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Original: LARK SWAP MEET by Dave Parker on FlickrSometimes the crazy people you meet make so much sense that you realize you were the crazy one all along.

While researching for a book series, I became interested in all the things that make spies and MacGuyver-type characters so awesome. It’s the skills and problem solving, executed with a flare that is sock-rocking impressive.

On the way out from Lowes, getting supplies for a related hobby, I ended up chatting with a retired veteran.

His car was a few spots from mine, and when I spotted it, I saw a monstrosity sticking out the back of his trunk. It looked like the photo to the left.

He also had two more antennas than the car in this photo.

“Anyone who pays money every month for a cellphone is a sucker,” he said.

“It’s not ideal,” I said, “But what’s the alternative? Do we give up text and internet, and tell all our friends to buy CB radios? ‘Breaker breaker one-nine, this is rubber ducky…'”

And he proceeded to tell me about HAM radio.

HAM RADIOS

I got the idea he knew something I didn’t.

He holds up what looks like a tan, military-style blackberry. “I can talk, text, and video chat with anyone I want, and it’s free.”

It sounds cool, but you probably have to have your own cell towers, and the equipment probably costs tens of thousands, I thought.

And then he tells me the large 80-meter transmitter on his car cost him about $680 bucks to build and install.

He can call on his handheld HAM to an antenna, which bounces it to the 80-meter (that tall tower you see in the photo), transmitting it pretty much anywhere in the world he wants.

I was skeptical, but then I gave him my number and he called it!

This meant he could talk to anyone using his HAM. Rock on. He could order a ham pizza using his HAM if he wanted to!

So not only could he call anyone, and do so away from his car, he could also do it for less money than most people pay for a year of cell-phone service.

Except, instead of paying a cell-phone provider to use their systems, he can drive around with his own radio tower.

Radio Tower? You mean like radio stations and stuff?

Yeah. AM, FM, CB, and a host of other frequencies. If you’re willing to look a bit like a nutcase, you can have a free radio that you can use to talk to anybody.

And Internet, too?

That may be the wave of the future.

There are organizations like the San Francisco hackerspace, Noisebridge, that are building an alternative network modeled after the Internet. This could provide high-speed connectivity for a fraction of the cost of traditional internet service.

Skype-style communications like video chat are already available to HAM operators. If your computer has a camera and it’s on, HAM operators can face-to-face with you.

And systems like Packet Radio allow you to make long-distance wireless networks to transfer text and other messages between computers. While a bit on the slower side, this technology could speed up as our need for it increases.

When it pays to be a nut

So why would we need it?

The answer should be no!I could think of a few reasons here with the FCC Net Neutrality rules…but instead I’ll let U.S. News do it.

Right or left, soccer-mom or hippie, I think we can all agree on this:

I don’t know about you, but oligopolies – industries ran by just a few companies – are something I’m against. Why? Because they can halt new technologies, treat customers badly, and even price fix if the existing anti-trust laws are not enforced.

In short, they don’t have your best interest in mind.

Same with bills our elected officials aren’t allowed to read. The U.S. News article has other reasons why it’s a bad move, but the fact that the Congressmen can’t read it is proof enough that it doesn’t have people’s best interests at heart.

That aside, let’s say regulation blocks certain parts of the internet, creating a digital gulag. Where’s the alternative? HAM can be that alternative – accessing necessary information during crucial times.

If superpowers like Russia can use ‘white boxes’ to block cell and internet signals, how are people going to communicate under such circumstances? What if extremists in the Middle East block signals while committing genocide against Christians and Atheists?

They can pray… if they’re willing to do so.

But what they can also do is use HAM to get the word out if they can’t use Twitter or Facebook.

But what about the most common reality we face in the western world today…natural disasters?

HAM radio is twitter for when things goThe man continued showing me his tech as he explained, “A hurricane swept through a town in North Texas a while back. Me and a few friends – about ten of us – we went up to the town while all land lines and cell towers were down. For about a month, we provided communication to citizens and their families – for free. And there’s about 670,000 HAM operators in the US alone.”

