For the next few weeks, I’ll be running excerpts from Dojo Wisdom, which is officially releasing on July 1.
This is one of my favorites, #50: Know what to do next.
Know what to do next.
For every Plan A you devise, you should also have a Plan B in mind for when Plan A goes horribly, terribly wrong. Your backup plan may be an elaborate strategy or it may just be an escape route. The point is, you need to know what you’re going to do next.
If a mugger grabs you on the street and you kick him in the groin and he doesn’t let go, now what? Unless you have an elbow strike ready to go, you’re in trouble.
In martial arts, we practice what to do next all the time. We practice throwing several kicks and punches in a row. We practice different ways of entering and breaking someone’s balance. We work on footwork and body shifting so that if a block we execute fails, we’ll still be able to avoid getting walloped on the chin.
You should always know what you’re going to do next if you succeed and what you’re going to do next if you fail. Suppose you’re finishing your biology degree and applying to medical schools. Maybe your record is so fabulous that no one will ever turn you down, in which case your Plan B will focus on what you’ll do after you’re accepted to medical school. (For example, how you’ll pay for school, where your husband will find a job if you have to move out of state, and so forth.)
But if you’re more borderline, or if you have to have a scholarship to be able to afford to go, your Plan B should consist of a strategy for what to do if no one accepts you. Instead of being overwhelmed by rejection, deciding you’re worthless, and getting a job at McDonald’s, you could think of some other better alternatives. But it’s best to have these thought out ahead of time. Maybe you could work on whatever makes you borderline and apply again next year. Maybe graduate school is an option, and you can become a Ph.D instead of an M.D. Maybe an internship will earn you some good letters of recommendation. Maybe you can go into an allied health field. The world is full of possibilities. You just have to identify them.
Prepare a Plan B. If you’re up for tenure, obviously you will do all you can to bolster your bid. If you don’t get tenure, however, you will probably have to leave your teaching job, so what will you do? Get a teaching job elsewhere? Start a different career? Sue the hell out of ’em for denying you tenure? No matter which plan you choose, you can be prepared by at least identifying the strategy you’ll use.
You should also plan for success. If you do get tenure, then what? Rest on your laurels? Will you finish your career at one school, or will it be time to look for a more prestigious appointment? Will you write that controversial book you didn’t dare write when your job was less secure? Know what you’re going to do next.