Failing to plan is planning to fail.” This quote is attributed to Benjamin Franklin and is a clever and lasting summation of the importance of having a plan of attack for just about everything we do. In fact, the idea is the subject of parables from The Bible, Aesop’s Fables and has been expounded upon on by other great historical figures like Abraham Lincoln.

Take the Aesop’s Fable “The Fox and the Cat”:

A Fox was boasting to a Cat of its clever devices for escaping its enemies.

“I have a whole bag of tricks,” he said, “which contains a hundred ways of escaping my enemies.”

“I have only one,” said the Cat; “but I can generally manage with that.”

Just at that moment they heard the cry of a pack of hounds coming towards them, and the Cat immediately scampered up a tree and hid herself in the boughs.

“This is my plan,” said the Cat. “What are you going to do?”

The Fox thought first of one way, then of another, and while he was debating the hounds came nearer and nearer, and at last the Fox in his confusion was caught up by the hounds and soon killed by the huntsmen.

The Moral: Better to have one proven way than a hundred you cannot rely on.


Or how about Aesop’s “The Ants and the Grasshopper”:

The Ants were spending a fine winter’s day drying grain collected in the summertime. A Grasshopper, dying from hunger, passed by and earnestly begged for a little food.

The Ants asked him, “Why did you not store up food during the summer?”

He replied, “I didn’t have enough time. I passed the days in singing.”

They then said in derision: “If you were foolish enough to sing all the summer, you must dance supperless to bed in the winter.”

Moral: Plan ahead or don’t be surprised when things don’t work out.


According to a 2000 article by Laura M. Stack, Abraham Lincoln and Dale Carnegie both had a propensity for relaying thoughts and stories touting the importance of planning. Stack attributed Lincoln as saying, “If I had 60 minutes to cut down a tree, I would spend 40 minutes sharpening the ax and 20 minutes cutting it down.”

Stack’s article also relayed a story told by Carnegie of two men chopping wood:

One man worked hard all day, took no breaks, and only stopped briefly for lunch. The other chopper took several breaks during the day and a short nap at lunch. At the end of the day, the woodsman who had taken no breaks was quite disturbed to see that the other chopper had cut more wood than he had. He said, “I don’t understand. Every time I looked around, you were sitting down, yet you cut more wood than I did.” His companion asked, “Did you also notice that while I was sitting down, I was sharpening my ax?”


For a more present-day perspective, Elayne Schneebacher and Anna Wynn relay the tale of the material scientist, the mechanical engineer, the cell biologist, and the physiologist with “Why Medical Device Innovation Needs Quality Programs” in this month’s Quality.

 As always, enjoy and thanks for reading!