Thursday, April 17, 2014

BROWN: Back up from your backup plan

By LINDA BROWN, Hold Me Up a Little Longer, Lord | 5/1/2013

The worst advice I ever received came from my mother — may she rest in peace and not come back to haunt me. Her advice was, “You need to have a backup plan.”

It was fairly recent that I remembered this advice came from a woman with the soul of an artist and the heart of a poet. All she ever wanted to do was write poetry and embellish her words with pencil drawings of the sonnet’s characters. It didn’t matter if it was hearts and flowers, bunny rabbits or cuddly kittens; all were written and then drawn with enthusiasm and expertise. And yet, she died never having published a single word or drawing. She died not actualizing her lifelong dream of becoming a professional writer and illustrator.

The worst advice I ever received came from my mother — may she rest in peace and not come back to haunt me. Her advice was, “You need to have a backup plan.”

It was fairly recent that I remembered this advice came from a woman with the soul of an artist and the heart of a poet. All she ever wanted to do was write poetry and embellish her words with pencil drawings of the sonnet’s characters. It didn’t matter if it was hearts and flowers, bunny rabbits or cuddly kittens; all were written and then drawn with enthusiasm and expertise. And yet, she died never having published a single word or drawing. She died not actualizing her lifelong dream of becoming a professional writer and illustrator.

Why? I think it’s because she had a backup plan. Once she started taking on adult responsibilities, her backup plan became her survival plan. I couldn’t have asked for a better mother — not that we didn’t have our differences — but I don’t want my life to end with regrets of an artist unfulfilled.

Backup plans don’t work because they are a misnomer. Anyone who has ever succumbed to a backup plan knows it is just a euphemism for your real plan. Simply put, backup plans become your career, and if you’re not careful, your entire life.

Backup plans take time and resources away from what should be your real plan. Backup plans divide your attention and parcel out energy that could and should go to what you’d really rather be doing.

Backup plans feed on negativity. From the start, they come from a place of failure; they’re like prenuptials, assuming from the beginning of the marriage that it’s not going to work. It’s a predetermined mind-set that if your real plan fails, you’d better have something else waiting in the wings.

Backup plans lie to you. Like the mistress who led you astray in your marriage, a backup plan will whisper in your ear that you’re doing the right thing and that this is what you really want. Backup plans seduce you, then drop you like a bag of rocks when you realize too late you’ve wasted your entire life married to the wrong person.

Oh, yes. I can hear your objections already. Why? Because I wrote most of them, stuffed my pockets full and handed them out with great flourish whenever needed, but everyone knew I was just lying to myself. Excuses are like that — everyone sees right through them.

I never advised any of our children to have a backup plan for their careers. Instead, I encouraged them to do what they loved and do it well; in turn, their careers would find them.

And they did.

Linda Brown is marketing director for The Ottawa Herald. Email her at lbrown@ottawaherald.com

comments powered by Disqus