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Adventure is Just Bad Planning

I may say that this is the greatest factor — the way in which the expedition is equipped — the way in which every difficulty is foreseen, and precautions taken for meeting or avoiding it. Victory awaits him who has everything in order — luck, people call it. Defeat is certain for him who has neglected to take the necessary precautions in time; this is called bad luck.

Today we’re touching on the topic of good planning practices. This has been on my mind a lot lately because my wife and I are discussing all of the future family adventures we’d like to do. I’ve mentioned to you before that I’ve always been, “The Adventurous Type,” and I attribute a lot of that to how I was raised and the way my parents challenged me to explore, discover, and critically think about “what if” scenarios.

I opened with a quote from Roald Amundsen. He was a famed Norwegian explorer who was the first to reach the South Pole during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Expedition

Amundsen was a meticulous planner, and his expedition to the South Pole was relatively uneventful compared to other famed explorers who made similar attempts. 

But just because you have carefully laid plans doesn’t mean everything will always go smoothly. In fact, another antarctic explorer named Ernest Shackleton was another excellent planner, but his expedition never made it to the launching point.

Instead, his ship became stuck in the Antarctic ice for 10 months before it was finally crushed and sank. Shackleton’s exceptional planning and leadership skills enabled him to keep his entire crew alive and surviving on the ice for another seven months while they dragged three lifeboats to the water. 

Roald Amundsen

Then there was a harrowing journey to get the damaged lifeboats to a small island for shelter. The men survived there for many more months while Shackleton and a handful of men took the last functioning lifeboat on an 800-mile open water crossing to a small whaling station to get help.

Everyone survived the two-year failed expedition.

Planning Framework

So what’s the point of telling you these tales of famous explorers. I want to illustrate that proper planning is important for both success and those times when things go bad and you have to survive. It’s important for all of us to take time and think about those “what ifs.”

Amundsen and Shackleton had years of experience, and prior failures, to work from when planning their expeditions. You and I have the benefit of learning from others and the collected knowledge of history. All we have to do is think about it.

So, with that, I want to introduce you to the PACE model. PACE, which stands for Primary, Alternate, Contingency, & Emergency is a Special Forces framework for planning. It’s typically applied to communications, but I’ve found that it works just as well for thought exercises with “what if” scenarios.

The way to think about this is as follows:

  • Primary is the most desirable course of action and the one you would plan to do under most circumstances
  • Alternate is the “next best thing” whereby you get to the same result without much additional effort
  • Contingency is the plan that will still get the job done, but probably at increased cost, time, and effort
  • Emergency is the path of last resort, taking the most amount of time, effort, and cost

I’m not saying that you need to sit down and think of every possible thing that could happen and then plan for it. That’s not realistic, and there is a better way to consider those kinds of risks. But what I am saying is that you could use the PACE framework to consider activities in your day to day life and what you would do during a “what if.”

The example I use in the episode is getting home from my office. Under normal circumstances, if everything is going smoothly, then my primary and alternate routes work great. But what if there was another kind of emergency and those roads were blocked? What if vehicle travel was cut off completely and I had to go on foot?

You get the idea. 

Adventure is Just Bad Planning

Make Planning a Habit

In the end, the most effective thing you can do for your own mental preparedness is to periodically stop and ask yourself what you would do for a given situation. Try to come up with a PACE model for that scenario. It could be as dire as an active shooter in your area, or as fun as a family visit to a theme park. 

The idea is that by making planning a habit, you set yourself up for success in the future.

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Matt is the primary author and owner of The Everyday Marksman. He's a former military officer turned professional tech sector trainer. He's a lifelong learner, passionate outdoorsman, and steadfast supporter of firearms culture.


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Great article.

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