It’s always about the planning, right? We’ve heard for years from intellectuals and academics how statistical data show you get better results when you execute against a plan. One professor I had in college, Doc Breeden, put it in the most basic terms when he gave me his 7 Ps (Proper Prior Planning Prevents P*ss Poor Performance. I always wish he’d introduced them to me before I took his final).
I think a lot of us would agree that planning can be a little overrated. You see, planning theory can’t account for these things known as real world challenges (in our case suitable examples would be: inclement weather, a neighbor’s dog marking territory on plywood and kids who insisted on using power tools).
The excuse about lack of plans and challenges are a bit of a smokescreen because at the end of the day the Dads’ Bucket List committed to ourselves, our kids and our creator (ok, that last part was a tad dramatic) that we’d build a float and march with it in front of 30,000 people at the Dunwoody 4th of July parade.
So, on our first non-weather challenged build night we got our wood laid out and set to cutting. That was until we heard a voice say, “mind if I make a suggestion?” It was my attorney neighbor who stumbled upon our band of misfits while walking his dog.
He suggested we switch from wood to plastic, which we didn’t even have. Everybody, except yours truly who just wanted to cut something ANYTHING in the name of progress, agreed his was a brilliant idea. So we sent one of our guys to the store while the rest of us stayed back signing legal waivers my neighbor produced on the spot indemnifying him of any and all liability should the project go even further south (the guy is a thorough lawyer, I’ll give him that.)
With the new materials we were improvising (not planning, mind you) one thing after another and progress was rapid. In fact, soon we were ahead of schedule. However, that didn’t deter some dads from continuing to use it as an excuse to drop by for an ice-cold adult beverage. (“Honey, I can’t mow the lawn this week. That float is waaay behind schedule.”).
Before we knew it, parade morning arrived and it was time to move our beautiful beast from my garage to the starting line. However, a real world challenge presented itself. This time the most unwelcome kind. We learned my cousin Kate, a wife and mother to a 9-year-old son, died unexpectedly early that morning. Two of my cousins, Mike and Pete Holmes, and their kids who were set to join us wouldn’t make the parade. When I let the other dads know, condolences were extended as everybody quietly reflected while continuing to get supplies gathered.
We took different cars and met as a group at the start area. During the drive over our red, white and blue float decided to shed its tri-colored decorative paper and revert back to its native chicken wire shell. Turns out apparently we’d contracted with Mario Andretti to drive the float over and the breakneck speeds generated enough wind to defrock our float of most of its craft paper.
No worries. We brought some backup red and blue and improvised yet again by “borrowing” some toilet paper from the porta potty to satisfy the white requirement. Everyone chipped in to get enough back on to have her looking beautiful before the debut.
To the parade organizers visionary credit, the iffy weather in fact stayed clear and the parade started right on time. Once we started rolling, we cranked the music and marched behind our beautiful bucket (I’m guessing I don’t need to explain the symbolism).
Our merry crew broke into smiles, dancing and a bunch of other odd displays of excitement including Special K breaking out his Rocky imitation with way too much shadowboxing. The kids were dancing and handing out candy so fast that our entire supply was gone before the quarter pole (General George Markley conceded we should have planned that part a little better).
Sure, at the end of the day there were a few hiccups but honestly they make the narrative a little more fun to tell. Other than a couple piggy back rides here and there, the kids marched the entire parade. Interacting with the crowd by waving, giving thumbs up and even some high-fives was a ton of fun for all.
I got a kick out of seeing people initially size up our float with a curious “who is this group” look. Once they’d read our bucket list the light bulb would go on and you’d see their face change to an “oh, I get it now” expression, which usually led to a broad, nodding smile of approval. And of course, there was a lot of camaraderie amongst the dads on a job well done.
Throughout the parade, we’d slap each other on the back or catch another’s eye and give a nod or a wink that conveyed what we were all thinking, “oh yeah, another memorable experience with our kids.” Just like we planned it all along.
Go. See. Be. Do.