Work Plans that Work

Do you have plan or do you plan to have a plan? What gives you direction?

By Fred Smith

The young man stopped being a day laborer at age eighteen and by twenty-seven was a millionaire. After losing all of his money he is well into the second million. When I asked him how he felt about losing the first one, he dramatically took out his wallet, slapped it down on the coffee table between us, stuck his finger at it and said, "Fred, take it any time you want, no matter how much is in it. Just leave me two things and I'll still make a million… leave me my self-respect and my work plan." At this point I only had one question, "Do you happen to have a second copy of the work plan?" I would like to give you the four points that this young man wrote when he was a day laborer.

 1. Clarify a specific goal. He handed me a piece of paper and said, "Fred, write down on that paper the dollars and cents you expect to make this year." I said, "I can't write down dollars and cents, but I'd like to make more." He said, "That's your trouble. You don't have a goal; you only have a direction." Immediately I thought of the young men who had come to me in business and said they wanted to get ahead, but had no specific goal in mind. They only had a direction.

 2. Have a plan for reaching your goal. He asked me if I thought I could write out a program whereby my son could learn to be a good executive if he followed it religiously. Let me ask you… if your son came and said he wanted to follow in your footsteps, could you write him out a program which, if he honestly worked at it, would result in success? I'm sure you could. So, I answered, "Yes, I believe I could do that." Then he hit me between the eyes when he said, "Fred, are you doing what you would write down for your son to do?" I had to admit that I wasn't to which he replied, "Fred, it's easy to see your failure is not in now knowing, but in not doing."

 3 Maintain a burning desire to work your plan. Notice he didn't say anything about reaching the goal. He said, "Work your plan." He realized that most people can be enthusiastic about a goal, but when it comes to working the plan there that is where they fail. Everybody is enthusiastic about shooting a low score in golf, but not many of them are willing to work the plan of practice. It's the plan we have to maintain a burning desire for, not the goal.

 4. Throw off all discouragement. Once he set his goal, developed his plan, he not only maintained his burning desire, but cut out all negative thoughts of discouragement. He had a wonderful philosophy: "I will accept no criticism from anyone who doesn't have something to gain from my success." I'm sure he will miss out on a lot of good criticism, but also sure he will miss a great deal more bad critique. Most criticism is envy. I don't know about you, but I've found I can get my full quota from my parents, wife, children and creditors who certainly have something to gain from my success!

 The other day (1960) I was going into Midway Airport in Chicago and it was so soupy we could hardly see our wing tips (on the plane, not our feet!). If you want to sweat, that's a good time to practice. The fellow beside me decided to perfect the art and soon he looked at me all out of breath and said, "I'm not sure I should have come on this trip." This was certainly not the time to make that decision. However, how many of us get into a program then starting thinking about the plan? We start seeing the negative aspects, lose our nerve and make bad or impossible decisions. If we follow this bold young man's four points we will reduce the badly timed decisions and greatly increase our opportunities for success.