Nine Ways to Put ACTION in Your Action Plan
Inspired and Written in the Midst and Aftermath of Hurricane Wilma
by Lt. Col. Bob Weinstein, USAR (Ret.)

By now, I am sure just about everyone knows about Hurricane Wilma, which ripped through South Florida on October 24, 2005. Over 6 million people were without electricity. There were long gas lines at the few open gas stations. Water and ice were in short supply.

So how did Wilma treat me? Well, that's one relationship that can definitely be described as stormy and brief. She came into my life and the lives of many others with a passion and fury. She was not a good listener. She did whatever she wanted and it was mostly destructive. She did not ask, "Are you prepared for me?" or "What can I do to protect you as I pass?" There is a happy side though. She left within hours.

I live about two miles from Fort Lauderdale Beach in a residential community. On Sunday, October 23, the reports came in that Wilma would hit Fort Lauderdale on Monday morning. I decided to go ahead and check in to the Hampton Inn downtown. As a precaution, I booked a room on the north side of the building since we were supposed to get Wilma's wind from the south and then from the west. That's just how it happened.

On Monday morning, about 8 AM, the wind started to pick up. Since the hurricane passed through during the day, I was able to view the destruction. I was able to look her right in the eye. I saw debris flying through the air. I watched sign posts bending over or torn out of the ground. I watched big trees uprooted and torn apart. One tree found its way down a main street as if it were motorized, running a traffic light and two stop signs on its journey.

On Friday, October 28, I was back at home with running water, but no electricity. There was no damage to my home, except that just about all the trees are gone. A friend siphoned gas from his boat for my car so I wouldn't be stuck. As of November 1, when I am preparing this article at the Bon Jour Bakery, there is still no electricity in my neighborhood. Luckily, the coffee shop has wireless internet access, so I'm able to take care of work.

Since I survived her, Wilma has inspired and provoked my thought and reflection. Shouldn't I have a plan to fall back on in case I don't have a comfortable hotel to stay in during the next emergency? The soldier in me started reflecting about what the military calls an After-Action Report: What was done right in this crisis, and what can be done better when preparing for a hurricane?

"But wait," you say, "I don't have any hurricanes where I live. How does this apply to me?" Your hurricane could be a fire, a chemical spill, a loved one's death, an ice storm, or thousands of other disasters. Every life situation, whether business or private, needs constant assessment to improve. Without assessment, you simply keep on doing what you've always done and you'll keep on getting what you've always gotten.

After any major event in our lives, the most important thing we can do is consciously think about what was done right and what can be done better. Let me emphasize that both items are focused on moving forward, not on what was done wrong. Errors are analyzed, and a plan is developed to correct those errors in the future. The crisis is fresh in everyone's mind, and the opportunity to recall lessons learned is optimal. Ask: Did we stick to the emergency plan? (Did we have an emergency plan?) Did we need to implement any contingencies? Were we all calm and ready to do whatever was necessary? If not, what caused the errors and how can they be fixed in the future?

A true After-Action Report includes no finger-pointing or blame-storming by the way. The purpose of the report is to record the truth of the past events and collect ideas on what can be improved in future events. Blame-seeking is the best way to ensure a watered-down version that does not maximize the report's benefits. A report that focuses on people covering their you-know-whats is no good to anyone.

The benefits of a well-prepared After-Action Report for an event such as a hurricane are ways to better prevent:
- Loss of Life
- Injury
- Loss of Revenue
- Employee Downtime
- Damage to Buildings
- Loss of Utilities

If I always appear prepared, it is because, before entering an undertaking, I have meditated long and have foreseen what might occur. It is not genius [that] reveals to me suddenly and secretly what I should do in circumstances unexpected by others; it is thought and preparation.

There are some key questions individuals should ask when preparing an After-Action Report, whether you're analyzing a natural disaster or a business mistake:
- Other than death, what is the worst case scenario?
- Did I do everything reasonably possible to prepare for a worst-case scenario and reduce the risk to life or limb?
- Is how I prepare for a potential catastrophe indicative of how I prepare for long-term life catastrophes in the areas of health, disease, finances, relationships, career, education and the higher purpose of life?
- Can I find the courage to openly evaluate all areas of my existence in order to take charge and then design my life so that I lead it to the fullest benefit of others and myself?
- Can I focus on the word ACTION if I should ever need my Action Plan?

After you answer the questions for your After-Action Report, all you need is a time line to complete your contingency plan, so here are the nine ways to put ACTION in your Action Plan:

1. Prepare a list of tasks and sub tasks that need to be done. Stay focused on the purpose of the After-Action Report to protect your business, your family, your community, and yourself. Get your To-Do list together and be as exhaustive as possible. Start with the big-picture tasks, such as how to keep your business operating or take care of injured loved ones, and then break those tasks down into their needed sub tasks.

2. Include people and things that are necessary. The list of tasks and sub tasks is only possible with the feedback and support of those who are required for the day-to-day operation of the enterprise, facility or project, both internally and externally. Be careful of the "But-we-never-talk-or-interact-with-him/her-syndrome." Such a pattern assumes the status quo; this Action Plan is dynamic. Break the back of the status quo when preparing your report or your plan, or when engaging in any process it requires. Status quo thinking could cost lives and money.