The Great News

The FCC rules regulating HAM radios have created a special culture. I don’t know all the rules yet, but here are some:

1. HAM operators cannot use their equipment or HAM radio-related services to make money. (NOTE: I get the impression this rule is intentional, to protect the oligopolies while keeping the frequencies from getting too crowded)

2. They must be registered. (It takes more work to track down a HAM operator than the constant surveillance of cell users, but it is possible after enough signal watching)

3. No swearing. Keep in mind you are operating a radio, and a little kid could be listening to that frequency.

4. Morse code knowledge  – just kidding, that rule was dropped in 2007. But still, the veterans of HAM radio can speak another language, giving them a whole new level of competence.

This means we have a bunch of competent people, who are generous and not predatory, with cleaner language than me.

My hat goes off to these 600,000+ people. All potential heroes, just waiting in the wings in case disaster strikes. The next time we see a Hurricane Katrina, A giant snowstorm in the Northeast, an EMP attack, earthquake, or civil unrest, know that you or a loved one could one day be assisted by one of many such heroes. These heroes can help call out and let others know they’re okay, get necessary supplies, and be a lifeline to their broken world.

Do You Want to Ham it up?

Learning about Ham-radios and their capabilities has filled a major blind spot in my quest to one day be self-sustaining. In the not-too-distant future I want to start accessing the conveniences of modern technology without sacrificing privacy, and this is a great way to do it.

And if you’d like to:

  • reduce your dependence on oligopolies,
  • save thousands of dollars
  • look like a nut-job
  • protect your privacy
  • Anger your Homeowners’ Association
  • Stop future-Hitler from getting away with murder
  • and be a hero in the process…

Then maybe HAM radios are for you.

Find out more at many different websites, like the old-school HamUniverse, or check out the how-to guide from Wired.

Photo courtesy of Dave Parker on Flickr

The Meaning of Freedom

April 7, 2014 — 77 Comments
splatter question by bessarro at sxc.hu

splatter question by bessarro at sxc.hu

There’s a theme in one of my upcoming stories that means a lot to everyone.

What exactly, is freedom?

For some, freedom means being able to do whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t hurt anybody else.

For others, freedom means the ability to control every one and every thing.

For others, just being free of past mistakes would be a miracle.

If I were to make a list of things that everyone who was truly free would possess, it would probably start to look like this:

– Not having to work full time at a job you don’t want to go to.

– The ability to travel anywhere in the world, and stay as long as you like.

– To only do things that line up with your passions and your strengths.

– To make friends and throw wicked cool social events.

– Unlimited time to pursue hobbies

– The financial resources to obtain whatever you wanted for yourself and others.

– To build things that last a long time and provide insanely high value to the world around you

These are all desirable things, and people go to different lengths to obtain these things.

The pursuit of this idea has birthed nations, created cities, businesses, and fulfilled the dreams of many people. Failure to obtain this idea often means paying the highest penalty. True advocates of freedom may argue that it is the willingness to risk personal resources, and even your very life, is what guarantees freedom.

What does freedom mean to you? Sound off in the comments!

Noah, film poster taken from wikipedia.orgThis is for those who are thinking of seeing the film ‘Noah’.

It’s also for anyone who watches this film to better understand how true Christians really act and think.

NOTE: Major Spoilers Ahead. If you don’t like the plot told to you before watching a film, then wait till after the movie to read this post.

Without further ado, here it is:

The Good

Creative liberties have to be taken to take a story that takes one minute to read, and turn it into a 2.5 hour long film. Some of it was actually pretty cool.

Let’s be fair here.

How the animals get to the ark – In one part of the movie, Methuselah (played by Anthony Hopkins) gives Noah (Russell Crowe) a seed from the original garden of Eden. Noah plants the seed and it sprouts instantly – into an entire forest! The water spreads out in 5 different directions, forming rivers lined with vegetation.

This gives all the animals on Pangaea a pathway to follow leading to the forest where the ark will be. Pretty smart.

