“Armageddon” with Bruce Willis is one of my favorite movies of all time.  But I will be the first to admit that the idea of sending a squad of oil drillers into space to land on an asteroid, drill a hole and then drop a nuclear weapon inside the hole is ridiculous and preposterous.  Yet despite its ridiculousness, I can give NASA a pass for concocting this plan because they really didn’t have a whole lot of time to come up with anything else.  It wasn’t as if NASA had engineers sitting around all day trying to come up with plans for if an asteroid hurtles towards the Earth.  So its absurdity is acceptable.  But what is going on today, now that is something that is not acceptable…

I’m not going to go into the politics of this whole “Obamacare” legislation or why I think it is or is not a program that will be beneficial to Americans.  We can talk another time about the concept that the government can require all Americans to spend money on health insurance, something that seems counterintuitive in a capitalist society.  We can also talk another time about the idea that the best course of action for ensuring that all Americans have health insurance is not to force the insurance companies to reduce their rates to make it affordable for everyone but to allow Americans who cannot afford health insurance to receive a government subsidy.  And that, my friends, is really the extent of my knowledge of the program, although to call it knowledge is a misnomer.  Call it, instead, familiarity from innuendo and inference.

No, instead I am going to suggest that the current debacle regarding “Obamacare” can be the basis for a teachable moment, a fact pattern that can be used for this and future generations from which a lesson or lessons can be learned.

According to the United States Parachute Association, the Federal Aviation Association requires that a skydiver pack not only a main parachute but also a reserve parachute, thus ensuring that if the main chute malfunctions for any reason there is a back-up in place.  Even in “Armageddon,” NASA sent up two teams of drillers in case one missed the landing point or for whatever reason couldn’t get to the asteroid. 

The lesson to be learned is to always consider if things go wrong.  We as trusted advisors—attorneys, accountants, financial advisors, insurance brokers, business planners—we spend our lives planning and predicting.  We discuss with our clients a goal and then we work to plan a course of action to attain that goal.  But how often do we plan for the negative outcome, the situation in which things do not go as planned?

We never want to think about our plan going south, yet experience will tell us that sometimes things don’t go as planned.  And we need to be ready.  When setting a course, as much, if not more, time must be spent in planning for a disaster as planning for success.  And we never want to admit it to our clients, but there is always the possibility that things may not go as planned.  Is it a chink in our armor to admit to our client that there is a possibility of failure?  Maybe.  But is it better to discuss with the client the possible downsides or act surprised if/when the disaster strikes?

In so many cases, when things go south, we must find a way to deal with it and move on.  Rarely does life allow us to push a “reset” button and start over.  We need to plan for all potential eventualities,

As I am writing this, my wife is watching an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” that she had Ti-Vo’d and it involves a malpractice lawsuit against one of the doctors for a surgery that went so poor as to eventually require amputation of both of the patient’s legs.  You would hope that a doctor performing surgery on you has considered all of the possible calamities that could occur and has already planned for them so that if anything goes sideways he or she is ready for it.

Because in the operating room, you can’t stop the surgery with the patient’s chest open and decide you are going to put it all back and try to start it over next year.

Because your client cannot invest thousands of his or her dollars, get halfway through a plan, have it start to go south and then try to stop it and start over next year.

This is a teachable moment.  You must plan for every eventuality before you take that first step forward.  Because if you only focus on the positive outcome then you won’t be ready for if things go south.  And life doesn’t provide you with a “reset” button.