Why You Should Be Hopeful About The Future

My professional life is consists mainly of fixing things: noticing what works elsewhere, listening closely to a given situation, and then applying those principles uniquely to foster improvement. That means that I'm usually focusing on what's wrong...before I do my best to fix it.

But it's such a breath of fresh air to step back and soak up all the reasons why we should be hopeful. Hope is what drives thoughtful, forward-thinking principals. Why else would we work so hard to think through changes to our positioning, or service offerings, our lead gen, our people, our processes, and ultimately a succession plan? (Join me in Atlanta on June 28 for an intimate look at your succession options.)

I'm a huge believer in the practice of gratitude, which is wrapped up with hope and optimism and vision and confidence. Gratitude is that "half full" perspective that effective leaders sometimes need when they lift their eyes up to "next", putting "now" in the proper perspective.

Notice I've said that you should be hopeful, which is not the same thing as optimistic. Yuval Levin once said that optimism is the wrong way to think about the future because it robs us of agency. Optimism implies that unfolding events are beyond our control; hope suggests goals that we can work toward.

So why do I say that you should be hopeful?

You should be hopeful because in March, 2020, you were sitting around wondering if this was the end. We were thinking about food supply, wiping the virus off our Amazon packages, thinking about how long to wait before layoffs, and listening to every signal we could. The uncertainty that ruled the day had us losing sleep at night, wondering if this was the end. Yeah, that only lasted six weeks or so, but it was intense.

You should be hopeful because your firm is more nimble now than it ever has been. Most everybody on your team is strong, you've learned how to use contractors better, you're finding a good compromise about remote work, and most of the lousy clients you've accepted out of panic have moved on.

You should be hopeful because a proper gauge of the state of humanity doesn't come from social media or even the media, but rather from your neighbors and fellow travelers and friends and family. There's very little correlation between real life and Twitter or Facebook or the NYT or the WSJ. The vast majority of people are kind, thoughtful, hard-working, and fair. They aren't consumed by a single-lens view of life, immediately judging others if they don't embrace the same imbalance. Your clients generally care about the right things and are eager for your help, glad to pay your fee, and reasonable when you make the occasional mistake.

You should be hopeful because your greatest enemy is within, and you have full control of that person. You have agency. You have choices. If you have your act together, neither your clients nor your team members can strike a fatal blow to your entrepreneurial venture. You can choose the right positioning, put a strong marketing plan in place, assemble the right team, and institute all the right policies. If your firm doesn't reach its potential or even fails, it will be your fault. I'll grant you that, on the surface, this doesn't sound all that hopeful, but I think it is. The choices you make matter, and they move the needle. Not everything is in your control, but a whole lot of things are.

This is beautiful, penned nearly 200 years ago by Thomas Babington Macaulay in the Rational Optimist:

We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best days. But so said all before us, and with just as much apparent reason... On what principle is it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect nothing but deterioration before us?

Yes, there are challenges, but they are solvable, and addressing them with hope is our best strategy.

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