Hope for the best . . . ?

“Hope for the best and prepare for the worst”

I was party to a discussion the other week about this maxim.

I dropped out fairly quickly and just listened because it was obvious that I was in the minority on this one.

You see, most people believe this is a really good philosophy!

But it isn’t.

In fact, this is one of the worst paradigms that society has ever come up with.

It might sound good but it’s totally counter-productive.

It goes along with –

“I’d like this to happen but I won’t think about it too much because I might be disappointed”


“It sounds (or looks) good but I can’t see it ever happening”


“We can’t possibly do that because something bad might happen”

So even when a historical custom or tradition has been played out for hundreds of years the ‘safety officers’ and ‘risk assessors’ step in and ban it because even though nothing serious have ever gone wrong before, ‘something’ might go wrong and “we can’t take the risk”.

This thinking is helped along by the, again entirely false, ‘Law of Averages’ paradigm (much beloved of some sales trainers) which says that the likelihood of a ‘positive’ event increases with the number of ‘negative’ events that occur (and vice versa).

Or in sales – the more times you get a ‘no’ answer the more likely it is that you’ll get a ‘yes’ which gives rise to the ‘Go for No’ idea – probably the worst advice that can be given to anyone involved in sales!

In fact, the salesperson isn’t succeeding because they are probably doing something wrong and need to change what they are doing in order to achieve a positive result.

And the Edison example gets thrown in here forgetting to point out that Edison didn’t repeat the same thing several thousand times before his light bulb worked. He tried thousands of different things!

Edison was a creative thinker. He didn’t prepare for the worst or he would never have achieved anything – he prepared for the best, because he knew that it would happen. He didn’t even conceive the idea that it wouldn’t.

‘Preparing for the worst’ is negative thinking, or as Wallace Wattles defines it ‘competitive’ thinking, as it is fundamentally based on the scarcity paradigm that resources (physical and mental) are fixed ‘there isn’t enough to go round’.

The thing is that negative thinking, once it gets ‘inside you’ takes over.

Somehow it always seems much easier to think of a myriad of reasons why something will ‘go wrong’ or ‘not happen’ than it is to think of the reasons for success.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said “All the water in the world cannot drown you, unless it gets inside”, and that’s exactly how negative or competitive thinking works.

Once you let it inside you drown.

People start to imagine all the things that could ‘go wrong’ and instead of directing their activity to focus on what they actually want they focus on what they don’t want.

And guess what – it happens!

Of course, some people insist that this is ‘being realistic’ or ‘practical’ but you and I can be just as realistic and practical about those things we do want to achieve and ignore the ‘reality’ or ‘practicality’ of “what could possibly go wrong”.

As you and I proceed towards our goals we know that we always have the capability (like Edison) to cope with the ‘little’ things that go ‘wrong’ along the way.

You and I take the approach that we’ll ‘face that problem when we come to it’ – if in fact we ever do ‘come to it’.

To paraphrase Mary Morrissey, you and I do what we can with what we have, knowing that we always have way more than we are aware of.

Knowing that we don’t have to envision everything that could possibly ‘go wrong’ before it happens and have a solution ‘in the bag’ that we will probably never need to use.

Remembering that if we focus on the desired outcome and not on ‘the worst’ then ‘the worst’ is far less likely to need to be dealt with.

So the counter maxim, for you and I, might be –

“Prepare for the best, and get on with it”.

I am.

How about you?