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Episode 2: Plan for Stupid

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

Main idea: building systems creates safety nets for when shit goes wrong

Sub idea: it’s okay to fail, but you have to recover fast


  • Tales of woe

  • Categories of fails and strategies for overcoming them

  • Resources

So this topic has two great origin stories. I’ll let Jodie tell hers (about the Mobile Literary Festival).

Mine is this: We’d been doing Write On SC, a radio show about the writing craft, for about six weeks, three with my new co-host, Dan, all of which had been pre-recorded on a weekday. On our first live broadcast weekend, he lined up a pal of his to come talk about science fiction. I know nothing about science fiction but planned the show notes with some links for discussion and then waited for Dan and Brian to show up. We’d been recording at 10 a.m. I did not think to remind Dan of the show time and our live broadcast is at 9:00 but he and his guest came walking in at 10. They’d missed the entire hour. There I was, reading through the show notes on a topic I know nothing about, for a full hour. ::facepalm::

So how do you avoid these kinds of fails? Systems. Processes. Repeatable patterns that set you up for success no matter the undertaking.

Let’s categorize the possibly failures and suggest some ways to prep for them:


  • Software is a wondrous thing. And it also sucks sometimes. Your internet can go out or get sluggish. Your live demo can fail.

  • What are some ways we’ve prepped to avoid these fails? (I have a slide deck with screen captures always ready to send to people in case the webinar becomes a conference call)

  • Is there a “show must go on” feel on these kinds of things?


  • Volunteers aren’t the only ones who are unreliable. People miss deadlines. Forget to attend. Choose to do something else instead or get caught in traffic and show up late.

  • What are some ways we’ve prepped to avoid these fails? (I get presenter materials to the facility ahead of time and ask that the assessment be distributed if they’re waiting on me, or if the audience is waiting on our presenter)

  • How good are we at redirecting / calling audibles? (we had a presenter not show to 1MC one time and Shennice covered by giving a pitch training and having everyone in the community practice live)


  • Sometimes there’s just no way to bandit an event, barter your way in, or upgrade past the paywall. Having the resources to access more resources can be a real hindrance to growth.

  • How did we handle bootstrapping early on? Making do with little or nothing to invest?

  • How did we decide what was worth the investment?

  • Budgetary oversight isn’t always your role -- unless you’re the business owner. But what can you do when a project’s budget starts to spin out of control?

  • How to communicate restrictions?

  • Is this an expectations problem? Or a vocabulary problem?

  • What are some other categories of fail?

Facilities -- lights go out, bathrooms flood, no parking available, sound system blows

Weather -- reminded of Sarah Simmons opening Rise! the same weekend as the flood of the century in Columbia.

Additional Resources

Focus on the process and you’ll minimize the failed feeling (this article)

Planning for failure doesn’t make you paranoid (this article)

This isn’t high school (or college) group work (this article)

Plan for contingencies, for problems (this article)

Learn more about Clemson Road Academy here.

Ever had a classically STUPID thing happen to derail a project? Share a note in the comments and maybe we'll talk about it on a future episode.

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