Hope is NOT a Success Plan!

Years ago I worked for a CEO who was known to remind his teams that “hope is not a business plan.”

He was emphatic that business planning in the company be based in the expectation for positive results, but built out with an understanding of the commitments and resources needed to create those upside outcomes. It was not acceptable for teams to present hopeful representations of what they want to deliver.

I’m reminded of this constantly when I’m in conversations with people about their aspirations and desires for success and fulfillment. I hear their hopeful talk about the expectations they have for their work and what their lives will be like when that happens. When I ask what their plan is to get there and what they’re doing to make it reality, the conversation stops.

Silence. Uncomfortable sighs. Shrugging shoulders. Fidgeting. Full stop, for a few prickly moments. And then it comes. “I guess I just hope it works out.” GAHHH!!

People! It is time to face the fact that hope is NOT a success plan.

Far too many of us, for way too long, have consented to hoping for the success we want. We submit to a back seat on our own bus to success and assume that working hard and being a good person will lead to the greatest possible results.

We go on autopilot, and bury ourselves in work. We hope for a break in the mayhem thinking that’s when we’ll do something. We hope for projects that will challenge us. We hope to be tapped for opportunities to lead plum initiatives. We hope that in the process we don’t get laid off because then we’ll be really stuck without a plan.

While hope must be revered for its openness, expectation, ambition, and positivity, hope alone DOES NOT create success.

Yes, hope creates the possibility of achievement and represents the potential for growth, but it is critical that we recognize that there is there is no direct output from hope. There’s no inherent action in hope. It is a state of forward anticipation that on its own goes nowhere. Yet we so readily give over our future to it.

Before I get accused of being a “negative Nancy” or a “dream crusher”, let me be crystal clear. This is not about abandoning hope. This is about waking up to the fact that we must do more than hope!

Tie your desired outcomes to tactical details about what you will do, when, and with what resources. Add action to hope. Check your progress. Be attentive to what you’re doing as you follow your plan. Decisively adjust course as you go.

It’s time to re-engage and take back the wheel on your road to success!

Stop Saying These 3 Words Together! (Your Success Depends On It!)

We high performers—the goal oriented, get-it-done, “don’t believe me just watch” crowd—are great at going after what we want and whatever we make our aim. That’s what makes us so successful, right?

But there’s a problem. In the midst of all of our disciplined achievement, we have a hang up that actually stands in the way of us reaching our FULL potential. That problem? The three-word statement “I don’t know.”

Why is this a problem? For a start, “I don’t know” firmly roots us in indecisiveness. It affixes our vantage point and keeps us from making forward progress. Another problem is that this statement gets us all in our heads making up rationale in support or rejection of the options we think we have. We clamor for information that will help us to “know.”

But hold on, you say, this is what we’ve been taught to do! As professionals effective decision making depends on robust analysis of alternatives based on available data. Going through that process allows for decisions to be made with an awareness of the benefits and risks associated with each option and a choice to be made accordingly. This is a proven process and one that I am not advocating to be abandoned. What I’m asking you to suspend is the application of this process ad nauseam, when you have enough “information”—including what your gut is telling you. Especially when facing decisions related to your success.

When “I don’t know” spreads into our individual career management efforts—or lack thereof. This is where inaction as a result of indecisiveness REALLY bites.

When facing career path questions, indecisiveness consumes our confidence, blurs our view of and how we use our talents, and it can thoroughly engulf our sense of purpose and potential for happiness.

And THAT is serious business!

When I meet people and tell them about my work helping clients make deliberate choices and to actively create careers on their terms, they often give me various forms of some common “I don’t know” statements. These examples illustrate how sneaky (and sinister!) indecisiveness can be.

  • “I really want to get more fulfillment out of my work, but I just don’t know how to go about it”
  • “I keep thinking I’ll look for a new job but I don’t know what I want.”
  • I don’t know what my real passion and I don’t want to try something else if it’s still not ‘it’”

What’s so fascinating here is the actual decisiveness that exists at the root of all of these statements. Underneath all of these there is a fundamental inclination, desire, or dare I say, a “knowing” about what the next most important move. There is a decision hidden in all of these. A decision that would move the person forward likely into something important.

There is a choice ready to be made, but “I don’t know” stops it. So I’m calling on you to turn the tables and stop “I don’t know-ing” altogether.

What I know to be true is that often the things we claim most fervently that we “don’t know” are the things we actually know more clearly than anything else. Yet indecisiveness reigns. We bury the valuable pearl that is what’s real for us under all the “shoulds,” “what ifs,” “not nows,” and “if onlys” and we think that when we have more data or gain more input that we will know.

Sure it’s frightening and it feels unnerving to think that what we’re feeling compelled to decide might actually be what we KNOW we will do, but SHEESH, is the alternative not more terrifying?

Is it more comfortable to continue going to jobs that don’t challenge us, accepting working at levels below our capability, and dragging through the week on auto-pilot?

What would you do if you let yourself know what you already know…If you no longer used those three words together words?

Stop telling yourself that you don’t know! And start creating success on YOUR terms!