The Incense – This was a cool element that allowed the plot lines between Noah and his family to play out undisturbed by moving animals, and explains how so many animals could board the ark and not trample themselves inside. Personally, the plot would have been improved if they were trapped for 40 days with a bunch of live animals, but the budget – Oh the budget!

The Struggle for Answers – Noah prays, looking up to the sky, but hears no answer. The director, who is an atheist, may have had a separate agenda in mind here, but he also connected to the life experience and struggle of all Christians who want to follow God and long for concrete answers from on high. This is an element of the Christian struggle that most Christian films sugarcoat over and/or ignore. The storyline of Ham, the lonely son in need of a wife, compounds the struggle.

Ila – Despite how many Christians may despise my saying this, Emma Watson (known for playing Hermoine Granger in the Harry Potter franchise) really stole the show. This is a new character not mentioned by name in the Genesis story of Noah, though the Bible does mention Noah’s sons having wives. This is a creative liberty that made the story bearable in places that otherwise would not have been.

Remember the part about Noah’s sons having wives? This brings us to-

The Bad

Wives – In the genesis story, Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth had wives.

In the film, only Shem is coupled with Ila, who remains barren as an unnecessary plot point.

The story of Ham being frustrated was brilliant on one level – it connected with the struggle we all have to put faith in God even when it seems He’s not meeting our needs. On the other hand, it tells viewers that God doesn’t care about our needs even when the fate of humanity is at stake.

Consider these points:

Genesis 6:18 KJV – “But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee.”

Maybe that was just a typo, is there mention of there being wives for all his sons anywhere else?

Oh, yeah:

Genesis 7:7 KJV – “And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark…”

But how many wives, exactly?

Genesis 7:13 KJV – “In the selfsame day entered Noah, and Shem, and Ham, and Japheth, the sons of Noah, and Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the ark.”

I could quote more, but I’d just be a bully about it at that point.

Anti-Human Agenda – In this story, Noah is led to believe that all human beings are wicked so they ALL need to be destroyed – even him and his family. Noah even goes to the point of saying that if Ila, who becomes pregnant on the ark, has a daughter, he will kill her. For a moment, it even seemed like Noah was going to turn into a slasher film. This anti-human agenda is only negated when Ila tells Noah, who decides to spare her child, that ‘God chose him BECAUSE he wouldn’t go through with it.’

What?!

So God chose to get rid of the wicked because they disobeyed God, and then chooses Noah to get rid of humanity, only for Noah to fail (disobey) because God wanted him to disobey? Did I miss something?

It says here that:

Genesis 7:5 KJV – “And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him.”

That doesn’t sound like disobeying to me. Perhaps God wants us to do all He asks of us? Just maybe?

and –

Genesis 9:1 KJV – “And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.”

Doesn’t sound anti-human to me. How will this impact people who never read the Bible? How will young people think of themselves? As parasites, or beings who have been blessed and made in God’s image?

The false debate between environmentalism and subduing the earth – Tubal Cain, the descendant of Cain (the first murderer), is the bad guy of the story. His crimes include the traditional bad guy crimes: Murder, Destruction, and Slavery. But they also extend to far worse crimes. Such as “the Paleo diet, Mining, and Wanting to Subdue the Earth”.

While Noah wanted to care for the plants, avoid meat-eating, and pursue justice. All noble pursuits, but skewed out of context when you consider the film’s message as a whole.

Simply put, subduing the earth is not the same as destroying it.

Genesis 1:26 KJV “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth on the earth.

Genesis 1: 28 KJV “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful ,and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

These sound a lot like the words Tubal-Cain uttered over and over again. While it is very much like a devil to quote scripture in promoting a selfish philosophy, Tubal-Cain’s character ignored the ‘Replenish the earth’ command, making the whole debate false. After all, how can mankind be fruitful and multiply while replenishing the earth, if they are meant to be completely destroyed? But that would mess up Darren Aronofsky’s storyline, wouldn’t it?

And about meat – and this is coming from a (mostly) vegan:

Genesis 9:3-4 KJV – “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.”

