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 . Do plan to read it – unless you have other plans!

Happy Planned Drifting™.

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


Anonymous said...

Hi Imran,

I heartily agree with your concept of "Planned Drifting". Since you are a sailor you understand well that drifting sideways with the wind is not helpful but being flexible and seizing opportunities when they appear is a good thing. Your analogy of constantly scanning the "radar cone" that extends 20-30 degrees to each side is a good one.

I am learning that it is important to know where I'm going, what port of call I am sailing for, but then how exactly that voyage unfolds is not and actually cannot be entirely known. So see the opportunities as they come your way and make best use of them.

Here's to "Planned Drifting"!

Anonymous said...

You call it drifting but it's really not. Having a plan, even as you have thought it out to be, makes it not drifting. It just gives the idea of drifting without actually drifting. It seems to be that you are just happy with what you are doing so it seems as if you are drifting through seemlessly to your goal. Drifting, in my sense, leads to no goal for if you have a goal than its not drifting, it could be called slack structure? maybe.

Anonymous said...

Hi Imran, Frances here. (Yup, just "drifted" back into your blog after a long absence.) It's refreshing to see you post a reflective blog entry on "Planned Drifting". Food for the soul, man.

But..."Planned Drifting", with a trademark sign? Teehee. I suppose you just "drifted" into the idea of capitalizing on a trademark for a concept that's as old as mankind itself?

IMRAN™ said...

Welcome back, drifting Frances. You were missed. :-)

Regarding copyright/trademark, hey, if Microsoft can get a trademark on "Windows" - a concept as old as "homes" and a computer as old as ... errrr... computers... and when companies are allowed to slap on a service mark on almost anything (e.g. "That was easy."), I just typed it in and said to myself --- "That was easy." :-)


Unknown said...

"But, planned drifting is a proactive, positive, and almost fully aligned with the original planned course or direction. " - very Coelho-esque school of thought. Like it!
Which came First? The Brazilian Author ( Paulo Coelho)or the Pakistani visionary? :)

IMRAN™ said...

Sahar, what an ironic challenge.

If I admit I didn't know the author you mention, it shows how poorly read I am LOL but that also apparently means I am such a visionary. LOL

Thanks for adding a name to my reading list. Any particular book or work you recommend? Thx


Unknown said...

The Alchemist... must must read. There are some books by him that i would suggest u skip because in some cases his interpretation of life faith, divinity can be a bit skewed...but then whose to say the rest of us aren't the same? :)

IMRAN™ said...

Thanks for the tip. I'll be sure to try read it when possible.


Unknown said...

imran brother this is much related with my life i also waste my 2 year and wasting my 3rd year but i haven't the power of decision em become confused....