Thursday, March 01, 2007

Planned Drifting - A New Way Through Life

In Praise Of Planned Drifting
By Imran Anwar

In the 1980’s (saying it like that makes it sound even longer ago than it was), in Pakistan, I remember saying something in a newspaper or magazine interview about my philosophy of “Planned Drifting”. And almost 20 years later, when CNN profiled me their interviewer surprised me with his impressive research when he asked me on-air to explain what I mean by my trademark term. I’ll get to that in a second – or more.

Those were the days when I was attending the well known University of Engineering and Technology, in Lahore, Pakistan, for my B. Sc. Engineering (Electrical/Electronics) degree. Well, attending is not really the correct word – since after doing well in first year classes I fell into student politics for the next 3 years, standing against the evil of the Islami Jamiat Taliba (which was then a US/CIA-backed and financed part of the Jamate Islami religion-using hate-mongers seeking fundamentalist rule and even now supporters of the Taliban and AlQaeda).

Towards the end of my stay at the Engineering University (as it was also called) I had lost three years of my life wasted on student politics but with nothing achieved (because that evil, Islam-using, filthy, vile, repulsive, Constitution-breaking, corrupt, bigotry and hatred-spreading, Taliban-creating, US-backed dictator General Zia banned students’ unions just when it was my turn to run for President). I was then scampering to cover for my missed exams and classes (clearing “supplees” was the term many of my fellow alumni will recall being familiar with).

But, in what seems to be typical twists in my life and career, instead of hurrying up and getting into a stable (boring) life of an Electrical Engineer working for some Pakistani government department or some private sector company that overworks and underpays, I found myself Business Manager of Pakistan’s largest newspapers and magazines chain, Jang. A chance meeting at a close family friend’s wedding party led to a 22 minute chat, that led to my still being involved in the news and media business 22 years later.

So, where – you ask – is this whole discussion taking us, and what were you saying about “Planned Drifting™”. I am glad you remembered, and asked – you know, remembering my problem with remembering recent things.

I read a good article today on some web site --- either there are too many articles online (considering I already read about 30 today, in addition to the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times and a dozen or so magazines) or I am getting old (since I just read that piece online 2 hours ago) --- that I can’t remember.

But the topic was quite a good one. It was about how the writer is a workaholic and finally made time to go visit some friends in Florida and kick back a little bit. He wrote about the issue of how life is what happens when we are making plans for everything else --- or something to that effect. As I mentioned earlier, or at least I think I did, that memory loss can be a terrible thing, and that is a good thing to remember. If you can.

Anyway, coming back to the topic, or what I seem to recall is the topic.

I love making plans. I love getting things done. And, I hate the idea of making all these great plans only to be thrown off by changed circumstances, fate, markets, politics, people and... life. For a procrastinator that would be a great reason not to make plans at all and just lie back and enjoy life passing by. But, that would be too easy. People could think I am lazy, which, no matter how true it could be, is definitely not the impression any one of us wants others to have of us.

So, I came up with a solution to that problem. Instead of making plans – which require time and effort, and then finding changing circumstances throwing off those plans – which causes frustration and annoyance, I say, forget making plans.

But, didn’t I just say, I love making plans? You’re right and glad you remembered. Yes, I did.

I should clarify. You can ‘plan’ – as in aim for, hope or desire or actively dream and pursue - or you can make specific PLANS.

I have always lived by, and promoted (as seen on CNN :-) ) "Planned Drifting™".

Being a mariner (boater) and aviator (hobbyist pilot) I know drifting (usually sideways not in line with the original desired path or desired location to stop at) is the last thing one wants to do, either off course, or into shoals, or into the path of other traffic. But, planned drifting is a proactive, positive, and almost fully aligned with the original planned course or direction.

The approach is to know where you want to get, but instead of thinking of it as a straight line think of it like the cone of radar beam sweeping back and forth 20-30 degrees each way in front of a ship or plane checking hazards and weather. Planned drifting is knowing that even if life throws curves your way, or times and tides change, or fate blows in one windy event or another into your flight path, you can still succeed even though your “plans” may be completely left by the wayside.

You may drift slightly to the left or right of that ideal straight line that you thought you had charted out for your life, but even if you don’t get to what you thought was some specific location or point, you will still get to what life and fate may intend to be your final destination anyway. That would still be a great destination to get to, it would still be a great adventure and it would most definitely be a great journey regardless of where exactly you end up.

Planned Drifting™ is not about idling through life, or coasting, or gliding, or simply going with the flow. It needs more active involvement from you. It needs proactive thinking. It needs nimble and agile thinking. It needs a positive, open, frame of mind.

You give yourself a good general direction (vision), even some desired specific destination (goal), but don't get married to a particular course (plan) - which is most often the thing that will not turn out how we want it to be.

By the way, I remembered, the article I responded to was by Michael Hugos, on the CIO Blogs page at http://blogs.cio.com/life-is-what-happens-when-you-have-other-plans . Do plan to read it – unless you have other plans!

Happy Planned Drifting™.

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“Planned Drifting” is © and a ™ of Imran Anwar. IMRAN.COM.
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