So, stay kosher and you’re good. Everything else is a matter of personal conviction and health reasons.

Noah was kind of a dick in the movie – especially to people who weren’t his family

In the film, Noah is asked about the Ark, and Noah tells Tubal-Cain “Nobody’s getting on that boat, because you’re all wicked.” (paraphrasing here).

Yet Noah in the Bible was quite different.

2 Peter 2:5 KJV – And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;”

Noah is described here as a preacher of righteousness. A preacher to whom? Who else but everybody on earth who isn’t himself?

How would people unfamiliar with Christianity, or who had a bad experience with Christians, view this film? They would believe that Christians want to keep salvation and truth away from people. When in truth, Noah preached to many people, but the only ones who listened were his family.

This film basically teaches that Christians are holier-than-thou assholes who want you dead, which is contrary to the entire Christian message.

Golems, fallen angels, oh my A major plot point involves Watchers, who (in the film) are basically Angels (Seraphim) who wanted to help humans. God said ‘no’, they said ‘yes’, and as they went down to earth, God cursed them with disfigured stone bodies. They helped all humans, Cain’s people started killing them, and it isn’t until Noah recruits them that they begin to help build the ark.

Story wise, this reduces amount of screen time spent actually building the ark, and creates some pretty cool action scenes when it starts raining.

Here’s the problem: Fallen angels = Demons.

And in the movie, when these golems ‘die’, they go right back up to heaven – what?!

So we have demons helping Noah build the ark, killing people (Which Noah cites as a reason he himself should die), then they go to heaven again AFTER disobeying God. Yipee!

Now in the book of Enoch, which is a controversial book some cultures include in the Bible, fallen angels really do go down to heaven to help people. They are called Nephilim, and they help the Bad Guys!

This film takes the Nephilim concept, combines it with the mythological Golem creature, and twists the characters into opponent-allys who sacrifice themselves to save a man absolutely determined to kill himself and his family. Well played, unnecessary characters.

For those who say its just a movie…

People make movies for many reasons, not always in this order:

  1. To impose their beliefs upon others
  2. To make emotionally charged messages to influence others
  3. To create conversation pieces.
  4. To entertain.
  5. To make money

Noah will succeed in all of these points, but some of the messages might not be for the best. This is unavoidable due to how many hands get involved in a project with this much money behind it – the agendas, screenplay rewrites, directorial decisions, and producers egos and more. Nothing will be perfect, but we need to try.

But maybe I am being mean and sarcastic here.

As a wanna-be screenwriter, I hold no personal blame on any individual involved. To suck up a little, every producer, director, and actor are great all the time, and they really should hire me for a bazillion dollars.

But David, I’d like to see you try to make Noah entertaining:

How the story could have been made way better without straying from the bible at all?

Antidiluvian Society and Culture – What made the first Conan movie so much better than all the others? Every set piece, every prop, every piece of clothing – they all had symbolism specific to their cultures. You could feel that even though you’re only seeing a fraction of this big world, this really is a big world, filled with things you’ll marvel at but not have time to understand. Perhaps there was a great city that disappeared after the flood? Some historians may take up argument with me, but why can’t this city be Atlantis 1.0?

Pre-flood technologies – Everything the pre-flood people may have made has been lost to us. They could have made anything. We know the people were smart, and were ‘exceedingly great in their wickedness’ (to paraphrase), they could have had any sort of technology. Futuristic, Medieval, Roman-age, Steampunk, Genetic modification, crossbreeding of animals, etc. How about Dinosaurs? Most films that throw in a Veloceraptor or two tend to do well.

Giants – Genesis 6:4 KJV says:

There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.”

That was in the Bible, and nothing was done with it in the movie.

Book of enoch elements – but done in a way that doesn’t violate the content in the rest of the Biblical account of Noah or the spirit of Christianity.

Animals with no fear of humans: It says this in the post-flood account of Genesis:

Genesis 9:2 KJV “And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all hte fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered.”

