Life is full of surprises. Many things are not really in our control, yet we live life like we have control. Take driving for example. We do our best to practice defensive driving to avoid accidents. Yet we have absolutely no control over the others and how in spite of being most defensive, we could end up in an accident. There is no backup plan here. If an accident happens, we have to deal with it as it comes. Most times a plan B helps, but in some cases, there is no plan B. Strangely, I have taken some decisions in life intentionally without a backup plan. These are no small decisions. They are some of the most difficult and riskiest ones.
The reason I do it is because, the confidence you gain and the level of commitment one puts in is at a different level when we know there is no safety net. Lets take the case of driving again. When we first learn driving, we are practicing with someone. We know there is someone beside us to help us. At some point, you have to drive alone in a busy congested street. You have no safety net. Your 100% attention is on the road. Once you have navigated through a dangerous situation, you come out on the other side with great confidence. That confidence is at a different level than what you get when you have a trainer with you.
I have done this kind of taking risks without plan B a few times in my life and that made me more confident now. Take for example the case of moving to India from US. I promised myself that I will come back to India after gaining some 5 years of work experience in the US in addition to completing MS. Which is precisely what I was able to do because I consciously took some decisions to not have any backup plans.
One of the early decision was to not apply for green card even though I was advised by my then manager several times. Reason? I don’t want a backup. I didn’t want the allure and distraction of a green card from achieving my goal of returning to India at the time I planned which was end of year 2010. If I have a green card, I might be tempted to stay back. Or, if I move to India and I don’t like it there, I can come running back to the US. But without a plan B, I had no choice but to be committed to plan A and make it work in spite of major headwinds. And headwinds I did have.
Another decision we had to make was to not have a kid in the US. Again, that would become an easy backup plan for the kid and for us. Having a kid in the US will mean a delay in the plan of moving to India because it is difficult to move with a small kid. I have seen many friends and relatives who said they will come back to India and either failed or delayed their plan because the kid was too young, or too old or whatever excuse fancies them.
Similarly, it becomes easy for the kid to move to US for higher studies when they grow up. The challenge and commitment we had when writing GRE and TOEFL would not be there for them because there is an easy way out. I don’t want that for my kid. Many have questioned my poor choice of judgement by not having a kid in the US when I had the chance. Well, if they had to ask the question, then they can never understand my point of view :).
Same applies to me when it comes to retiring early. I did not plan to have multiple income sources. I did not plan on making money by blogging or starting a youtube channel. I just retired with investments in equity and debt mutual funds and that was my plan. There were no plans to do a startup or sell some of my pet projects for money. That was never on the cards. I have been asked many times about my other sources of income like rent or freelancing or income from ads on blog etc. In spite of writing about it multiple times on my blog, these questions keep coming :). I think very few want to believe that someone can take such huge risks. I don’t see it as a big risk if I have confidence in my plan. But you never know what kind of accident I can get into.
Same with minimalism. We did not think twice. I was in a very well paying job. I could enjoy luxuries as much as I want if I continued on working. But we did not want a backup plan for it. Sold the second car, minimized where ever we could, changed the status in LinkedIn to retired and did whatever we could to remind ourselves that there is no going back. I did not keep in contact with my old managers or HR for fear of making it feel like a backup. You see, where I worked, I could go back to work without questions, within 1 year after quitting. But I did not want to take that chance.
Well, it does not stop there either. We decided to homeschool / unschool our kid which is again without a plan B. Some think that our daughter was born in the US so she has US citizenship. So they are like – oh then homeschooling is fine, you have a backup plan of sending her to the US if need be. I am like – dude, dream on. Again, many are not willing to accept that she will not have any formal education. They think we have a big plan for her or that my kid is a gifted child so we must be doing something. Nothing of that sort. She is just as dumb or smart as an average kid and still we don’t plan to put her in formal education system.
When people probe too much I just tell them that she can take 10th grade exam as an independent candidate via NIOS (National Institute of Open Schooling). Only then are they satisfied. To tell you the truth, we don’t have any such plans. It is the plan B we tell others to calm their nerves. There really is no plan B. I like taking risk at the highest level :).
Similar question arises when they discover we are not planning on saving or gifting any money to the kid. Likewise, there is no backup plan for her to get a job. I know we are taking a huge risk with the kid and some have accused of bad parenting style, leaving her with no choice of education, workplace readiness or bank balance. We have been blamed for experimenting with child’s future. But aren’t everyone experimenting with their child’s future really? We have absolutely no idea what they want from life, what job they would like to do, nor what kind of jobs will be available in the distant future when they grow up etc. Yet we send them to school, train them to become engineers (especially software engineers) or doctors in the hope that, it is what they will like. Or that is where the money is, so they will enjoy life if they get the job in that area and having more money is happiness for them. What we are doing is something that is different from the norm, but it is not any more of an experiment than what others are doing.
We took similar risk when it comes to health insurance. But I would not elaborate too much about it for the fear that someone might think it is a good idea to be without health insurance. Don’t get any such ideas. In fact if I had the chance to port my health insurance from my company I would have done it instead of going without any. So now we have no choice but to be absolutely healthy because there is no safety net :). But accidents can happen to anyone, so it is possible that anyone of us could be diagnosed with a life threatening illness like cancer in spite of taking all precautions and that is life.
This line of thinking, where there is no backup plan, pushed me into putting all my efforts in making my plans work. There is no fallback and that is a good thing. Otherwise I might have made only half hearted attempts at my plans. Also note that I am not bragging about my process. I am just saying that is what has worked for me. This is not something that I advice or encourage anyone to do. It is something that worked for me and you have to figure out if it works for you. For me, no plan B gave me the courage, confidence and intense focus that I absolutely love.