How to Still Get your Heart’s Desire when Plans Go Awry

I’m in Paris. First time. What an absolutely chill, yet bustling city. Back when we were planning for the trip, which I thoroughly enjoyed (almost, as much as the trip, but not quite), one Anthony Bourdain advised against planning too much. This would be the number one error that ‘alpha planners’ like myself do. When in Paris, you just need to plan to get lost for a while… which is what we did. And you have to be ok with it.

 

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When I think about this on a different level, it applies not only to navigating your trip in Paris but also to business and life as well. I’m sure you’d agree that nothing will go absolutely 100% perfectly as planned. (try planning a wedding… or having kids). The beauty of Paris is that plans can change, and part of the charm is to get lost in the city.

We have a colloquial phrase in Cantonese called “jup- sang”… which loosely translates to “pick it up while it’s live.” Sometimes you just gotta go with the flow and revel in where the universe takes you. Sometimes you gotta take what life gives you and make that proverbial lemonade. Sometimes that lemonade stand turns into a multi-national empire with a highly coveted lemon flavoured beverage.

 

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This morning we had a food tour planned (LeFood Tour.. which we rescheduled to Wednesday, and it was fantastic!). One of our little munchkins (1.5 yrs) ended up screaming until 4am. Due to the true beauty of our 100-year-old apartment, no one slept. As a result, I am the only one up at 9am after returning from my barre class and exploring Paris a little on my own.

 

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Be Nimble

Fast forward a few days.  Negotiating 3 kids under 4, 5 grown-ups, 1 stroller, and a second-floor apartment with only a spiral stairwell, there were times we never even left the apartment until 3pm.

Here’s the rub. Plans change. Deal with it. It’s never the end of the world. Whether in life or in business, things rarely go as planned. Go ask any bride. There’s almost something organic and beautiful about it. It’s such a gift to be able to recognize when you’re straying from the path, and smile. Then, just dance with it.

 

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He Who is the Best Prepared, Wins

This can be applied to whether you’re traveling Europe, taking a licensing exam, or delivering that next killer presentation. The winner is the one who has best prepared. Travelling with a 4 yr old, we brought everything: clothes, travel meds, slippers for the condo, outfits for every possible occasion, activities for the plane. We even brought Mama-Pig (this kid loves pigs). As they say in Cantonese, “Man mo yut sut,” meaning “Of 10,000 things, there not 1 lost.” We were prepared.

…Alas, his luggage never arrived in Paris. Ok. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you prepare, you still don’t win.

Thank goodness we have a good credit card support. We invoked our trip interruption insurance. 650 EU later, he emerged looking like the Okaidi poster child.

 

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The comforting thing is that even when you draw the 0.01% short straw, the universe has your back. The important thing is to know that, and be cool with it.

When I think of all the training, all the presentations, all the most important pitches I’ve made in my career, the very best ones were the ones where I did the most to prepare for them. I visualize how the delivery will go down. I rehearse out loud. I anticipate the reaction of the audience. Then I deliver. 80% of the time, it comes out exactly as I expect. Only 80%! The remaining 20% of the time I know my material well enough that I can speak confidently off the cuff. And be cool with it.

 

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Keep Your Eye on the Prize

In my post Don’t Sweat Petty Things, I talk about… well not sweating petty things. There are way too many little details in life that deviate from your plan. If you let them, can annoy the crap out of you. My point is that you can never 100% predict the path to the outcome. The important thing is to keep your eye on the outcome. There are many paths that could lead there. Sometimes it’s not the path that you anticipate, but an even more delightful path that takes to your destination. In the wise words of Otis, it’s good to take time to stop and eat the flowers.

 

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Despite having go out and replace all of the boy’s travel gear (which I’ll admit was pretty damn fun), it gave us a chance to explore the city of lights. We got a chance to do more than just visit the tourist traps. It’s amazing what you find on your quest to find reasonably priced socks for a 4 yr old.

 

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Go where the Universe Takes you

Fast forward a few days and we are in Lyon. When you are travelling with that 4yr old who doesn’t fall asleep until 1am, you tend to wake up at 11am. Since the local farmer’s market might close at 1.30, by the time you leave the house, it’s way too late to hit that coveted world famous Marche de Paul Bocuse. (Damn!) Now what? Just go. With the gift of spontaneity, we decided to explore the streets of Lyon. There was potentially a famed ice cream parlour in our future, but for now, there were plenty of amazing little shoppes and Bouchons. What a luxury it is to be able to wander, and stop wherever you want. This afternoon, we wandered into a miniature museum that exhibited miniatures used in various Hollywood flicks.

 

 

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Miniature library from a Museum in Lyon, France

 

Sometimes in business, that career plan won’t be what you had in mind. You had the plan to progress in one direction, but for whatever reason, the barriers push you to a different direction. I don’t think it wise to consider this a ‘failure’ necessarily. Sure it’s not according to plan. But as I said, there is beauty in accepting that spontaneity of opportunity in your career. Who knows? The universe might have gently nudged you in this direction so that you can ultimately achieve what you intended overall.

 

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Such are the flavors of life. Go with the flow. Revel in where the universe takes you. Take the hand of life, and dance. Feel the warmth in the pit of your stomach, knowing that the universe always has your back. We’ll be headed to Iceland in a few days. Talk to you then.

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