Execute the Plan (Boot Camp for Creators & Dreamers 13.3)


Every great dream starts with an idea. It’s that passion that never fades — no matter how many years pass; the vision God plants in a dreamer’s heart and mind, which continues to shine bright no matter how many challenges and obstacles come.

Once we dreamers write the vision to “make it plain” (Habakkuk 2:2), and concrete, we must plan a course of action that will enable us to achieve our goals. Most people are good at this, but many fail at the next step. They map out a course of action, but then fail to act upon it.

Planning without action is pointless. In fact, a plan is like a pirate’s map: unless someone follows it to the treasure, it’s just a scrap of old paper. No matter how much we plot and plan, we won’t accomplish much until we put our grand schemes into action. We. Must. Execute. The Plan!

Think about it, buying a cool musical instrument and signing up for lessons won’t make sweet music — until a person commits to attending the classes and practicing for long hours. And those nifty blueprints for a better mousetrap will just be gathering dust unless the inventor follows them to construct his new contraption. Similarly, a book outline is meaningless until a writer sits down at the keyboard and taps out the complete manuscript.

In an episode of 1970’s TV drama The Waltons, the show’s protagonist learns the difference between having a plan and executing a plan. During the Great Depression, a budding writer nicknamed John-Boy, struggles to finish his schooling in rural Virginia, while helping his family make ends meet. He dreams of leaving the mountain — where he helps his father operate a sawmill — to become a novelist. To accomplish this, he knows he must work hard, at the mill to save for his college tuition; and every night, after school and work, upstairs in his room, writing and rewriting, until he’s filled scores of notebooks. John-Boy is executing his plan.

One day a stranger passes through Walton’s Mountain, bound for adventures in exotic places. John-Boy’s parents offer this tired and hungry traveler the hospitality of their home, as is their custom, and John-Boy gets an opportunity to hear about the man’s “journey.” Turns out this dusty fellow is a WRITER. At least, that’s what the man claims; and he certainly knows his stuff: he’s met many of the great poets and novelists John-Boy has read and admires; and he appears to have mastered all the skills of writing.

This wanderer regales John-Boy with tales of famous authors, gives him practical advice on becoming a novelist, and shares about the lifetime of experiences he’s collected from many strange lands — in the pursuit of his own dream of being a great writer. Needless to say, John-Boy is in awe of this man who is actually “living the dream.” That is, until he learns the truth about his guest. Despite the stranger’s erudition, despite all his literary friends and connections, despite his endless travels hither and yon, the man has never published anything. Far worse, he’s never written a single word of fiction.

As this unfulfilled dreamer bows his head in shame, he confesses to John-Boy that he’d always wanted to be a great American author. He’d made plans to that effect, but he’d failed to execute those plans. For decades he’d thought about writing, talked about it, and even prepared for it. He just never got around to doing it.

Ironically, John-Boy was more of a writer than this aimless wanderer, who talked a good game but never actually ventured into the field. The poor guy had a plan to write, but he never sat down and got to it. He never executed his plans. While John-Boy, on the other hand, spent his nights writing about his family and the simple life he led in the mountains. He planned to write. And he did!

The Waltons is based on a book that ultimately grew from John-Boy’s impassioned scribblings — only Earl Hamner, Jr. was the writer’s real name. Hamner stayed faithful to his plans and fulfilled his dreams. He penned several books, scripted radio dramas, and even wrote several episodes of The Twilight Zone. Eventually he created the aforementioned, award-winning television series, which ran for ten seasons.

Fellow dreamers and creators, let’s take this cautionary tale as a warning. We can follow all the steps discussed in Boot Camp (and there are more to come), read every motivational book we can get our hands on, and attend monthly seminars on fulfilling our dreams — hosted by the most sought-after teachers. We can have tons of talent, great ambitions, and a solid game plan for success. But if we don’t put our plans into action we’ll never accomplish our goals or achieve our fondest dreams.

Life is funny that way. So if you’re serious about your vision … make a move. Get up and get going. No one will ever care if you have a plan — or benefit from it — until you begin to implement it. We all know that talk is cheap, and deeds speak louder than words. Or, as the Apostle James writes, “…What good would your words alone do? The same is true with faith [or a plan]. Without actions, faith is useless. By itself, it’s as good as dead.” (James 2:16-17 VOICE)

The world wants to see your plan in action! “OK, you have faith [a plan]. And I have actions. Now let’s see your faith without works, and I’ll show you a faith that works.” (James 2:18 VOICE) So, put your money where your mouth is. Make your plans. Then execute those plans.

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The Principles of Good Planning (Boot Camp for Creators & Dreamers 13.2)

Doris Day discusses The Man Who Knew Too Much with director Alfred Hitchcock: “Yes, Hitch, it’s a great plan. But couldn’t I just sing my song for two hours.”

Actress and singer Doris Day belted out the lyrics to a catchy tune called “Que Sera, Sera” in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1956 thriller The Man Who Knew Too Much. The song picked up an Oscar the following year and soon became Day’s signature tune. A decade later the song served as the opening theme to the long-running television comedy, The Doris Day Show.