3. Post the "what can be done better" report in plain view and tell others about what you are doing. Publish it, speak it, walk it, do it, sing it, play it, sleep it, massage it. You get the point! This is how you keep the Action Plan alive by creating a support system around you. You will feel accountable to everyone you share your report with and you may get more ideas and resources for the accomplishment of your plan from them. Sometimes the new kid on the block has the solution everyone is searching for.

The other benefit is that sharing the message raises your own level of awareness, which in turn keeps you attuned to possibilities and opportunities that you might not see alone. Teamwork and sharing of knowledge can be critical in an emergency.

4. Crank up your determination meter and overcome inertia. Ever get your feet stuck in mud? Well, that's what inertia is like. It takes additional effort to raise each leg and move forward. Inertia is what a rocket experiences from take-off until it breaks through the atmosphere. A tremendous amount of fuel and thrust is needed to break through inertia whether in outer space or outer suburbia. As Isaac Newton stated in his First Law of Motion: An object at rest tends to stay at rest, and an object in motion tends to stay in motion, with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Every goal and aspiration we ever have will succeed or fail based on a law of physics! Be determined to conquer that initial effort needed to get going and keep moving.

5. Beware of complacency. Complacency will keep you from accomplishing your Action Plan, losing that weight, improving your diet, quitting cigarettes, learning a necessary skill, or improving a relationship. It could cause you to be caught without the financial or human resources for an emergency because you don't see the immediate need to put a plan in place. The way to overcome complacency is to realize, in both your conscious and unconscious minds, that everyone and everything is fallible, mistakes occur, nature happens, and nothing is permanent.

6. Go around, through or over all obstacles. The terrain of life has hills, valleys, rivers, gorges, droughts, storms, fires and earthquakes. Prepare yourself mentally for those challenges along the way and keep your eyes on what you want to accomplish, not on the obstacles.

7. If you don't feel like you can do it, pretend! That's right, pretend. Pretend that you have what it takes and create that inner buy-in to your own plan. Then move out smartly. You won't always feel like doing something that is important, but you've already determined that the cause or plan is worthy of accomplishment, so you just work through it.

8. Be aware of that voice inside of you. The voice that says, "Hey, pat yourself on the back. You just completed an outstanding After-Action Report. Share it with others and then file it away. Good enough. Somehow it will get done." Sound familiar? That voice likes things comfortable, which means maintaining the status quo. This is the same voice that told many residents of South Florida before Hurricane Wilma that they didn't need an Action Plan, that they didn't need to stock up on extra food, water and batteries, that they didn't need to evacuate.

9. Fight victim mentality. I call victim mentality the first death. It is the equivalent of rolling over and dying before your time. Many people go through life with the attitude that life is all about luck, good or bad, like a lottery. Victim mentality takes away the creativity and ingenuity to seek out and design your own lifestyle, and it will kill the action in your Action Plan. Take charge and be fully accountable for your life. People laughed at Noah too until the rains came and his Action Plan saved him.

An Action Plan is no good without action. It's like a Ferrari with no engine, it looks good on the outside, but it won't win a race with a snail. Without a plan, you could end up like that tree in Fort Lauderdale floating down Main Street under someone or something else's power, wondering what happened to your roots, your future, perhaps your life.

Lt. Col. Bob Weinstein, USAR, (Ret.), aka The Health Colonel;
Speaker, Writer, Beach Boot Camp Instructor
The Health Colonel
Author of
- Boot Camp Fitness for All Shapes and Sizes
- Weight Loss - Twenty Pounds in Ten Weeks - Move It to Lose It
- Quotes to Live By
- Change Made Easy - Your Basic Training Orders to Excellent Physical and Mental Health
- Discover Your Inner Strength (co-author)
More info on his books at

Author's Bio: 

Born in Washington, D.C., Lt. Col. Bob Weinstein grew up in Virginia and spent 20 years in Berlin, Germany; he is retired from the Army Reserve as a Lieutenant Colonel with 30 years of service and spent about half of that time as a military instructor with the Command & General Staff College.

He has been featured on radio and television, among others, on the History Channel and Fox Sports Net as well as in various publications such as the Washington Times, RAZOR magazine and the Herald.

His background is unique and diverse, including: military instructor, attorney, motivational speaker, wellness coach, certified corporate trainer, and certified personal trainer. He is also fluent in German and English.

He is a popular motivational speaker at corporate events and banquets and conducts military-style workouts on Fort Lauderdale Beach utilizing strength, cardio, flexibility and agility training -- both in personal training and group sessions.

He strongly believes in the importance of giving back to the community. Col. Weinstein volunteers his time for homeless and run-away kids at the Covenant House and also devotes time to training youth who are members of the US Naval Sea Cadet Corps.

He is a member of the American Council on Exercise, and is currently working on a book about personal development, health and fitness. Some of his previous clients as a guest speaker include: Sony, DHL, American Express, KPMG, AOL Latin America, IBM, AARP, SmithBarney, Green Bay Packers and Humana.