In a scene in the great TV show Cheers where Sam is down on his luck, Diane says in a chipper tone to cheer him up, "At least you still have your health."

Everyone at the bar -- Norm, Cliff, Woody, etc -- suddenly groans, like they just saw a puppy die.

"What? What did I say?" Diane asks, confused and surprised.

Carla explains, "When you say someone has their health, it means they have nothing else. They've hit rock bottom. You're telling them their life is as bad as it can get. What a horrible thing to say!"

As a businessman and entrepreneur, I've come to see hope the same way.

Mainstream culture sees it differently. Desmond Tutu said

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness

and most people feel inspired. Same when Franklin Roosevelt said

We have always held to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world, beyond the horizon.

Noble things to say. So why do I devalue hope?

Imagine you pitched a venture capitalist: "We hope to achieve something."

Imagine you tried to sell customer: "We hope this product will work."

Imagine reporting to your investors: "We hope to generate a return for you."

If all you have is hope, what do you have? It's like saying you have nothing left. I don't gamble with my businesses.

Those claims of hope don't sound that inviting to me. As a manager and leader, I don't try just to create hope in my team.

I know I can't guarantee outcomes. Competition, unforeseen and unforeseeable events, weather, and all sorts of other things undermine my predictions.

So how can I do more than hope? I focus on what I can do and work with expectation. I know I can deliver my best and lead the team to perform at its best. That's expectation, not hope.

You already know to accept what you can't change instead of worrying, to take on what you can change, and to know the difference. Relying on hope undermines that. It leads you to depend on what you can't change.

If you can't be sure you'll deliver something, instead of hoping for an outcome, be confident you will do your best on what you can control.

Ask what you can do. You can lead your team and focus on what you can do: your effort, your work. Then you deal with expectation.

I suggest you aim to expect, not hope. Strive for confidence. Set your sights on hope and you're gambling, which may lead you to fail.

(Incidentally, the quotes from the show are as best I remember from the 80s or 90s, when I last saw it. But I can't forget the them, as a testament to its meaning.)

Published on: Apr 19, 2016
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