Plans were made to be broken

A big part of my job as project manager is to make plans. People need a plan to get things done. When I make a plan, the best thing in the world is to be able to predict what will be happening in the next little bit.

That’s what a plan is: I will do this, and this will be the result.

Plans are like science- they love to be sure and stable. Reliably executeable.

But the world changes under us. We use what information we know, and then we find out more. Then, as more people find out more even bigger changes happen.

I remember the plans that we made for COVID a year ago, back when it was still called the Coronavirus. I took steps and made concessions. And then I found out more and did things differently.

It was only a year ago but it seems very distant now. I had such limited information, and plans were made and remade on a very frequent basis.

The reality is, things are always changing. But I can’t help but make plans.

I’m a kid with a set of blocks. I will stack them, build them with delight and then they get knocked down.

They are always knocked down.

Plans are what I do, and yet I also know no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.

The blocks crash. They always crash.

It’s sad when they are knocked down. But the happiest kids start making a new stack immediately.

I’m not always the happiest kid.

But it helps to remember that the blocks are all still there. I can build again, and this time it will be magnificent. Until it falls again, but I don’t have to think about that yet.

Something new is ready to be created, and I can’t wait to get started.

For real or for show

Since she’s doing school at home, Veronica has learned something very grownup: computers can be wrong. Mostly, they have been wrong in ways that count against her. Last year she learned the heartbreak of submitting an assignment and it did not

In fact


The world is a little less reliable now that she knows this.

While walking the dog, I asked her:

Which would you rather have:

To learn something, and have the knowledge, but not get the credit


To get the credit but not have the knowledge

The TV series Suits starts with the main character making his living by cheating for hire on the bar exam. He knows it, but has been expelled for cheating. But he gets a job as a lawyer by further faking a graduation.

The show is filled with tension about who and when will find him out.

But I wasn’t worried about whether he can do the work.

I felt pretty sure he was going to get caught, but not that he wouldn’t have the knowledge.

Is some knowledge easily acquired on the job? Can you fake It until you make it?

Veronica had another view. She said, “Mommy, I know what you would say, but there are social consequences to getting bad grades.”

Her concern was that should would lose social standing by not having good grades.

Sometimes knowing something is less important than people thinking you know. This is probably reliably true in 6th grade.

My husband says that’s all fine and good but if it’s on the line—like knowing how to fly a helicopter—faking it will not serve.

We have created standards that the interweaving systems of our society rely on. There are construction standards that require the wall to be able to support 5 times the weight of whatever is fastened to it. That leaves enough margin for error to be reliable. Our certified doctors and plumbers have to have a broad range of skills to be certified.

It depends, I think. I find great joy in learning even if it is not for credit. And yet, the social standing and the recognition are valuable and worth fighting for. Most of the time.


Rosa Parks, in her book Reflections by Rosa Parks described how she learned from her mother to have dignity.

But that’s all she said.

That word –Dignity—along with courage and independence—is exactly what I think of when I think of Rosa Parks.  I long to have the dignity she had.

She understood something I don’t.

In pursuit of greater dignity I searched for a book on the topic.

I found Dignity by Donna Hicks. She drew up a framework for dignity and made it understandable.

I want to have dignity and give dignity. I have not known how, but she outlined 10 steps. I’m lifting this from an article the author wrote for the Ikeda center posted here

Acceptance of Identity
Approach people as neither inferior nor superior to you; give others the freedom to express their authentic selves without fear of being negatively judged; interact without prejudice or bias, accepting how race, religion, gender, class, sexual orientation, age, disability, etc. are at the core of their identities. Assume they have integrity.

Validate others for their talents, hard work, thoughtfulness, and help; be generous with praise; give credit to others for their contributions, ideas and experience.

Give people your full attention by listening, hearing, validating and responding to their concerns and what they have been through.

Make others feel that they belong at all levels of relationship (family, community, organization, nation).

Put people at ease at two levels: physically, where they feel free of bodily harm; and psychologically, where they feel free of concern about being shamed or humiliated, that they feel free to speak without fear of retribution.

Treat people justly, with equality, and in an evenhanded way, according to agreed upon laws and rules.

Empower people to act on their own behalf so that they feel in control of their lives and experience a sense of hope and possibility.

Believe that what others think matters; give them the chance to explain their perspectives, express their points of view; actively listen in order to understand them.

Benefit of the Doubt
Treat people as trustworthy; start with the premise that others have good motives and are acting with integrity.

Take responsibility for your actions; if you have violated the dignity of another, apologize; make a commitment to change hurtful behaviors

This is my goal. I want to have the dignity Dr. Hicks describees. I want to give it. That’s the goal. I’m grateful to her for defining this precious character trait.

Independent of any specifics, I can point to these elements and know where my dignity stands or might be under attack.

And I can resist the attack with dignity. I can avoid the double loss by being strong in expressing my own dignity. I have the tools now.