“Life is What Happens When You’re Busy Making Other Plans”

By Rob Shaul

I first saw this John Lennon quote in Curtis P’s kitchen – yes, that Curtis P – the exercise namesake.

An oilfield welder and weight room meathead, Curtis was also a poet-philosopher, with a rare purposeful focus on his life at a young age.

Lennon’s phrase was on display in his kitchen and is pregnant with implication. 

First – if you know something needs to change and no commitment or responsibility is keeping you from changing, do it now. “Making other plans” isn’t action. 

MTI vets are familiar with my “Happiness Formula”

Happiness =

  1. Live in a place you love; 
  2. Do work you love; 
  3. Be around people you love. 
  • Have all three and you’ve hit the jackpot. 
  • Two out of three and you’re doing great. 
  • One or none out of three and you’re miserable. 

Where we live and the work we do are most often in our direct control.

Two forces are at work when making big changes like home and job: inertia and momentum. 

Inertia works to hold you in place.

Big change is scary and hard. Inertia’s glue comes in the form of skeptical friends and family, real financial concerns, self-doubt, and the pain-in-the-ass of it all. For some reason the older we are the harder change is. Young and broke we weren’t afraid of risk and adventure. Now, older and with more resources, we have more to lose, and this holds us in place against our best interests. 

Inertia’s foe is momentum. But momentum can’t act on its own. Momentum needs a push, and you have to push it. Take that first bold step and more steps – drive by momentum – fall into place faster and easier, washing inertia away.

Perhaps you’re incapable of making a change now because of a commitment or responsibility. You want to move or change careers, but truly can’t.

The second implication of “Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans,” is to make sure you are taking advantage of what life is offering you now. Don’t be so full of discontent or so busy making other plans that you miss what’s in front of you, right now.

How? Think inside the box.

“Think outside the box” is the trendy phrase we’ve all heard over and over. But “inside the box” thinking affords the most opportunity for creativity and chance for immediate positive change. 

Creativity? Inside the box thinking forces us to completely inventory the tools and resources in our current situation, and re-configure and/or re-deploy them in a different manner to make positive change. 

This starts with the “inventory” – which is simply digging deeper and learning more about our work, industry, or location. 

Bored or unchallenged at your job? Dig deeper, learn more about the business and dive into the finer details of the craft. Every occupation affords this depth and for you not to acknowledge this is arrogant and lazy.

Hate where you live? Learn its history, geography, wildlife, and search for those unique individuals and pockets of deep culture every community has. There’s richness where you live and you’re missing it by constantly gazing over the fence. 

Immediate change? Inside the box thinking by definition does not require outside resources. You already have all you need to effect positive change.

No excuses. Only effort.

Regardless of our situation, we can always use it to build our own character. 

We’ve all met someone who hates his or her job and half-asses the work. How much do you respect these people? 

If you are being paid to do a job and you are doing it poorly, this reflects on you, not the work. Half-assing your work because you hate the job or your boss attacks your own integrity and is a self-inflicted wound a job change won’t heal. 

Know someone who’s constantly bitching about his or her own town? How much do you respect this person?

Every place has its charms and it’s on you to find them, no matter how well hidden. Circumstance may be currently forcing you to stay in your location, but while you live there it’s your town. Think inside the box, unearth its charms and endeavor to enjoy it. 

Finally, “Life is what happens when we’re busy making other plans,” carries an ominous warning.  

Time doesn’t stop and wait patiently while you finally build up enough courage to make a change. Time rolls relentlessly on, and every second in the wrong job, location, or not around people you love is one you won’t get back. 

Seconds quickly become minutes, minutes, hours; hours days, days, weeks, weeks, months; months, years.

Every moment in the wrong situation is another block in the wall of inertia. Change becomes harder and harder. 

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