Note To Self

Make Plans, God Laughs. Time To Pivot

In her latest Note To Self, FW editor Emily Brooks makes the case for pivoting instead of planning.

By Emily Brooks

Note To Self

In her latest Note To Self, FW editor Emily Brooks makes the case for pivoting instead of planning.

By Emily Brooks

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a planner. And anyone who has broached thirty, knows you grow disillusioned with plans around this point. Not because plans are ineffective or useless; but because over enough time making plans, you begin to realise life is not black and white, but shades of grey. It is not a thing that can be segmented or categorised or broken down into dot points and ticked off each week. Partially, maybe, but never fully. The big moments in life are also never things you plan for. You never plan for an old friend to call and offer you a job in New York. You never plan for that relationship you thought was perfect to break down. (These are not things that have happened to me this year, but to people I love.) But maybe the biggest flaw in the process of planning is that when we write we out our five year plan, or even our two, we expect we will remain the same iteration of ourselves as we move through it. We do not. We evolve, and so too do our perceptions of what we want. As Chance the Rapper said in his song 5 Year Plan, “You gon’ have several revelations in your first five days.”

Plans have been on my mind not just because it’s my birthday, but also because Kanye West released his first gospel album. If someone told us that five years ago, I don’t think anyone would have believed it, let alone Kanye. I certainly don’t think he planned for it. But it is here. He is here. The boy in the pink polo rapping ‘Jesus Walks’ in 2004 (“I ain’t here to argue about his facial features/or here to convert atheists into believers”) is now a devout Christian ready to convert the world. As expected, the internet is up in arms about it. But I will weave around the controversy this morning and focus, instead, on something West said. (That is possible, I think.) In his two-hour long interview with Zane Lowe of Apple Music’s Beats 1 at West’s Wyoming property, the two discussed West’s album, coinciding IMAX film, religious awakening and personal evolution. And in his electric blue polar fleece, West repeated the old Yiddish proverb, ‘Make plans, God laughs’. It stuck with me this week. In this modern life, as we all box in and package up our neat identities to perform them online, we leave little room for unexpected evolution in our personal brands (if we choose to see them) and lives (if we don’t). “People say, ‘Oh this is going to kill your brand.’ But my brand is expressing how I feel, whether it’s in line with what you thought the brand was even two days ago,” West said. “A smart man has the ability to pivot and say ‘I think something different now.’”

“Sometimes we get so caught in our plans we begin to see the opportunities as distractions, or too stuck on our old selves we begin to hold back the people we really are.”

It reminded me of a phrase I often hear, which is, I’d rather be correct, than consistent. Whether you think Kanye is correct or not is not the point. The willingness to pivot is, and it is something I think we can all embrace a little more in our own lives. Which brings me to directional versus destinational thinking. I had never heard of the term until Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s career coach mentioned it in an article this week. Career coach Megan Hellerer was interviewed on The Cut about counselling the US Congresswoman on the virtues of “directional versus destinational thinking”. The two metaphors she uses to describe it are this: Instead of working toward a goal, think of “warmer and colder” steps. Instead of choosing a destination on a road trip, choose just east or west. This type of thinking serves as a small corrective measure to the five year plan which often leaves us stiff with blind motivation. Sometimes we get so caught in our plans we begin to see the opportunities as distractions, or too stuck on our old selves we begin to hold back the people we really are. Life is not stagnant and sterile but messy and complicated, and sometimes solid plans just confuse the process of trying to move forward.

So this year might be the first year I don’t make big plans, but adopt instead a more directional approach. A year with warmer and colder steps, a year with east and west choices. However, I will always leave room to reflect. Instead of looking forward, I’ll be looking back – to see the progress already made. Maybe you should too? Knowing that, I think, helps you know yourself a little more and trust your choices a little harder. Evidence that you will, in fact, come out the other side of hard days and even hard months a bigger person, and usually a better one. But most importantly, history is proof you will get through them. You will pivot your way out of it. You will decide your way to a better place, eventually. It’s important to trust the process and let the people around us trust their own. Because I think if we’ve lost anything lately, it’s the ability to let people make their own mistakes and learn from them. We must always leave room for that. As Chance the Rapper said, “You got time for misteppin’. Time for them weapons. Form but not prosper. Time for them lessons. Time for them blessings. Time for first, second, third, fourth impressions. Time for reflection. Time for confession. Time will heal all. Let’s get a good stretch in.”