Ike, the plan, and how it applies to me

“Dwight D. Eisenhower…once opined that plans aren’t worth a damn, but planning is essential.”


Did you ever take those standardized career tests that ask, “What will you be doing in five years?” I have, several times. Looking back, there has never been a correlation between what the projection and the reality looked like.

Heck, lately, even planning ahead a few days hasn’t worked out.

When our library staff planned our presentation for staff training, the highlight was supposed to be the premiere of this video our intern Sam put together of the librarians. It was working fine in the dry run. But the day of the presentation, the disc simply would not work. After about five minutes of futile fussing, our director said, “Hey, we can’t get this to work. So we’ll start the rest of the presentation; Roger will start.” Bam! I’m on! That was disconcerting.

At the end of the month, I have a much more extensive presentation at a conference. I was going to work on it earlier this week. But then my wife injured her foot Monday morning; while it turned out not to be as serious as we feared, the initial amount of blood made the bathroom look like a crime scene. I took a half-day, going with her to urgent care.

Then Tuesday, the Daughter was having a moderate asthma attack and I took her to the emergency room, which took most of the morning. The funniest part of the day is, though I gave them her name, the system defaulted to Baby Girl Green, her name eight years earlier when she was born there; they had to fix the record before they could proceed with services, and this was after we’d been there over an hour. I stayed home with her in the afternoon. I was going to get check some e-mail while she rested, except that somehow, I touched the F2 button on my Dell laptop and disconnected the wireless function, and it took me a precious while to figure out the problem.

By the time I get to work on Wednesday, I’m buried with more immediate work to do. Oy.

I was struck, though, by this story about newspaper writer Julia Keller discussing her award-winning reporting about a tornado. Her essay, “Lessons Learned”, seems to apply to much of life:

Allow me to quote that well-known prose stylist Dwight D. Eisenhower, who once opined that plans aren’t worth a damn, but planning is essential.

Much of the information gathered for a long series won’t ever be used. Many of our most treasured insights will be revised, then revised again, and finally abandoned. The majority of our felicitous phrases — the kind that makes us pause just after we come up with them and smile secretly to ourselves — will be relegated to the writer’s version of the cutting-room floor: the “delete” key…

Then, when it came time to actually write the damn thing, I had frustration — because, despite the story’s length, a great deal of my reporting had to go.

Yet I could not have produced the series without having first produced the pile of material that wasn’t ultimately used. My plans may have been shot to hell, but the act of planning was crucial.

Eisenhower’s aphorism, then, is terribly apt — or at least it was for me — as I worked for seven months on this three-part series…

So, even though the plan doesn’t always work out, the process of making the plan still has value. I believe this has been applicable in my life, even when those five-year plans have no apparent validity.
Are lots of folks I know of dying this month or am I just getting old? (Rhetorical question: DO NOT ANSWER.)

Donald “Duck” Dunn died May 13. Though best known as the bassist for the group Booker T. & the MG’s, or probably, for a certain demographic, the Blues Brothers band, he played on lots of songs for Stax and Atlantic artists such as Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, the Staples Singers, and Sam & Dave, plus many more. Here is Booker T. & the MG’s-Time Is Tight.

An ex-girlfriend bought me Donna Summer’s Live and More for my 27th birthday. Didn’t think it was my thing, but I ended up playing it constantly, especially Side 4, that 18-minute MacArthur Park suite that, I just discovered, is missing from the CD re-release – here’s a live, 6-minute version of the song. Arthur and Jaquandor have interesting takes on her passing this week.

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