Plans are Better than Goals

I have a plan that I’m halfway through. It’s a simple, meta plan that helps me to clearly, tangibly spell out other plans for the year. I’d call them “goals,” but that word has complicated connotations. It suggests that we would like to do things but aren’t sure we can accomplish them. It’s something we’ve turned into a hashtag and trivialized so much that the word has lost its meaning. Plans are things that we’re going to do. These are things I’m going to do.


* * *

Matt is my best friend. I rarely see him anymore, the last time we hung out he really pissed me off, and he is definitely reading this right now. His is an unwaveringly dedicated and tough love. He is difficult to track down and possesses an infectious ambition. He doesn’t make goals, he makes plans. He rubbed me the wrong way by insisting that we wake up fewer than five hours after we arrived at our hotel in Utah on the first leg of my road trip last summer. I’d been hit by a car barely a month prior and had a horrible concussion. No business buying an old car or driving it all day every day or sleeping in motel beds or hiking Angel’s Landing. He couldn’t understand the skull-shattering, non-point-source pain that I felt in my brain all day every day. Then again, neither could I. So we argued like brothers and compromised on a 5:40 AM wakeup call after shutting off the lights a tick shy of 1 AM.

Of course, I survived and we summited Angel’s Landing before 9 AM which is a rather ridiculous feat, capped only by his hitchhiking back to Los Angeles that day and my making it in time for dinner in Aspen, Colorado that night. Another day in the life for both of us. I was on-edge about everything because of my brain injury, but I remember the feeling of being on top of that terrifying precipice way more clearly than I remember my headache or his nagging insistence on doing, going, being. Maybe it was insensitive to push me so hard. Or maybe it was exactly what I needed. The yo-yo of my life since last June suggests the latter…

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* * *

Last year, Matt made a list of things he was going to do that year. A list of plans. The list read more like most people’s lifetime bucket list, if they were also avid outdoorsmen and master con artists and sports fans and music aficionados and gluttons for punishment. And he did every single one. So, naturally, this year he erased all of his crossed off plans and started anew. The last time we talked, he encouraged me to do the same. Because I never give myself enough credit for the things I do plan and accomplish, and because it’s essential that we have something challenging and inspiring to look forward to. Not just promotions and down payments, but things that give us butterflies and make us curse under our breath and giggle and feel fundamentally alive.

I’ve been floundering on actually making my list. He demanded a rough draft 24 hours after his suggestion, and I delivered. Then I just had to commit to actually making something cool to write the physical list on, that I could start and end every day staring at and working towards. Last week, I bought sandpaper and primer and brushes and chalkboard paint so I can turn some artsy and substantial object into my canvas. I’ve yet to find that object, and sometimes I feel like I need the list just to go find the right object to finish my list.


Of course, this is textbook depression, knowing what you need to do and just not quite being able to do it. I want(ed) to go to Arkansas, like, yesterday. Spend a couple of days in Fayetteville and another couple at a relative’s cabin just up the river from my favorite trout stream in the Ozarks. The inertia dragged me down, made getting organized and driving sound like an insurmountable chore. Just like finding the right object to finish my chalkboard and unveil my list to the world. In addition to never feeling like writing, I’ve been trying to put the heat on myself by not posting anything else to my website until I finished the list and could share photos of the finished project, all Etsy-ed out and written in my best grade-school chalkboard handwriting.

The list is not finished, though I do have a nice stash of materials waiting for the right piece of metal or wood to turn into my blank slate and fill it out with plans for the year. It’s 1 PM on Monday and I’m still in Austin, sitting in a coffee shop where yet another generic hipster was just rude to me because I was absent-mindedly drumming my fingers along to the music for twenty seconds while thinking about words (I am my father’s son). Little does she know that her eastsider attitude was just the kick in the gut I needed to realize that I am going to linger in malaise until I do something more substantial than just drive thirty or forty minutes out of the city to go mountain biking somewhere. It’s time to get uncomfortable and put exclamation points behind my thoughts, make a list, and cross things off of it.


I’ve got a long list of regrets and a longer list of plans, and neither of those lists will get any shorter until I start acting the same way I daydream when I’m having a good day.

I’ve been in touch with so many people who share my thoughts and experiences, and it’s been the highlight of my days and my life lately. The friends I’ve made through writing and going and doing only encourage me to do it more, so today I’m going to do just that. Because no matter how hard life feels sometimes, it’s always easier with friends. With encouragement and the opportunity to be someone else’s encouragement. Next time I post will be this week, and I’ll be in another city.

And I’ll tell ya’ll more about that list. Tell me about yours, too!



  1. Oh good, was starting to worry that you’d dropped off the map.

    I do that A LOT. That behaviour of procrastinating because something isn’t absolutely perfect? I do that. ‘Oh I would do that but I don’t have the specific type of paper.’ Or, ‘Oh I would do that but I need a different kind of lens.’ It’s infuriating. I hear myself doing it and it makes me so frustrated, because I can’t force myself to just do it regardless. I definitely fall into those pits of procrastination. Haven’t found an easy, portable metaphorical rope-ladder yet but if I come across one I’ll let you know.

    Matt sounds like a good friend. *fist bump*

  2. Love you John Montesi. You have always been one of my favorite people ever. Love that you are kind. Love that you are compassionate and love that you have the GUTS to say what all of the rest of us are thinking yet won’t say.
    I have known since you were a little, beautiful boy that you were a true “Renaissance Man”. So, cut yourself some slack and know
    “Thy will be done” and “every little thing is gonna be alright”.

  3. That’s always a good start, John, planning and once you have that listed (which btw is an entirely separate process and just like the typical Type A who’s a perfectionist, everything should be right there present and the stars all aligned to make it happen, huh? happens to the best of us so don’t feel you’re alone there) then the doing happens. I did stop blogging lately because I felt like I was rambling on and on about what I intend and desperate to do, not much of the doing. So I said, hang on, why don’t I start doing baby steps to get there then will write about it. Cool?

    Will be interesting to hear what your thoughts are on your next destination. Keep in touch!

  4. One of the things in the past couple of weeks that I have been doing is just working and then sleeping. Now I realize that i can do more, go out and meet people. I started doing the same and let’s see how that goes

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