Your Backup Plan Is Your Plan


My favorite part of reading case studies and interviewing entrepreneurs over the past couple of months has been hearing a number of stories with a recurring theme. In dozens of variations, the stories usually sound like this:

“I was down to my last $400 and simply had to make it work…”

“I gave up the option to take a reduced role at my job and just went full-tilt…”

“I didn’t know what I was doing, but I finally overcame everything I was stalling on and just started …”

Refusing the backup plan is a key theme of many successful entrepreneurs and other heroes. A good backup plan creates safety, security and a fall-back option—things you don’t want when you’re trying to change the world.

Will Smith put it like this: “Your Plan B interferes with Plan A.” I like that. Why not stick with Plan A?

The Pilot, The Plan

Turning down the safe advice (“be careful, take your time,” etc.) makes some people uncomfortable. When you proceed full-on with no backup, you might encounter questions or supposedly unassailable examples of why backup plans are necessary.

You’ll hear something like “Airplane pilots always have a Plan B,” as if it’s an open-and-shut case that you’re wrong to chart a course without considering the contingencies. And when you are presented with such logic, you are expected to say: “Oh, you’re right! It really is better to play it safe. Gosh.”

But hold on a minute. Personally, I want my pilot to safely land the damn plane. Assuming that’s Plan A, I’m happy to stick with it. Anything else doesn’t sound like a good plan to me.


We can change our tactics and maybe even our strategy, but let’s not change the goal. The goal is: be awesome. Change the world. Win. In short: Your backup plan is your plan.

Don’t get me wrong; I know that change is a scary thing, and I don’t think prudence is inherently bad. If you need to proceed with caution, proceed away.

But I also know that sometimes the fail-safe plan gives us a safe way out of what we really need to do. It holds us back from greatness. And if there’s anything we don’t want when attempting something truly important, it’s that. Full speed ahead!

So how about you over there… what’s your plan?


Image: Marmota

Subscribe now and you’ll get the best posts of all time.


  • James Schipper says:

    I used to try to cover every possibility (“be prepared” and all that), but realized the old analysis paralysis concept was too easy to come into play and nothing would happen. Learning is good, but learning by doing is better. Figure what I want and work backward to get the steps to that point, but that goal is to be met at all costs.

  • Mars Dorian says:

    Yeah, that quote from Will Smith is awesome, I still remember the interview: There’s no plan B because it distracts from plan A!

    Judging from my own experience, I can only relate to that. I throw myself in – no matter the outcome – and see how my intent corresponds with the universe. If there’s a safety net to your actions, you’re most likely to fall.

    Burn your bridges and just do it (damn you Nike). It’s an exciting way to live your life and to thrive with your goals.

  • Fly Brother says:

    …if only I were born heir to a hotel fortune. Meanwhile, I spend every waking minute between periods of babysitting adolescents (aka teaching) working on my escape plan. And I just got back to the grind a little over a month ago. I’m printing this to post next to my bathroom mirror.


  • Alexia says:

    Reading this post made me rethink encouraging my girlfriend to have a plan B when she wanted to quit her ‘day job’ to concentrate on being a full-time artist and persue her dream.It really slows you down and makes you think that eventually you’re going to fail and will have something (uninteresting) to fall back on to.

    Well I’m glad she didn’t listen to me, I guess I was more concerned about her than she was about herself! Although I strongly believe in her artistic abilities and her motivation, I advised her to go the ‘safe’ way.

    I’ve realised that having a plan B can sometimes keep you away from what you really want… being awesome!

  • Jeffrey Tang says:

    I agree in part and disagree in part. I’m completely on board with getting started now, instead of waiting until you can formulate plans B, C, D, E and F before taking the first step.

    On the other hand, I don’t see anything wrong with taking smaller steps when starting out. It might not be right for everyone (and as you’ve said before, sometimes you need the push to make you take the leap), but in my opinion, it’s often better to take little steps first. Many people labor under the belief that if they can’t start big, it isn’t worth starting at all – which is another form of paralysis. In those situations, committing to taking the “safer” little steps first is a better way to go.

