I always remember the comment from a fellow I was working with when I was telling him about the roller coaster ride my entrepreneurial mate was on. He said, “You know you and I are too smart to get rich!”

That is actually a downside for good risk management. As you well know, a little bit of luck can go a long way and while the risks of failure can often be very real and easily identifiable, it does not mean you will certainly fail. And so, if enough “fools” have a go, some will succeed and “get rich” in whatever the meaning of rich is to them – maybe money, prestige or doing great good for the world.

This Knowledge@Wharton article “The Downside of Making a Backup Plan – and What to Do About It” reminded me of that conversation. More importantly it explains the findings from their research about the achievement of goals and having a Plan B. In a nut shell, if we have thought up an escape route, a backup plan, we are less likely to achieve our goals. We are not as driven as when we have no alternative.

They suggest a couple of ways of still having a backup plan without the loss of focus on your goals.

1. Delay forming a backup plan until you have worked hard towards your original goal.
2. Outsource the backup plan. That is let someone else worry about “what if” and you focus on achieving the goal.

Does this resonate with what you see from those you advise?


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