You mean there wasn’t fear of humans in animals before? Imagine a film crossed between the cultural depth of the Original Conan, the relative epic-ness and (relative) biblical accuracy of The Ten Commandments, and the Otherworldly awesomeness of the aggressive creatures in Avatar, and you’ve got yourself a strong story world.

Adjust the ‘No Wives’ plotline – In the end, Ham and Japheth should have gotten wives, even if it happened at the last minute.

Noah as Teacher –  imagine Noah preaching to people who mock him, laugh at him, and beat him. This makes Noah’s triumph more satisfying in the eyes of the audience, and makes them less sympathetic for Tubal-Cain and his ilk.

Cinematography, make the earth straight up and down – no axis. Have a layer of water surrounding the sky as well as having water in the sea. This creates a reflecting, translucent, crystaline effect to most of the scenes involving sky.

Less CGI (keep it with the animals, but the snake thing, come on!).

These are just some of the many ideas I would consider to make an awesome Noah story without straying far from the Biblical account.

To sum up

Overall, a Noah movie that paints humans as bad, has conflicting philosophies, and paints a negative picture of Christians – has every right to exist, from a free speech perspective. However, it may not do a world of good for people as a whole.

Did this review help? Are there any elements you wish were different about the Noah movie? Sound off in the comments!

 

 

 

Pen Mightier than Sword by penywise at sxc.hu

Pen Mightier than Sword by penywise at sxc.hu

What do we love so much about our favorite nonfiction authors?

If you’re anything like me, you read nonfiction to simplify a complicated part of your life, or enjoy a window into someone else’s experiences.

If a writer can do this really well, they have a wonderful career. Each new book builds upon the audience of happy readers who bought in last time, and the writer becomes more influential.

Yet how far does this escalate? Hero worship can tarnish our own self image if we assume that the people who write successful books are so immeasurably better than us:

  • That a productivity author has his act together
  • That a business author never fails to make a profit
  • That a diet author never enjoys an ice cream every now and then

We buy books because these people have the answers, right? They do, and we don’t , so we buy the books hoping to get the answers, and then we’ll have the answers for ourselves. Authors present themselves this way for a reason, and they must.

Here’s an idea you may not have considered.

Are You Smarter Than An Apostle? 

Paul of Tarsus was an influential figure in the Bible. Out of the 27 books in the New Testament, 13 of those books ascribe Paul as the writer.

Who would know more about the Bible, and Christianity, than someone who wrote nearly half of the New Testament?

Yet how did he describe himself?

Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst. – I Timothy 1:15 NIV

What? Paul, you’re supposed to have the answers!

How about something more recent?

Leo Babauta is a NYT Bestselling author. He has done a lot of impressive things, yet at one time he had not done any of them. At one point he had no books, was a smoker, and was 65lbs heavier.

Business?

Tim Ferriss wrote the Four Hour Workweek, a guide to automation and reducing your work hours so you can have a balanced life. How did he start out? By working 14 hours a day.

Money Management?

Robert Kiyosaki of Rich Dad, Poor Dad saw how his biological father made poor decisions with money. Robert knew from observation that he needed to make bold, different decisions if he was arrive where he wanted to be.

I wrote books that centered on trust and relationships. Did this happen because I was the bees’ knees at either subject? Far from it. I struggled with these parts of my life so much that I teamed up with a life coach to co-author these books, all to improve my understanding of trust and relationships.

It’s Not Having the Answers that Starts the Journey

Is it possible that many nonfiction authors write books because they didn’t have any good answers when they started their journey?

This means we shouldn’t idolize anyone, least of all nonfiction writers. If an aspect of life was kicking your butt enough, you’d go on a search to correct it. From there, maybe you would write a book too.

Thanks for the Struggle

When any of the authors I cited above release a book, I’ll probably buy it.

Saint_Paul by bartolomeo montagna

Except for Paul of Tarsus – because it’s all Greek to me.

Their struggle may not make it on to the page, but the journey they went through to make their book happen gives me a new appreciation for all nonfiction writing.

