, but I’ve seen how it is prepared. Sean and I pulled out several jugs of congealed yellow paste resembling ear wax (really gross stuff), placing them over the dispenser as we continued getting the rest of the concessions ready. Ten minutes later, the butter paste remained firmly in the jar. Examining our handiwork, we realized that we hadn’t turned the warming tray on. “Almost got it,” we joked at our mistake.

The rest of the morning was filled with several other “almost” disasters, to the point of being comical. “Almost” became our inside joke and we were cracking up over our near incompetence by the time the first patron came through the door. Our manager might have wondered what was so funny, had he bothered to check on us more than a passing second, but the important thing was the patrons never knew that their soda had been two seconds from being pure syrup, or that at one point the counter resembled a mountainside avalanche as napkins launched themselves out of their spring-loaded containers.

In the right context, “almost got it” still makes me smile. Had the morning gone as planned, I doubt I would remember it today. It would have been just another day, boring and indistinguishable from the next. Instead, the day’s imperfections made it one of my favorite teenage memories.

With that being said, I have reached the decision to launch my second book, The Fair & Foul under the imprint of Axil Hammer Publishing this Fall. Are there still tweaks I could make to the story between now and then, an adjustment to the font, or layout of the cover? Perhaps, but, there will always be things I could improve. If it had to be perfect, you’d never remember it because it would never be published. While it may prove not to be perfect, I am proud of the story as it stands and look forward to sharing it with you.