The lyrics contained the following sentiment: “When I was just a little girl; I asked my mother, what will I be? Will I be pretty, will I be rich? Here’s what she said to me. ‘Que Sera, Sera, Whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see — Que Sera, Sera.'”

True enough. We’re not fortune tellers. On the other hand, we can take an active role shaping our destinies. In fact, we creators and dreamers can’t afford to wake up each morning with the laid-back (and lazy) attitude of “Whatever will be, will be” — not if we hope to accomplish anything worthwhile in life. If we’re going to realize our goals and dreams we can’t sit around waiting to see what’s going to happen. We need to make things happen, and to do this we need a plan (an agenda, a course of action, a God-given strategy).

As previously discussed, having a plan helps us to manage our most valuable resource, time. It helps us to keep our priorities straight, while working, playing, and living more efficiently and, hence, more wisely. Let’s move on to the principles of good planning.

Formulating a plan consists of several elements:

  • Learn to prioritize your responsibilities, activities, and goals. As we stated in “Take Aim,” the chief priority of all followers of Christ should be to give God first place in their lives, and to keep Him there. Godly plans always include the Creator of the Universe, as well as provisions to do His will. How does accomplishing “God’s will” help us to achieve our dreams? “He will give them to you if you give Him first place in your life and live as He wants you to.” (Matthew 6:33 TLB) Sounds like a plan!
  • Our plans should never exclude people. After all, we can’t do God’s will if we don’t leave room in our plans for “interruptions”; because God loves people and He expects us to love them, too — and to be kind, considerate, and caring. In other words, God expects us to adjust our schedules, and even lay aside our plans temporarily, in order to interact with our neighbors and coworkers, build relationships, and meet pressing needs.
  • Use the tools of planning. Keeping lists is vital. If don’t write it down, chances are you won’t remember it. And if you don’t remember it, then you’ll definitely fail to do it. “It” can refer to anything from a shopping list
    to a work agenda. Write IT down, on your “Things To Do” list, in a journal, on a calendar, or in one of those clever little notebooks sold at office supply stores —  called Daily PLANNERS!
  • Keep a schedule; albeit a flexible one. Schedules promote order and efficiency. And setting self-imposed deadlines serves several purposes. Having a deadline motivates us to buckle down and get to work. Self-imposed goals and deadlines also help us to push ourselves, to accomplish more each day than we might otherwise. And meeting one or more of these deadlines helps us to measure our progress — not to mention the sense of accomplishment we’ll get, each time we’re able to check off an item on our To Do lists.
  • Make a commitment to accomplish something worthwhile — each and everyday. (It’s okay to take a day off, however. We all need time for rest, recreation, and relationships.) Even something as simple as organizing your desk or creative space, listening to a motivational message, or learning something new in your area of interest, will help keep you on track to realizing your dreams.
  • Map out each day. This allows us to organize our activities. Yes, this pointer is yet another way of admonishing people to keep a schedule, but it’s important to apply the practice day by day. So each morning, after we spend some quiet time with the Lord, we should make notes of things we need or want to accomplish. We can also compose this list the night before. Once we have our daily To Do list, we should prioritize our goals and responsibilities, and make every effort to complete at least the top two or three items.
  • Plan some Dream-Time. Since most of us creators and dreamers have
    regular “day” jobs, we must discipline ourselves to carve out specific times when we plan to work on our goals, dreams, and creative projects. Whether that designated time is before or after work, during a long bus or train commute, at lunchtime or during a break, dream-time must be planned.

We can’t afford to wait until we go on an extended vacation, or retire, or win the sweepstakes and can quit our jobs. We have to be ready to accomplish something, no matter how small, whenever we have the opportunity — or we may end up doing nothing at all. Truth is, there will never be enough time for our dreams. We usually have to make time — and be ready to make the most of that time, whenever and wherever it arises. This takes planning and discipline. 

And even if you are retired, or you have the privilege of working at home, you’ll still need to schedule WHEN you’re going to pursue your goals. Later never comes. Business ventures don’t materialize from thin air and novels don’t write themselves. So, plan your dream-time.

  • Make the tough choices. All this brings us to another cold hard fact of the creative life: Due to a time crunch, many of us may need to devote a good portion of our weekends and vacations — or any occasion when we have a block of uninterrupted time — to fulfilling our dreams. After all, we’ll never reach our goals sitting in a La-Z-Boy in front of the TV. But choosing to invest part of our weekends (and any spare time we chance upon) pursuing our goals, will also take planning.
  • Ask the Lord for wisdom. Each day you can join other dreamers and creators who pray for guidance: “[Lord,] teach us to keep account of our days so we may develop inner wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12 ISV) And remember, you can accomplish great things even if you don’t have huge blocks of free time. Thirty minutes here or there, each day, each week, each month, ultimately adds up to an impressive investment over the years. Castles and cathedrals are constructed one stone at a time. Books are written one chapter at a time, and chapters a few paragraphs at a time. Again, plan to do at least a little each day.

Little steps carefully planned each day can take you far along the path to success. The important thing is to have a plan. And while you’re making plans, keep in mind that God has a plan for your life: “‘…I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV) Cooperate with His plan and He’ll help you with yours!

“Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run….” (Proverbs 21:5 MSG)

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