Isn’t it interesting that we don’t seem to have trouble planning for highly unlikely but good twists of fate, like winning the lottery? You probably already know the first five things you would do with the money, right?
But planning for the unpleasant things? Not so much.
This became crystal clear when my dear friend Olivia needed some help getting her affairs in order. In spite of our age difference, Olivia and I have been friends for decades. She had a career when few of her contemporaries did, was active in the civil rights movement in the 60s, and was outspoken on many issues that deserved attention. Fiercely independent, she has always managed her affairs well – until she finally admitted to needing some help.
Three of us offered to help her organize her will, healthcare power of attorney, and more. The first topic was about what she wanted to be done after her death. She agreed to meet with an attorney to sort out the complications of whom would get what and how best to help a grandchild with special needs. No problems there.
But when we suggested she would be wise to make plans for what she should do when she was no longer able to manage things, she demurred, “I’ll just tell my son what I want to be done when I get there.”
And that was the Catch-22! Once she hits a point where she can’t manage her own affairs, she won’t be able to tell her son what she wants – that’s the problem. We all hope that we die in our sleep at a ripe old age, going from full capacity to gone, but for most of us, that is unlikely.
While it may seem like folly to not prepare for a highly predictable situation like the inability to make good decisions or even express a preference when we get up there in years – her reluctance is really understandable. Planning in this way means facing the hard truth of what is likely ahead.
This unwillingness to prepare for reasonably likely events is common enough not only in life, but in business, too.
Too many business owners and CEO’s fail to create a clear succession plan or exit plan until they are ready to leave. And then their options are less attractive. What about the partnership with no agreement about how they can end their association? Or a contingency plan when the company loses a major customer or the economy tanks?
Just like my friend Olivia, we don’t want to think about something that is hard and scary, but to not do so is like whistling past the graveyard.
We can never plan for every single eventuality. That would be a waste of time, not to mention expensive. But this week, think about what likely but unpleasantreality may come to visit. Then make a plan. Get help if you need to, but get it done. Then go about your life knowing that if hard reality comes to visit, you’ll be ready.
Until next Tuesday,