  • Eduard says:

    That’s a very good point Chris,

    Backup plans are often for sissies. They make us consider compromises which we shouldn’t be considering. I really admire the courage some entrepreneurs have on this one, and I hope I emulate at least a quarter of it.

  • James says:

    Great Will Smith video here.

    I’ve been stuck in analysis paralysis way too long, and it is starting to sicken me. The only thing that matters is working hard and working smart.

  • David Stern says:

    Knowing that there is a back-up plan allows me to try something more risky. For example, I have a job interview next month. I already have a presentation on one topic I could give them. But I want to try for a different topic that still needs some work that I think will impress them more. Knowing I already have a plan lets me put the effort into this harder topic. Otherwise, if I had no plan at this point I would be working on the safer more boring topic.

  • Devin says:

    Thanks Chris,
    I am launching a program today, which scares the hell out of me. It is my plan A. Your note showed up just in time to take a deep cleansing breath and just move on with it.

  • Ceil says:

    Some people just can’t let go, can’t have a plan B in place and maybe C in place. But as for me I shoot from the hip. If it feels right I stick to it. If I win, great. If I fail I take what I learned and try again. Takes all kinds to make the world they say.

  • Barak Rosenbloom (TimeNative) says:

    That puts a lot of my life in perspective!

    Last summer after several years of my business going nowhere, I shut things down, started a new approach, closed up my life in Seattle for seven months, spent three on an island in the San Juans and four splitting time between my sister’s places on the East Coast.

    Big sisters were unanimous: get a plan B and act on it now!

    I could have had a very lucrative plan B, and just couldn’t do it. And when I got back to Washington, everything started coming together, I invited some great people to join me on a new business adventure (we didn’t even know the details of what it would be at the time), and off we went.

    And now here I am creating very cool material with wonderful people. I’m still on the short-term freaked out as we get our new website and business up and running, but every time I think about “I should get some more cash in by doing . . . ” it feels lifeless and wrong. I’ve learned to trust: myself, the people around me, and life.

  • Megan Matthieson says:

    Hmm. I have no back up plan for myself. I’m balls out doing what I love and that’s my only course. But I’ve been telling my son to have a plan B. Maybe I should quit being the ‘voice of security and reason’ for a minute (once or twice?) and be a balls out cheerleader for him. Hmm. Other comments are welcome!

  • Mike Echlin says:

    Thanks again Chris!
    I have lived this over the past two years. When leaving my full-time job (somewhat unplanned) two years ago, I focused on my part-time consulting business that was established many years ago.

    For the first year after leaving, I though that I would give consulting my best shot while continuing to apply for a job. After 100+ resumes sent out with zero responses, it dawned on me that my original Plan B is now Plan A.

    After winning a few big accounts, my part-time consulting business became a full-time venture. Plan B became Plan A, I suppose.

    Even though there are days where I think maybe I should go back to job-hunting, I take a deep breath and continue on with Plan A. Even though there are many days where I freak out, I am convinced that Plan A is the only plan.

  • Karen says:

    I think you need to look before you leap, but yes, backup plans can get in the way of making your dream or goal come true. Plan wisely but you can’t plan for everything, so sometimes you just need to have faith that you can pull off whatever you are going for and you need to just go for it.

  • Kari Wolfe says:

    All your focus should be on Plan A, yes, but a backup idea–just a glimmer of an idea–might not be a bad thing at some point. I think it really depends on who you are and ultimately what you want.

    I’m restarting my blog, redefining what I want it to do, and I’m doing it for me 🙂 I want others in for the ride, but I’m going to chart my journey regardless 🙂

    So that’s my Plan A. My Plan B? Well… um…

  • Michelle Russell says:

    Hi, Chris–good points, but I think there’s a potential danger in letting yourself get unthinkingly swept up in all the “rah-rah, take the plunge” advice out there. It works for some people, but can get others into serious trouble.

    So I think it depends on knowing yourself well–your level of comfort with risk, what your primary motivators are, etc.–and acting in ways that stretch your comfort zone, but not so far that the stress would be counterproductive.

    I also like what Jeffrey wrote above: “Many people labor under the belief that if they can’t start big, it isn’t worth starting at all – which is another form of paralysis.” As a recovering perfectionist, I concur wholeheartedly!

