Last summer, my son and daughter got together with a couple of their friends and started a band called Octahedron. Even though they’re my kids, I have to say that they’re pretty good. Others seem to think so as well as evidenced by the increasing number of invitations they are getting to perform around town and even in places outside of San Antonio where we live. Now and then someone will ask me what the kids’ backup plan is. My reply is not what people normally expect from the parent of a teenager with rock star dreams.
When someone says they want to be a doctor or a lawyer or start their own business, no one ever asks them, “What’s your backup plan?” But, when someone wants to be a musician or an actor or a writer there is often the thought that those pursuits are nice hobbies, but be sure you have something to fall back on. The people I know who have enjoyed success at their endeavors don’t have backup plans. Entering law school thinking about what you’re going to do if this doesn’t work out is probably a good indicator that you won’t make it. If a first year medical student is thinking about getting certified to teach science somewhere in case the whole doctor thing doesn’t pan out is probably not going to have the same level of success as the student who will be satisfied with nothing short of seeing “M.D.” after their name one day. When my San Antonio Spurs are on the court they can’t be thinking of how they will eject from the game if it looks like they may lose.
I’ve told my kids countless times that the only way they’ll even have a shot at success is if they have a “do or die” attitude. I don’t encourage them to have a backup plan.
Backup plans assume defeat as a possibility. Having a “do or die” perspective may not guarantee success, but it does guarantee you won’t fail because you were expecting to lose.