Life is complicated, busy, and demanding. At least it is for those that are really living! One technique most of us use to deal with a busy schedule or faulty memory is a list. There are grocery lists, to do lists, top ten lists, honey-do lists, lists of goals, lists of suspects, Christmas lists, checklists, emergency lists, etc.
The Launch List Revisited
I wrote an article a few weeks back, Six Suggestions for Success: The Ultimate Fatherly Advice, in which I brought up the idea of a “Launch List”. This idea revolved around having a list of things to learn which would help to launch your adult life or a career. Whereas a bucket list is about completing one’s life, a launch list is preparing for one’s life.
I think it is a good idea for parents to talk to their children about such a list, e.g. “What is it that I need to do to prepare for my next challenge?” Take the phrase, “…my next challenge”, and replace it with whatever is important to you (school, a job, my career, a sport, my marriage…). This could be a Master List which then could consists of sub-lists. As an example, the Master List could be “What should I do to be well-rounded and a desirable employee in my chosen career? Let’s call it “My Career Checklist”
My Career Check List
· What am I good at?
· What do I enjoy?
· What are some options?
· What are my strengths and weaknesses?
· What schools are best for me?
· Should I go to college near home or far away?
· Is college right for me, or should I go to trade school?
· Am I on the right track in my current studies?
· Will I have help with tuition or will I have to work and borrow?
· What will my resume need to look like to apply for college or a trade school?
Now let’s take the last bullet as an example and start a sub-checklist. Let’s call it:
· What are necessary preparations for applying to college/a trade school?
· What summer jobs are available for money and/or experience?
· What are the requirements for an internship at XYZ?
· What credits do I need to graduate?
· What civic duties can I perform to match my interests and future employment?
· How do I write a proper resume?
You can now create a list from a bullet in ‘Resume Preparation’. It can go from very general to quite specific. It depends on the individual and what works for them. The more you dig, the better prepared you will become.
Now are the actual lists critical? That all depends on how organized you are, how your memory works, or how hectic your schedule may be. The idea of a list is all about thinking ahead and preparation. It may be that after writing a list, you rarely look at it again! But writing the steps down helped you make decisions in an organized manner.
Gen Eisenhower was quoted regarding his preparations for the Normandy invasion, “The plans were useless, but the planning was invaluable.” It may be that you end up in a different place than your original plan had intended, but not because of inattention or lack of planning. A plan that can never change is likely not a very useful plan.
Live for the Present, but Plan for Tomorrow
As mentioned in my previous article, I stopped looking ahead after receiving my pilot wings. What I should have done was plan on being the best pilot in my unit, volunteering for extra duties, extra missions, and being available when substitutes were needed. While I certainly believe in the axiom “live in the moment”, that doesn’t mean wandering about aimlessly. Living in the moment includes awareness of the future. I could have set my goal as being an instructor or check pilot. I took none of these actions because I didn’t know what I wanted out of my Air Force career outside of flying. I found that in life, succeeding is just a step that necessitates more success to keep moving forward, which is not a bad thing. Why stop at good when excellent is better? Why not strive for being the ‘best’!
When you are the fastest runner on your high school track team, you stand out. But when you join all the other fastest high school runners in college, you compete at a different level. Continued success is more difficult. To make the Olympic Team as a runner, you now must beat the fastest runners from all the colleges. You can’t settle too early if you have the talent or you will have ultimately failed to be your best. You can be a success at whatever level you choose. You will be praised for making your college track team—by those not knowing you had more to give. On the other hand, if you had no desire to succeed as a runner, that is okay. But strive for something worthwhile.
Succeed from your Failures
Plan to be the best at where your talents and desires take you. I missed my chance at being a better officer on active duty. I took that lesson and applied it in the Air National Guard. I also put it to use to write a book, which was much more difficult for me than what it would have taken to be a better pilot. But had I become that great pilot, I may have never written my book. Lesson being, you can always succeed from your failures!
It’s the person who plans and prepares, who dreams and acts, who fails and recovers, that creates advantages for themselves and finds success.