  • Laura Lee Bloor says:

    I agree with Jeffrey. Taking a giant leap just isn’t possible or responsible for me at this time. However, I am taking small steps and am slowly inching my way forward. Yes, it will take me longer to reach my goals, but at least I’m working toward them, which is better than doing nothing at all.

  • Meg says:

    I absolutely love this! This is exactly how I feel!! Considering that I’m about to make my first foray into freelancing, I’ve had so many people ask me what I’m going to do if it doesn’t work out… I just shrug. Keeping the faith that given 24 hours in a day 7 days a week I’ll figure it out enough as I go along to get it down. No back-up plan, just vague ideas if it doesn’t catch on soon enough.

    Thankfully, I’ll be supported… But I don’t plan to abuse such support for long. I have a baby that needs a lot of work and lots of $$$’s in parts, she’s my primary motivation. 🙂 (My ’90 240SX, lest anyone think I abuse human children!)

  • linda esposito says:

    i find that having a backup plan interferes with authenticity. if i keep it real, and not worry about failure/losing face/personal debt, i’m more courageous and creative. also, part of any plan is to be mindful of the present…sometimes easier said than done!!

  • Sunny says:

    This post couldn’t be more timely for me! Just last night I asked my husband, “Am I crazy? Should I just go get a job?”

    I have chosen to run full tilt ahead in the belief that I’m doing the right thing with my business, but as the money runs out, my worry gene kicks into high gear. But, I’m not going to quit – I’m sticking to my Plan A with no real Plan B on the horizon!

  • elena says:

    Just the right words at just the right time. Thank you. You are, by the way, responsible for both of my blogs that I’m working on now, and even though I don’t seem to have a clear plan A or B at the moment, something is moving, work is being done. I thank you again for your inspiration.

  • soultravelers3 says:

    Funny, we are on the same wave length again. I just tweeted this before I read this:

    “Do you want to be safe & good, or do you want to take a chance and be great?”~ Johnson

    I love our open ended, non-stop family world tour lifestyle because it keeps us in the “now” and more “alive”. Life is always about being awesome and I’m so grateful that my daughter get’s to experience it as she grows in such a free way.

  • soultravelers3 says:

    Funny, Chris, but we are on the same wave length again. I just tweeted this before I came here and read this.

    “Do you want to be safe & good, or do you want to take a chance and be great?” ~ Johnson

    Going for an awesome life is what is about and I’m so grateful that our open ended, world tour as a family lifestyle, teaches my daughter this from an early age.

  • Colin says:

    So true. Sounds like my story.

    But it seems that you will push off what is most important until you have no other option.

    If only we could just do what we know needs to happen now. Not procrastinate.

  • Grace says:

    Finally! Someone on the planet who “gets” me!! I realize I’ve been hiding my “dirty little secret” that even without health insurance, savings, equity, a spouse, or any other safety net – my freedom is not only well worth the occasional financial struggle – but my success is BECAUSE I decided to sink or swim!!!

  • Barbara Saunders says:

    The “Have No Plan B” advice is an especially useful kick in the pants for the kind of person (like me) who, in reality, probably have more safeguards built into Plan A than most people have in their Plans all the way out to Z.

  • joseph satto says:

    I was just interviewed by Break the 9 to 5 Jail for advice for fledgling entrepreneurs. In that interview, I discuss taking the leap. I was a corporate lawyer at a large law firm in NYC and had the option to have a Plan B but at some point I had to pull the plug. I can certainly attest to the fact that not having a safety net forced me to figure things out, navigate obstacles and generally force myself to find success. This is a great way to either fail or succeed and that alone makes taking the risk worth it.

  • Tony Teegarden says:

    I’m picking up what you’re putting down.

    I’ve made a living of assisting people with a plan B that is supposed to turn into their plan A. Funny how it works out. My plan A doesn’t do it for me any more so i’m creating another Plan A.

    I’ve been feeling like I’m in one fish bowl and I want out. I’ve procrastinated enough.

    Thanks for the key timing on the post

  • John Bulmer says:

    Developing a Plan B takes precious energy and resources away from Plan A. Time spent on the Plan B details would be better spent on achieving a successful Plan A.

