Attributes of Leadership – Definiteness of Plans


The successful leader must plan the work and work the plan. A leader who moves by guesswork without practical, definite plans is comparable to a ship without a rudder. Sooner or later, it will land on the rocks.  – Napoleon Hill

Make Definite Plans[This is the fifth in a series exploring the attributes of leadership outlined by Napoleon Hill]

You’ve heard the sayings: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” or “the plans of the diligent one surely make for advantage, but everyone that is hasty surely heads for want” – (attributed to) Ben Franklin, and King Solomon of Israel (Proverbs 21:5), respectively. We could cover the page in quotations. Intelligent, successful people throughout the ages understand the need for plans. More importantly, they realize as did Napoleon Hill that we need definite plans to which we commit if we ever want to accomplish anything significant. Therefore, let’s dissect this attribute to learn what it is, what it does, and how it’s developed so you can put it to better use in your life.

What’s a Plan (and what about the “Definiteness” Part)?

That sounds like such a silly question. After all, anyone will tell you ‘a plan is – well, a plan!’ It’s such a commonplace idea that we use the term as its own definition. Yet it’s important to clearly identify our starting point. Dictionary.com defines plan as: “1. a scheme or method of acting, doing, proceeding, making, etc., developed in advance, 3. a specific project or definite purpose.” – italics added. The site also defines definite as something “positive; certain; sure.” Therefore, a plan is the methodology we propose to accomplish a specific purpose. What makes the plan definite is partly how clearly we define the steps, and perhaps more importantly our commitment to carrying out those steps.

Interestingly, the quality of the plans isn’t the most important factor. That doesn’t mean we should try to formulate bad (or poorly thought out) plans. Yet, as noted in Think and Grow Rich, “organized plans, even though they may be weak or entirely impractical, encourage persistence.” The plan is the starting point. It gets you moving. Your conviction to carry out your plan depends on how strongly you believe in your definite major purpose. When that belief is so strong you won’t allow anything to stop you, when your commitment to acting on the plans formulated to accomplish your beliefs is as resolute as your desire to breathe, then you will succeed.

Why is Definiteness of Plans so Important?

We need definite plans to direct our actions and keep us focused on reaching our goal. All great things begin as an idea. In their infancy, describing ideas as fragile is an understatement. Napoleon Hill states “most ideas are stillborn and need the breath of life injected into them by definite plans of immediate action.” So many people give up on their ideas before they’re even fully formed. I’d ask you to think about your last good idea that you let fall by the wayside, but you probably can’t call it to mind. As soon as we let ideas die, they’re not only buried but in most cases erased from memory. Instead, think of a time you wanted to pursue something big – maybe a career, or a big trip, or perhaps a business you thought about starting. Now, think about why you didn’t act on the idea. Were you talked out of it by your family, your friends, or even yourself? Now, here’s the big question – did you make definite plans to take that idea out of your head and give it life in the world? Chances are you didn’t. Without concrete plans, put down on paper so you can review, examine, and share them with those who support you (the Mastermind Group, as Napoleon Hill calls them), that idea had less chance than a wish!

How Do I Develop Definite Plans?

Thankfully, it’s relatively simple to develop definite plans. That doesn’t mean it’s easy. Why not? Because we have to find an inborn tendency: Fear. “How in the world does fear come into this? No one is afraid to make plans. We do it all the time!” There’s some truth in that. You make plans to go to the gym, to buy groceries, to visit the hair salon/barber, and a ton of other stuff. So you do make plans. Yet, when it comes to planning our future, especially if those plans involve doing something bold and different, it’s more challenging. You may find yourself succumbing to fear of criticism. That fear has killed more dreams before they can give birth to concrete ideas and goals.

I know this from experience. I’ve started a number of different ventures. Some were successful. Others – well, let’s say they didn’t win me any awards for entrepreneur of the year. When you don’t succeed at a venture, it makes starting the next one a real challenge! Everyone around you knows you didn’t make the last business work. When I wanted to start my next venture, the doubts hit me: What will they say about this new idea? How will I answer if someone says, “Didn’t your last business fail? What makes you think you can make this one work?!” It would have been easy to talk myself out of business before I even opened my doors! Napoleon Hill describes this fear as the greatest enemy of persistence, because “it generally exists in the subconscious mind without being recognized.” That’s right, this fear is kicking around in your subconscious right now, just waiting to sabotage any idea that will help you succeed!

So what can help you overcome this fear and make definite plans? Try these steps:

  • Get the facts. You need to have enough information to start making plans. If you don’t have the information, then the first step in your plan is to figure out where to find the knowledge you need, and then make definite steps to acquire it. This doesn’t mean you need to transform yourself into a professional research department and spend years studying every minute detail. The last thing you need is to fall victim to paralysis by analysis! Get enough facts so you can make educated choices, and start from there.
  • Put it in writing. If it isn’t on paper (or in an electronic document that you can open and consult), it isn’t real. Every successful person can show you the plans they made. They wrote them down, and designed benchmarks that allow them to track their progress. This is what takes things from the wish stage to a real plan, one which you can put into action.
  • Get started. Continuous action is what leads to success. This is what brings your plans to life. Sure, you’ll have to make adjustments along the way. Unexpected situations – positive and negative – are sure to arise, and you’ll have to react accordingly. But none of that can happen until you get moving. Even a single step forward can make a world of difference.
  • Invoke your Mastermind. Share your plans with those people committed to your success. These may or may not be the people closest to you. Choose your Mastermind Group carefully. Select people with the qualities, skills, and experience you’ll need to accomplish your definite major purpose (your ultimate goal) and surround yourself with them. Their feedback is invaluable, and you’ll be happy they’re on your side.

Some guiding principles emphasizing the points above are found at Proverbs 15:22; 20:18; 21:5; and especially 19:21. It also goes without saying Think and Grow Rich is required reading.

What definite plans have you made to reach your goals? What can you do today to bring you closer to those goals? Post your answers in the Comments below.

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7 thoughts on “Attributes of Leadership – Definiteness of Plans

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