email a friend iconprinter friendly iconHow to Survive (Almost) Anything: 14 Survival Skills
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11. Know Plan B

When undertaking anything risky, always have a clear bailout plan. In November 2004 I wrote about the hazards of Mount Washington for this magazine, recounting the death of two ice climbers who had evidently not planned beyond reaching the summit. When a storm blew in during the middle of their climb, they could have made an easy rappel to the bottom. Instead, following the only plan they had, they continued toward the top, where they died of exposure. Similar failures occur in all areas of life. When the IBM PC was released in 1981, Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) continued to follow its outdated plan, building minicomputers that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. As a result, DEC, the second largest maker of computers in the world, went out of business. When formulating a bailout plan, it’s important to establish parameters by which to make the decision. For example, if you aren’t on the summit by three o’clock, you must turn back. Or if you have lost $100 million, you must end the project. Whatever the criterion, make sure it’s specific. Then, when you’re brain’s not working well because of stress or exhaustion, you’ll still make the right decision.

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