    The sad thing is that our Plan B is inherent within us and actually requires little effort or energy to achieve. So why do we spend energy on Plan B?

    I like the idea of taking small steps to implement Plan A, but the days of our life dwindle as we take small steps. Eventually the decision must be made to go full on with Plan A, or throw it away and the chance to be awesome.

    I am at that stage of my life now. Mid 40’s and slowly working towards achieving my goals. Unfortunately my professional employment (aka Plan B) consumes most of my time.

    I won’t be full on with Plan A today, but it comes closer every day as the details slowly emerge from the fog. Still no idea what I want to be when I grow up!!! ARRGH!

  • Ande says:

    Bravo, Chris! Years ago, I had my first novel published. I thought it was sci fi, but the Bantam editor said it was chick lit. So when I set out to write a second book, my editor said I had to write chick lit. I don’t read or particularly like chick lit, but I gave it a go (i.e, it was my plan B–my plan A had been to write sci-fi paranormal thrillers). Of course, I failed because my heart wasn’t in it. My editor told me the kind of book I wanted to write wouldn’t sell, so I fell back on the back-up plan, to build an internet business. Totally failed at it. Now I’m in a financial crash and burn. I tell this story to show what messes back-up plans can make.

  • Jessica says:

    My mother (who I love dearly) keeps saying things like “You should keep working as a lawyer and do this “healing thing” on the side.” I just smile and thank her for being concerned about me. Then I give her Reiki and she’s so relaxed she doesn’t mention it for awhile :). Just because I’m not making money from my “healing thing” yet doesn’t mean I can’t make it work. I will make it work because I have to. I will make it work because I want to. I’ve never been happier in my adult life even though I don’t know where my next “paycheck” will come from! That says it all, I think.

  • Hermann Delorme says:

    There are different ways to approach this idea of going for Plan A without a second thought for Plan B. One of them is through this saying: ”peace of mind is the mental condition in which we have accepted the worst”. Anybody who can live with that should go for Plan A full tilt. If you can’t, then the time isn’t right. What’s good for the goose is NOT always good for the gander.

  • Andi says:

    I just took a BIG risk on something and sadly it failed b/c of the economy and having a terrible biz partner. I didn’t have a back-up plan, but I’m glad I didn’t. Not having one made me think outside the box and proved to me that I’m more courageous and ambitious than I ever imagined.

  • Mike C says:

    What a timely article! I recently did just that…I quit everything and I’ve been downsizing for quite a while. So now I took the leap and I am giving myself no choice but to make it happen. For the first time, I feel pretty confident that it can be done, whereas before I always had way too much doubt.

    Here’s to the leap!

  • Raye says:

    The phrase “back up plan” just sounds like its going to take you backwards instead of forward! My Plan A is not crystal clear right now but I am determined to daily enjoy the journey discovering what it is.

  • Jackie says:

    Having that backup plan splits your focus..and its focus that gets you where you want to be. Why dilute your potential by focusing on two tracks.

  • Shana says:

    Wow, I agree with Raye…and I sure don’t want to be stuck in backward “moonwalk” motion. I’ve been struggling with doubt for a year in a job that’s not rewarding…my family says “you better be glad you have a job right now, many people wish they did” Yeah, I get that, even so I feel like taking a leap of faith. I feel like I’d feel a huge relief and work much harder to fulfill my dreams!

  • Chris says:

    As a Virgo, I resemble all of these posts. The thing that hasn’t been mentioned however is that you can easily go from a Plan A type person to a Plan B and C type person just by having kids. Once a family enters the picture and you have so much more to lose, it makes it much harder to live spontaneously. Even though it could be the best thing in the world for you and your family, it feels very frivolous. I have honestly not mastered it, but knowing is half the battle!

  • Joel says:

    Well done again.

