Being a Prisoner of Hope, Trapped in a False Reality

Tom Panaggio

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Being a Prisoner of Hope, Trapped in a False Reality
by Tom Panaggio

Hope can be a deceptive reality, especially when our expectations of leadership and business have been shaped by an intense desire to succeed. But hope is a world with no tangible consequences and where persistence is a false virtue. The reality of leadership demands we forgo hope for risk. We can't hope that success will come; we must take the risk to make a change so success is the likely result.

A prisoner of hope is someone unknowingly trapped in a deceptive world where reality is masked by that person's desire to succeed. Such individuals are optimistic, convinced that what they want to happen will happen, yet it will never happen because they are not doing, only hoping. For example, a salesperson whose big sale is always a day or two away from closing yet never does: People like this are living in a false reality, locked in a perpetual holding pattern with their never-ending effort to land the big "whale" while other real opportunities pass them by.

Through out this series of articles I have maintained one constant position; success comes to those who recognize a worthy risk and then have the courage to embrace it. The requirement to embrace risk doesn't end once you have reached an initial level of career success; you must step out of the comfort of hope and into the reality of decisive action. The emotional investment to pursue success in one's career is a key driver in the actions you take. Emotions can cause you to avoid accepting risk.

Know these traps so you can recognize them before falling into them. Even with the best attitude and plan, there are times in everyone's life when, as progress slows, confusion sets in. You may feel frozen and afraid that any move you make will be wrong. These situations more than others require you to take a risk, and this type of risk is the most difficult one to take. You might find ways to avoid action, and this is tantamount to sinking your own ship. In this installment, I discuss two different ways an avoidance urge shows up and how to get over it.

The Trap of Ideal Conditions and Conditional Thinking

As you read this, in every community across the entire country sits a business plan hidden away in a box or on a hard drive. The author of this well-thought-out plan is waiting for the right conditions: funding, free time, better economic conditions. To the risk-averse entrepreneur, the dream of beginning her own business will be a perpetual desire that will remain unfulfilled and collecting dust in the attic because they are trapped waiting for ideal conditions.

Opportunities are not only an advantageous circumstance but also chances to correct, rectify, or prioritize a situation that needs attention. Besides forgoing an opportunity for success because we are waiting for ideal conditions, many business leaders fail to solve problems or correct mistakes because, in their minds, the timing wasn't right.

Self-reliant means the responsibility is on you; it cannot be assigned to anyone or anything. A real leader avoids being trapped by waiting for the most advanced computers, the big office with the fancy desk, or perfect business conditions, and proactively makes things happen. While tools, technology, and accessories might be helpful, they do not guarantee success. Effort guarantees success-you have to keep your foot on the accelerator longer and more often than your competitor.

Over Planning

Planning a vacation is sometimes more fun than taking it. The experience you gain from planning your trip by searching travel websites and reading travel magazines is a stimulating virtual vacation. There are no delays or long lines, and you don't have to leave home. The reality is that vacation planning doesn't include stimulation of all your senses, and seeing a picture of the seventh wonder of the world is not the same as standing next to it. The virtual vacation you plan never matches a real one, no matter how many problems you encounter.

When you build a business plan, you might experience the same euphoria as when planning your vacation: The upside is unlimited, all projections and forecasts are sunny, and you expect smooth sailing. After a few tweaks, you will soon be the proud creator of a hugely successful plan. The only problem is that planning a business or strategy is a lot like planning a vacation. There's no way of knowing what challenges you will face or how it's going to go until you actually embark on the journey. For many, the solution to avoid the risk of reality is to keep planning. To be absolutely clear, planning is a good thing. However, problems begin when so much time goes into planning and making sure we account for every detail that, as a result, the plan is never executed.

By avoiding risk, we are living in a false reality. The temporary comfort we gain from rationalizing our inaction does nothing but postpone the inevitable. Hoping that something will change to improve your situation will result in defeat, the end of your dream. Success only comes via constant forward progress, which requires making something happen. As a leader, your example of enthusiastically seeking opportunity to execute, improve, and deliver results will be the beacon that guides all who follow you. Therefore you cannot allow yourself to be trapped by hope and the artificial security it provides. Ask people who have stood in the open doorway of an airplane five thousand feet above the earth and jumped. They will tell you it was frightening but once they leapt it was an amazing experience and they can't wait to do it again. Next we will address those actions that free you from the false reality of hope and let you and your career soar.