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Why I Love A Plan

Friday, January 08, 2021

I got my new planner yesterday and it is exactly what I wanted. Very similar to the one I've been using but with a hard cover. I'm going to enjoy exploring its features and start working on ThePlan 2021 this weekend. It's made by a company called Tools4Wisdom just in case you were curious.

I was probably 10 years old when my dad told me about New Year's Resolutions and it struck a harmonious chord with my natural list making tendencies. Something about being free - even invited! - to make a change - in me, my surroundings, my knowledge or possessions just felt so powerful and to the child who was ready to shuck off adult supervision at the age of 7, this was going to have a lasting impact on my love of planning and plans.

That love of ThePlan was expanded in my heart by a simply wonderful story I heard in the early 1990s. Somewhere in the middle of my working career I attended a professional meeting whose speaker was the former state librarian of Massachusetts. I am guessing it was Gasper Caso, who held the position under Governor Dukakis, a tiny factoid he shared in his speech. Also, his name is just unusual enough to me for me to have a difficult time remembering it.

But he told the most interesting anecdote - perhaps something I've actually written about here before, but so good it's worth telling again. In the mid-1980s, after the first personal computers showed up on the market, libraries and librarians rapidly saw the benefit of maintaining their catalogs and circulation processes on them. No longer "city block sized" main-frames, these compact data retrieval tools were suddenly in the price range - and space limitations - of the larger library systems. Mind now - they were still expensive, but if a university could team up with the I.T. team already computerizing other data systems, they could benefit from this glorious new technology. Universities first - then the bigger public libraries - were dumping their card catalogs as fast as their clerks could move their data.

Not every library board or director saw the benefit of these new "toys" and like technology in any field, there was a lot of resistance. And as I said, the expense was enormous. But our speaker was in a position, as state librarian, to look at this project from a big-picture vantage. He put his staff to work writing a plan to automate every public library in the state. What would it cost, in manpower, cash, equipment, training - and more important - what kind of economy of scale could he wrest out of vendors for such a state-wide project. Mind now - he had no plans to seek out the kind of funding this would cost. But he wanted to know. Maybe a multi-year campaign at the legislature could cover the costs. Maybe a foundation could be created that raised private funds for the project. The main thing was that the state librarian could see the trends, could see the need, and he was curious about what it would take to achieve something so big, so expensive, so foreign.

I don't remember the price-tag his team came up with in that plan of his, but I feel like it was a couple of million dollars. I do remember him saying "And then I filed it away"

He continued his story, telling how he liked to jog on his lunch hour and kept a jogging suit in his office. One day he was out running along a city path when his secretary pulled up in her car and told him an urgent meeting had been called by the governor. He needed to be there toot sweet.

He arrived, hot & sweaty, to find every state agency head in the room, patiently awaiting the governor, who, when he arrived, gave a little speech and then asked each agency in turn, what he or she would do with an extra $3 million. No preparation, no chance to hold a staff meeting to come up with an idea, right here, on the spot - what would you do? Highway Dept., Public Schools, State Police, Legal Department - each in turn talked about this idea or that one - but when it came to the State Library, our speaker said "Well - I have this plan ....."

He was the only person in the room with a plan - with a vision for the future that was mapped, budgeted, scheduled - in short - was ready to go. And then the governor announced that there was a 3 million dollar surplus in the budget and guess who got the appropriation.

And that is the real reason I make plans - even now - when I'm retired, when the routines of daily life can be captured by a virus, when the only person I have to please, much less answer to, these days, is ME. Because you never know. You never know when an opportunity will come along. One that would further your plans the way WD40 loosens up a tight bolt. If I have a plan - I might just find the means to achieve it. So - why not make a plan.

In my nice new planner.
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