    I find when I have a backup plan I always tend to work hard, but I always have the thought, in the back of my mind that if this doesn’t work out, I have plan B. I give myself an excuse. An out. When there’s no plan B & it has to work, I’m amazed at how many times I can actually make it work =)

  • Michael says:

    Indeed, having plan B be “make plan A work” will definitely get your off your butt and moving on it. It will give you a huge amount of committed motivation. It will make you lose some sleep and find solutions that stretch your creativity and courage. Lots to be said for “your backup plan is the plan.” At the same time, I have found there are times when it is just not going to work, or if it will work the compromises have distorted it into something far from original vision. Sometimes plan A simply needs to be put to rest with flowers and a few shots of whiskey. Done and done.

    In which case you are back to Square one; and another shot at something worth doing. Plan A does not always work, but that is no reason for not pursuing it in the first place!

  • Susan says:

    My Dad and brother are commercial pilots, and there’s really not a Plan B. Plan A, like you said, is to land the plane safely. If that means taking an unexpected turn, so be it. Just part of the plan. They look at the destination first and work backwards to the starting point. Sounds very entrepreneurial to me.

  • Jesse says:

    I went to school for theatre, and I remember multiple times when professors told students that they would only make it in the world of theatre if it was the only thing they ever imagine doing. “If you have a plan B, you may as well just go do that.” So for me, there was no plan B, never has been.
    I moved to Chicago just over a year ago and I have yet to take a “day job.” My art is my living, I often don’t know what I will be doing in August until May, but I love my life, I am my own boss and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • Yael Grauer says:

    My degree is in Social Sciences, and then I got a post-bacc teaching certification. I decided teaching Language Arts was the closest thing to writing I could get paid to do. And that it was a job that would always be in demand, so I’d always be safe. And then I got laid off anyway. If I’m going to be struggling, it may as well be doing something I love. I’m all for pragmatism (the occasional temp work and so on) so long as one keeps their eye on the prize.

    Excellent post–as always. Thanks for being awesome.

  • Globetrooper Lauren says:

    Thanks for your post Chris. It really soothed my fears of the Plan A that is in the works for me at the moment! All the big changes (=big fears) are starting to hit me. It’s funny how in school, at home, in society everywhere, you’re taught/programmed to think about failing and other outcomes that are not what you actually want. Why not just keep striving for the best? Keep trying? It’s silly to do otherwise.

  • Jacquie Martin says:

    Chris, you’re so right. So often! Read B for barrier and block when thinking plans. That’s the mistake I’ve been making all my life and so many others I know. It’s too easy to focus on the B instead of being full on A or not give your full attention to A because secretly you know B is there and it might get better.

    Remember the A Team (you’re too young) – they ‘loved it when a plan came together’. The A team only had a plan A. Everything else they made up as they went along so they were never distracted.


  • ian anderson says:

    Chris, its a bit like when old timers used to say “get a trade son (I listened, duh!), it is something to fall back on”

    However, the old timers never told us about the exiting stuff we could do, that might fail so that we had that trade to fall back on!

    IMHO the only plan B you should have is for your pension, for everything else why muck about?

    Better to have a new plan A than accept a poor substitute.

  • Angel Vallejo says:

    “Burn the ships after arriving at the new land…”

    Easy to say. Hard to do. But always a goo reason to go full stern ahead.

  • Sandi says:

    So glad I stumbled onto this, thanks to “Lemonade”. My attempts at setting up Plan Bs (yes, plural) have been totally shifting my focus away from Plan A, to the point where I am losing clarity on what Plan A actually is! Analysis paralysis and Plan Bs are killing my future. Thank you so much for the wake-up call.

  • juds123 says:

    Plan A is what results after the basics are all entered. But it doesnt mean it is all-encompassing or everything-thought-out. Along the way, it needs pruning and adapting and modifying so it becomes a much improved version or even evolve into a completely altered plan. There may be no Plan B. Only Plan A+.

  • Joana says:

    Great post! I’m taking my leap of faith (leaving a good paying job/benefits/status, etc.) to grow my jewelry design business. However, like some of your readers, I have been desperately holding on to what seems to me like a “parachute” (applying to jobs), but what I realize is my Plan B, or a dead weight anchor.

    Letting go is one of the hardest things to do. Thanks for providing encouragement and inspiration!

  • Phil says:

    Chris – I don’t believe in back up plans. If we make the best choice that we have in every situation, the best plan will emerge. I admire your clarity about what you are doing and your conviction in executing. Thanks!