I will continue to read nonfiction to gain awareness of where I can improve, and borrow from the years of experience that has been put on paper to help all of us move forward in our own journeys.

Please don’t worship anyone as some great ‘higher than thou’. Nonfiction authors aren’t heroes, but their journey makes them heroic. Just as your journey makes YOU heroic.

Do you have any favorite nonfiction authors? Let me know in the comments…

Once I get done talking about dinosaurs, I explain how to create messages that people will talk about.

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Is the internet Good, or is it the great Satan? What do you think? Read on to discuss the question of the 21st century.

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Five minutes of questions, and a little patience, can turn your worst experiences into engines for great thinking.

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honest abe by bluepoetie

Feedback is results that can be seen, measured, and acted upon. This can come from 2 different places:

  1. Your own personal experiences.
  2. Other people’s advice and mentorship.

Life is too short to make all the mistakes on your own. If you want to achieve big goals that are beyond your current level of achievement, you are going to need the guidance of other people. This will allow you to apply your efforts to the activities that you know will work, making you appear much wiser.

This may seem crystal clear to most people, but do YOU actually do it? If you have so far, then you’re a step ahead of me. If you don’t keep doing it, you won’t be ahead for long.

Not that it’s a race, but I’ve learned that the biggest thing that I can do this year to gain the most success in the least amount of time is this: Seek out advice from people who have already done what I want to do.

Seek out several sources. You can keep it to simple tweets to the people in question, a ¼ page email, or an in-person interview over coffee and lunch. It doesn’t have to be hard.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket either. If one person doesn’t respond, have several other people ready to respond to you.

For example, several places I would like some help are:

  • scheduling radio interviews
  • learning how to network better
  • learning how to sell to booksellers
  • learning how to get started in public speaking with no previous background

These are just a few. In any of these cases I will look for people who have succeeded in these areas in the last 3-5 years, as well as people who have been doing these activities for decades.

If you want to take action on a simple thinking exercise, make it this one: What are you wanting to learn how to do? What are you struggling with? What obstacle are you afraid of facing? Finally, who can you talk to for answers (people you know personally or who you know of online)? Strangers? Is anyone in your network already who may know the types of people you’re looking for?

Plan B?

January 1, 2011 — 82 Comments

Plan B (to do it or not)

So what do you do if it doesn’t work out?

When you have stated an ambitious goal to someone who is well-meaning, but intimidated by your commitment, you may have heard this question.

The experts on success seem at odds with the concept of Plan B.  In some books I’ve read,  Plan B distracts from Plan A. Others still are strong supporters of multiple plans.

Since it is a new year and you have thought of the goals you want to achieve for the next 365 days, it’s worth taking a look at Plan B

Let’s straighten this out.

Traditional View of Plan B:

Plan A for John Doe is to get into film as an actor in Hollywood, yet culinary school is a great Plan B in case that doesn’t work out.

From this perspective, Plan B may yet detract energy that could be put into achieving Plan A.

When Plan B comes up in a debate, it creates a battle between the risk averse who see large mountains to overcome, and the risk takers who will climb those mountains with or without the supplies they might need.

Plan B redefined:

John Doe IS going to get into film as an actor in Hollywood. Plan A is to show up at auditions, enlist the help of agents and build a healthy portfolio. Plan B is to do commercials and network with independent film producers to build a fanbase and generate enough buzz to get consideration for those roles on the silver screen.

What is the difference between the first Plan B and the second Plan B?

The first Plan B detracts energy from your mind that you could use to further Plan A.

The second Plan B doesn’t compromise your life goals. Plan B 2.0 causes you to think of multiple roads to get to the same destination, all of which would move you closer to the result you want.  With this type of plan B, you don’t put your emotional eggs in one basket. Your plans weave together to form a tight cord that connects you to your goals.

Best of all, the knowledge that you’ve got several ways to make it will give you more confidence to succeed in Plan A, and all worthwhile commitments benefit from confidence.
With this thought in mind, having a plan C, D, and E, even if you never use most of them, will make your mind sharper, give you better confidence, and enable you to move forward with your ideas.