BL&T No. 193: Hope Is Not A Strategy

Agency Leadership

This post originally appeared in my newsletter, Borrowed, Learned, & Thought. BL&T is sent weekly on Mondays. In every edition, I share lessons learned in agency leadership, life, and e-commerce. This post does not include all the details shared in the newsletter sent via email. Subscribe here.


"When athletes have the mind-set that they expect to perform well, victory is automatically an option. For others, hope is their mind-set. Who would you pick to win that competition? I certainly wouldn’t rely on hope."

From "With Winning In Mind" by Lanny Bassham [Book]


One of my favorite phrases from working with our CEO Coach, Gerry, is "Hope is not a strategy." It’s obvious when you hear it, yet we still catch ourselves leaning on hope when talking about initiatives and desired outcomes.

Hopefully, they sign this week.”

“We’re hoping our proposal will resonate with the client.”

Hope we get feedback soon so we can hit our timeline.”

"Hope is not a strategy" has prompted me to pause and reflect on my word choice.

More often than not, the word hope is a sign that we haven’t considered if our actions are enough to achieve what we want or if they're even the right moves. Maybe there's a conversation we should be having that we're not, or a tactic we could try that we haven't thought about.

Without zeroing in on hope, there's a part of us unconsciously relying on chance, and even if we get to where we want to go, we may not understand why.

In our personal lives, it goes the same way.

When I look back, prioritizing deliberate action over hope has helped improve various aspects of my life, whether it's being a better partner, improving fitness, or other areas of personal growth. I've learned I can't make a few changes and let hope take care of the rest.

In whatever I'm after, progress starts with being honest about my current situation and what it will take to go further. Without a concrete plan, hope remains just that—hope. To truly achieve what I want, I find it helpful to zoom out and reflect, outline some actionable steps, measure my progress, and adapt as necessary. Sometimes hope is a starting point for defining my goals, but it takes discipline, deliberate action, and continually showing up to turn those aspirations into reality.

Recently, I've found this mindset freeing. I've been reminiscing on what's worked and hasn't over the last year or so at Barrel and thinking back on everything from experimental projects to feedback conversations with clients and teams. Taking these insights to reimagine how we can better service our clients and operate as a team has brought a surge of momentum.

I know unforeseen challenges are ahead of us, but consciously removing 'hope' from our vision of the future is energizing. The rest is a matter of staying positive, learning, reinventing, and never giving up on the journey—qualities that have defined my last 11 years at Barrel and keep me daily.


What is a goal I have right now? How can I turn that hope into a concrete plan with actionable steps?

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