When I first entered the work force there was this guy, Mike, who started at the same time. He was intelligent, driven, charismatic, personable and a protected minority class. I saw this as a killer combination that the affirmative action-driven managers of our Fortune 50 company would try to capitalize on so figured he would be in management in a few years. That was certainly his plan. He never got the chance.
Less than two years into the job he got a surprise - a girl he used to know (and I am using that word in the Biblical sense) showed up on his doorstep with his four- year old son. He had no clue before that day that he had a kid out in the World. To his credit he made his new found progeny a big part of his life, but the sudden change derailed his career. Part of it was the additional outside responsibility at that stage of his career (“Sorry, I can’t make the trip that week – it’s my week to watch my son”), but part of it was the stigma attached to the personal story (And it isn’t like he could hide it. One day he was single, the next he was taking time to take care of his four-year old son. This sort of story gets you known, and not for the reasons you want in a large, conservative corporation). He left the company a little after I did.
The point of the story (besides being an interesting vignette) is that we all set a certain structure and set of goals for our life and live it based on the facts as we know it. The problem is that we really don’t know all the facts of our life. It could be the ticking time bomb that is your heart. The unknown cancer that is spreading. The spouse that is cheating behind your back. The boss who decided to lay you off by the end of the month. The kid you didn’t know you had.
So the important part of life isn’t planning it, but adapting to it. Because you don’t ever have the full set of facts of what is going on with it.