  • joanium says:

    I love Marks & Spencer’s sustainability strategy called ‘Plan A: Because there is no Plan B’.

    M&S are a large grocery food chain in the UK. I work in corporate sustainability and my opinion is that Plan A is a credible strategy (i.e. not greenwash).

  • Cynthia Morris says:

    Here’s my backup plan:

    Be as fit as possible. Eat well, practice yoga, get regular exercise and laugh as much as possible.

    If I’m fit and healthy, I am agile and can respond to changes as they arise. It’s hard enough to make and stick with a primary plan, let alone a backup plan!

    Andi, Good for you for going for something and then living through a not-so-planned result. There’s a lot to be said about that, and learned from it, for your next venture. Don’t stop trying!

  • daniel says:

    It’s good to know that I am not alone in this thought – thanks. I was feeling down on myself last night and was thinking this morning that I have to get on with my life and start doing what makes me happy. Reading your email, points out that I’m stuck in my Plan B life and I’m not being awesome. I know what I should be doing and while I’m taking baby steps towards my Plan A, I need to be taking leaps and bounds towards my real life that’s being awesome

  • Chris says:

    Oh yeah! For a lot of people (including myself), the lousy soul-crushing jobs they now have, started out as Plan B. Until I get the money to do this or that, I’ll make some money doing this “other thing”. Then the “other thing” becomes “the thing” because you don’t have time or energy to pursue your passion, which then just turns into dusty regret.

    Some well-meaning friends and family almost always insist that you have the back-up plan, which is really just the plan they wish you’d go with in the first place, right? Plan B isn’t really about safety and security. I mean, who doesn’t want those things. It’s about fear. It’s about fear of failure and risk paralysis. Where Plan A comes from a place of “I can do this”, Plan B plants the belief that “I can’t do this”.

    I’ve been living Plan B too long. I’m dusting off Plan A.

  • Regina says:

    I think what Chris said sums it up well:
    “Where Plan A comes from a place of ‘I can do this’, Plan B plants the belief that ‘I can’t do this’.”

    If you have Plan B running in the back of your mind, you’re undermining yourself – subconsciously telling yourself that no, you really can’t do this. Plan B is self-sabotage.

    For the first time, I don’t have a Plan B. I only have Plan A. And if Plan A should fail… well… I’ll just design another, better, bionic Plan A! 🙂

  • gabriela says:

    Right ON, Chris! I say play big! Dream, Act and be in a cocreative dance with the Universe that IS awesome, excellent…that is the greatest win win we an give to the world. Playing it safe can translate into mediocrity, and an unlived life. No thanks. I love what wisdom teacher, Lee Lozowick says…”shake things up, take some action, generate movement, take some risks, show the Universe that you’re a player…Show the Universe that in spite of fear, in spite of appearances, you are willing to stay in the game…”

  • Jocelyn T. says:

    Timely advice…. there are some days (like today!) where my determination flags a little and I am plunged into indecision and start to re-evaluate all my options and back-up plans again. What I need to do is simply stay strong and persevere, stick with my
    A plan… it’s the one I really want, anyway. Thank you for reinforcing it for me!

  • Erica says:

    A timely post for me, as well. My 18yo daughter is ready to be on her own, and that means I am free to leave here. I love to travel, to meet new people, see new places. Lately I’ve discovered that my focus is on traditional foodways, and how we can heal ourselves through our diet. I don’t want to do more school right now (just got my BA)…I want to go experience it all firsthand.

    The backup plan I’ve been contemplating is to keep a small apartment here, stay on Housing and food stamps, and take short trips. But really, I want to jump off the cliff and just go! I did that in 2001, selling most of my “stuff” and buying a 6 month ticket to London. Those 6 months of traveling around mostly Scotland are among my most treasured memories. I’m ready to do it again.

    Thanks for the urge to just do it. I think my angels showed this to me!

  • Omar says:

    I use to always hear that one should have a backup plan and I use to think that it’s necessary. It’s scary. I guess it’s just being creative and going full throttle.

  • Ted Eleftheriou says:


    You’ve done it again! Great article.

    As I’ve read many of the comments… it seems to be a topic that so many of us can relate to.

