“Evil” was the word the Anglo-Saxons used where we would use bad, cruel, unskillful, defective (adj.), or harm, crime, misfortune, and disease. Of course, this is not the meaning of evil that Hugh MacLeod had in mind when he formulated his concept of a plan so forget about the word and focus on the valuable insights that his counterintuitive mind offers. As he explains, people need a plan guided and informed by “that crazy, out-there idea that allows them to actually start doing something they love, doing something that matters. Everybody needs an Evil Plan that gets them the hell out of the rat race, away from the lousy bosses, away from boring, dead-end jobs that they hate. Life is short.”
MacLeod speaks from extensive personal experience as he discusses his struggles years ago the lessons he learned from them. He has paid a hefty “tuition” to obtain the real-world knowledge he gained and now shares, as he did in an earlier book, Ignore Everybody. In that book and in this one, he provides an abundance of his brilliant illustrations. Some are hilarious. Some have the impact of an ice pick stuck in the ear. All are precious gifts. They remind me that, long ago, Oscar Wilde offered this admonition: “Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken.” MacLeod presumably agrees but, I suspect, would cite another admonition from the Gnostic Gospels, part of the New Testament apocrypha: “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
In other words, MacLeod is affirming the importance of having personal authenticity while making and then sustaining a full commitment to doing whatever we love most. It took him years to develop what Ernest Hemingway once characterized as a “shock-proof, built-in crap detector.” It takes courage to acknowledge one’s own crap and then eliminate it. Life is short and our most precious resource is time. So, MacLeod insists, feed the hunger that, paradoxically, “will cost you your life” in order to save it from the forces that feel threatened by anyone who has “crazy, out-there ideas” and evil plans to make them a reality.
MacLeod believes that “evil plans are not products; they are gifts” and that is what this book is, a gift from him to each reader and offered with love. He acknowledges, “I’m not the world’s most talented person at what I do. Neither are you. That doesn’t make the gifts we have any less valid. Giving the gift is an act of love. And love is the only thing that matters. That’s why we have an Evil Plan…Because it matters. Because love matters. What else is there to say?…”
Hopefully, Hugh MacLeod will respond to that question in his next book. Meanwhile, let’s all be grateful for this book in which he explains how and why “being your best self, playing your best game” is where it’s at…and where all of us should be.