Success: Is It Planning or Good Habits?

I had the opportunity to lunch with some new friends, Ken and Nancy Grant, the other day. During the conversation, Ken made a casual comment about his current position in life:

“I’m entering the final six months of my eight year plan,” he said as a transitional statement about his career.


Who thinks like that? Ken does.

Ken has over 40 years experience in project management and planning. He earned his Project Manager Professional (PMP) designation in 2005, and he serves as Chairman of the Speaker’s Bureau for the PMI North Alabama Chapter.

In six months, Ken will be starting a new career, his third.

In his first career, he served as distinguished military officer which included assignments to the Army Staff and to the Office of the Secretary of the Army. Ken retired at the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In his current career, he is a leader in project management, operations, and planning related to defense, threat support, and process engineering. In his next role, Ken will focus on the company that he began a few years ago, and he will consult, coach, train, and write on leadership topics, especially targeting individuals leaving the military by helping them transition smoothly into civilian jobs.

Ken explained that he’s a planner, that he likes having a plan for his life. And he loves sharing with others how they can use project management and planning principles to create more success in their own lives.

Ken walked me through a day in his life. And in his story, I found another key to his success: good habits.

For example, Ken needs no alarm clock to wake him up. Instead, he uses an internal clock that has been set to the same time for many years. Once up, he launches into an exercise routine. Next, he gets cleaned up and ready for work. Then he raises the United States flag and conducts a personal, reverent ceremony in his yard.

Ken doesn’t follow these routines only in good weather. He doesn’t practice these behaviors when he feels like it. The sameness of these established actions occur on work days, weekends, holidays, and vacations.

After saying goodbye to Ken and Nancy, I started wondering to myself: Is success about PLANNING, or GOOD HABITS?

Take a moment to think about the decisions you make each morning. Do you have to think about what to do, or do you have a PLAN that’s been built over time on the foundation of GOOD HABITS?

  • What time should I set my alarm for tomorrow morning?
  • Should I exercise today?
  • Should I have a healthy breakfast at home, or should I hit a drive-thru on the way to the office?
  • Should I buy these new (insert your vice here), or should I save my money?
  • Do I feel like giving my best at work today, or is this a “coast through quitting time” day?

If you have to give thought to these issues, you might be missing the link between PLANNING and GOOD HABITS.

Back to Ken. Yes, he’s is a planner. He’s spent the last 42 years in planning roles. And do you know what I’m guessing? He’s already got a plan on where he’s going in the next 42 years. Maybe planning is hardwired into his DNA. But one of the reasons Ken is such a successful planner is that he executes good habits.

Ken doesn’t wonder what time he’s getting up tomorrow. He knows what he wants to accomplish. He gets up in time to EXECUTE his plan.

He doesn’t say, “Screw the granola! I want cold pizza and beer for breakfast.” Nor does he say, “I’m questioning this whole exercise routine. Maybe I should just stop.” No, he knows that he’s building the body today that will go with him into his retirement. He EXECUTES his exercise habits today to keep him strong for the plans he has for tomorrow.

Ken isn’t banking on winning the lottery to fund his dreams. No, he knew he’d want to retire to a new career, and the planning to make that happen started many years ago. He EXECUTED a savings routine to allow him to pursue his next goal.

How’s your PLAN? Is it taking you where you want to be? Or maybe the question for you is How’s your execution? Have you developed your GOOD HABITS to the point where you no longer have to fight yourself to accomplish your PLANS?


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