    When I found myself unemployed over a year-and-a-half ago… I didn’t have time for a Plan B and that was probably the best thing that could have happened. Scary? Absolutely! Tough? Absolutely… especially when one has a family with a couple of wee ones to feed. Rewarding! Absolutely X 2! (although perhaps not initially)

    There were many challenges at first and we had to adjust our lifestyle quite a bit to compensate for the decrease in finances… however… hanging in there, plowing through, sticking to Plan A,… the life of non-conformity is beginning to take shape!

  • Jim Greenwood says:

    Hi Chris, Great post! And great comments!

    Picture it. Prioritize it. Pursue it. One step at a time.

    And … Have Fun, Jim

    P.S. Don’t plan or worry about b, c or d … (they’ll just show up when the time is right).

  • Kelly Parkinson says:

    I knew I wasn’t supposed to have a back-up plan, but I was so scared I made one anyway. My side business was to be a large-dog-running (not walking!) service called Slobbercize! I was going to promote it with an Olivia Newton John-inspired, sure-to-be-viral video of my dog dancing to Maniac, wearing a leotard. I created a website for it and everything. But after I gave notice at my job, my boss asked me if I’d help him and his family plan a trip to Africa, part-time from home. So that’s what I did for the first few months of my “independence.” I never thought of it as a back-up plan. More of a cash-flow, ramp-up plan while my business got its legs. Turns out I didn’t need it. But it was nice to have a magic feather. Kept me from feeling desperate in those early days.

  • Writer's Coin says:

    Great post, especially the comparison to flying a plane. I’ve also noticed that very successful entrepreneurs all seem to hit that wall or have a huge failure that they overcome before truly succeeding. But that’s kind of scary: what will my failure look like? How will I react?

    Hopefully I’ll just land the damn plane instead of bailing out.

  • James says:

    I was thinking about this very thing today, timely advice indeed. My situation is a little more complicated as I am able to work from home. This gives me a lot of freedom and I get to see my 9-month old daughter all day. But I work for a small company with money issues and the work is not in any way fulfilling. None of it is what I want. I think that alone is probably enough.

  • Fran says:

    I guess I’m the dissenter. It is my full-time job that makes pursuing my dream possible. It is not holding me back in the least. Maybe it is actually part of Plan A. I have been pursuing my dream of being a music photographer for the past year and a half. It’s a tough gig to make any money in. But I love it. At this stage of the game, it would not support me or pay my mortgage or my bills or even buy me the equipment that I’ve been able to acquire that helps me to be so good at what I do. Granted, I have a job that I like, is not taxing, and a schedule that fits in well with my passion. And once I do start making money from what I love, the job will be gone. But having it has given me the ability and the freedom to do the things that I want to do. And the time to build my reputation. If I didn’t have it, I might be like so many others who have had to abandon their dream and sell their equipment to pay their bills. Or even worse, have had to photograph weddings! YUK!

  • Wendy says:

    I actually just got to reading this post today, but the title had been in my head since I first read it days ago. I understood the title to mean something different! I think sometimes when people are not living the life they want, they have in the back of their heads some sort of back-up plan that, if things changed and perhaps they lost their job, they would pursue _________. THAT is their plan. THAT is what they should be doing because discounting all external factors and all fears preventing them from making the change, they know what they would do. The back-up plan is the plan.

  • Wilson Usman says:

    My plan is to work on what I can focus on this exact moment. I don’t know what could happen any time so that’s why I don’t worry about making future plans.

    My current plan is to build my online business so it can create enough income for me to focus on traveling like you Chris. I currently don’t have a continuing income, but no problem I like taking risks and having to think creatively all the time.

  • Shauna says:

    After considering what you said about pilots always having a backup plan, I’ve decided that pilots do not in fact have one. I would have to agree that Plan A is to land the plane safely. Being aware of alternate routes, etc is just that…..they are all paths that lead to Plan A. There is no Plan B :o)

    I think there are a lot of common phrases and sayngs out there that everyone just believes because they sound good. Just because people have been saying it for years doesn’t make it so. I wonder how many years people believed the earth was flat?!

