Bill Cottringer

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” ~Henry David Thoreau.

This is an interesting quote unless you have read an even more interesting one by Søren Kierkegaard. He maintained that “Life has to be lived forwards but understood backwards.” At any rate life is a forward march and hindsight is amusing. I guess I am at a nice easy place in life where I can begin to let my guard down and openly admit past mistakes. But you know what? It seems as though those “mistakes” were just implementing Plan B or even C when Plan A just didn’t pan out. Heck, very few people are so full of skill, dedication and luck that they can win 8 gold medals in the Olympics, to speak in the present tense.

One of my first Plan B’s was to play football in high school when my clarinet and flute-playing wasn’t good enough to make the band. Imagine that embarrassment! Football didn’t turn out to be my best area of achievement but this plan B had plenty of good lessons and benefits to deflect the later wake of destruction with all the bruises and broken bones from being sucked through the giant vacuum cleaner of life! My second major Plan B was choosing to be a air police non commissioned officer in the Air Force because they stopped Officer Candidate Training School, in which I had originally signed up to be a jet pilot. To tell you the truth I was so naïve I thought air policeman directed air traffic. It didn’t take long to learn differently. But ironically it took me to play military basketball with two players that ended up with the Harlem Globe trotters.

The third plan B came along when I left Vietnam and enrolled in college to eventually go to law school to be an FBI agent. Opps, the college I chose didn’t have mid-year enrollment so I had to settle for a psychology major with a philosophy minor at a local community college in Trenton, NJ of all places. This lead to enough interest in the subject to get several degrees from B.A. to Ph.D. And that actually worked out okay because most of life is purely psychological. Knowing the ins and outs of psychology has been very helpful in my other seven Plan C careers. Yes seven—all applying practical psychology principles to the maximum from prison administration to building maintenance to the private security business.

What is the main thing I learned of value out of all this moving and grooving between Plan A, B and C’s? Maybe that we shouldn’t attach a “grade” to the options and choices we have in life, that carry such strong connotations of one being so much “better” than the other. They are just different choices and options and there have never been any guarantees on which you get—no matter what the skill, preparation, execution time, effort or opportunity all total up to.

Personally, I think our concept of “fairness” and grades of “better” often get in the way of our attempts to pursue happiness on our perpetual success quest. I know in looking back, I probably wouldn’t have done one thing differently or I might not have the peace of mind, compassion, empathy, love or wisdom I have today from all these Plan B’s and C’s. But I am just not sure how to package this idea so that it can help others be happier and more successful and avoid unnecessary negative interpretations of “settling” for the silver and bronze medals in life.

I suppose we all have to learn this important lesson when we arrive at a place in our lives where we can openly talk about our mistakes about wrongly judging Plan B and C “mistakes” and begin to see life for what it really is. What life offers is an unlimited supply of choices and opportunities to get what we all really want, no matter what we choose to call it. What we want is an abundance of the good feelings that come from loving and being loved, finding truth and experiencing beauty. The simple way to enjoy these things is to stop judging their opposites wrongly as a Plan B that is far inferior to a Plan A.

These things are just choices and opportunities not really carrying any value outside our own minds, at least until you escape from the dualistic judging mind-trap that holds us all hostage. Only then can you experience the true joy of absolute freedom. Freedom to do what? Freedom to love, find truth and experience beauty and enjoy the plethora of good feelings that come with doing more of these things—from happiness, to wealth, to health, to power and influence.

This started out to be a very light article and that is the way I’ll end it. Like the Beatles sang about Mother Mary, “Let it Be.” Besides it is all far less serious or complicated than we sometimes like to admit. How else could we rationalize the disappointment for ‘settling” for Plan B or C. By the way, I recently took an interesting photo of a single lone pine tree tenaciously growing out of miles of rock boulders at Cannon Beach OR. (above) Do you think that was the pine tree’s Plan A?

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D. is President of Puget Sound Security in Bellevue, WA and also a business and personal success coach, sport psychologist, photographer and writer living in the mountains of North Bend. He is author of several business and self-development books, including, Passwords to The Prosperity Zone, You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, “P” Point Management, and Reality Repair Rx coming shortly. He can be contacted with comments or questions at 425 454-5011 or