  • Wyman says:

    Chris tribe,

    A month ago I would have disagreed with most of you. I was taught to always have a plan B. Now I realize a lot of the plan B’s are really part of plan A. For example a quick cash plan for businesses is just one part of the overall plan A.

    If your plan A is the job you went to school for is starting your own business a plan B or an enlightened plan A seeing that plan A no longer works for most. Jobs are gone with the information revolution.

    Make any sense?

  • Kjersten says:

    Great post, Chris. I work in a very competitive field. But I wouldn’t have it any other way. My work is my heart. Whenever I get down about not having a certain success level yet, I remind myself that if I’m not successful with plan A, my plan B is to be working my butt off trying to make plan A successful. It always makes me giddy to think of it this way. It makes me happy both for where I’m at right now on the journey and also it motivates me to get working.

  • Jennifer Moore says:

    I’m with Jeffrey and particularly Fran and some of the others. I’m taking small steps from within the framework of a soul-crushing day job. The key is, though, that I never overlook and opportunity for my True Plan A, even if it seems small. I’m responsible for keeping others fed and housed, so jumping in full force is just not an option; however, I do not let this stop me from making connections, building my portfolio, and learning my trades. Sometimes, I work a 7-day week, but that’s OK with me, because I know that some day, Plan A will be all I have.

  • Joe Oviedo says:

    As always, just what I needed to hear. Thanks Chris! No looking back or sideways! just look ahead and go for it! We all already know what we need to do, and we, I, already know everything I needed to learn to achieve what I’m looking for.. so hands on! bring it! =D

  • Grace says:

    Well, I have always been a “Plan B” person – and I am pretty happy with that. It depends on the person that you are.

  • John says:

    A bad plan acted upon violently (or with complete commitment, if you are a pacifist) will often produce good results—Do Something. You blog is great, often times we just need to step out with a bad, aren’t they all, and move forward. Then as the world hits us and our plans needs revision, which it will, then revise and continue to move.
    Thanks for your insight.

  • Nicolaï says:

    Regarding my plan, my gf and I leave in 2 weeks for Taiwan. We’ll be working for ourselves there (thanks for the ideas and encouragement!) and living the dream. Now, we are packing and tying up loose ends before the trip. Nothing is being postponed, and I feel that things are unrolling in a good way. We are happy… excited about leaving, but not because the current moment is undesirable. Both are nice.

  • Susan Milligan says:

    Hey! Thanks for this. Opening my shop again cause retirement seriously lacks a work ethic. This time nothing traditional, the shop will be over the top and dripping with Flair. Outrageous but dignified. No plan B. No backdoor. No worries. Whatever evolves is what it will be. Great to have read you this morning, Chris.

  • Lorraine M Wright says:

    TRAVEL HACKING POST: I would be MOST interested in you creating a membership site for travel hackers. I am SO grateful to you for the US Miles stickers promo. LOVE having 900,000 miles and I recently purchased another one of their promos and received another lovely bonus.

  • Jay says:

    I get caught too often in only partly jumping into things- one foot in the water and one firmly planted on safe ground. I took a step to leave my job last September but got talked into staying part-time, and part-time I have been since then… Furthermore, I haven’t really run with my plans like I wanted to in the time I am not working that job.

    Thanks for this post, it has really reminded me that I need to jump in fully and stop clinging onto my safety nets.

  • Andrea says:

    I can’t believe I am reading this post almost 3 years after you wrote it and it is as if you could see what is going on with my life right now.
    I have always been a Plan A and Plan B girl. Plan A at the moment is a dream that I know I will absolutely achieve, but recently I became increasingly frustrated as I just didn’t have the time to invest in making it happen. A few days ago I realized that the reason for that was is because I have been spending way too much time on the back-up plan, to make sure everything works OK once I fail with Plan A???!!! How upside-down is that?

    I’m sharing this article on Twitter, look me up 🙂 @andi_photo

  • Nicholas A. says:

    Here is my thought – Plan – Don’t Have A Back Up Plan…Read Full Post Here…

Your comments are welcome! Please be nice and use your real name.

If you have a website, include it in the website field (not in the text of the comment).

Want to see your photo in the comments? Visit to get one.