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Archive for March, 2011

I’ve given up hope…

March 27th, 2011

 Hope is so overrated.

 

I keep hearing all my friends talk about it, tweet about it, and blog about it like it’s the next great thing.

 

Let’s face it…if “hope” is your last best strategy, you are a cataclysmic failure. Hope is all fine and good in the right context, but when you really lay it all out on the table, hope is about the crappiest guidance system you could ask for.

 

Nothing in life is guaranteed. As my CFP constantly reminds me: Past results do not predict future outcomes. But let’s get real for a little bit. There is not a better indicator of future outcomes than past results. None.

 

The abusive boyfriend is the one MOST likely to hit you again. The aggressive driver is the MOST likely to get in an accident. They guy with perfect attendance at work is the one MOST likely to show up first thing tomorrow. Past performance doesn’t guarantee anything, but it’s a pretty good place to start.

 

Hope has nothing to do with it. You can “hope” until you are blue in the face, but it won’t do you any good if your day-to-day, minute-by-minute actions are out of synch with how the world really works.

 

Here’s an idea that won’t sit well with many of you: Make decisions (especially the important ones) based on real-world, proven patterns and leave “hope” out of it all. You don’t marry someone and “hope” they’re the mate for you. You date them, question them, talk to them, watch movies with them and then TALK about the movie you just watched so that you KNOW what they think and you KNOW how they act and you KNOW what they want in life and you KNOW what they are willing to do (and what they are absolutely NOT willing to do) to attain their goals. You don’t “hope” their goals and dreams and aspirations and boundaries are in synch with yours. If you do, you’re in for disappointment unless you are decidedly lucky.

 

The problem with “hope” is that it leads to false conclusions. It leads us to ignore legitimate evidence that undermines our position of hope, and leads us to find and even create false evidence in our minds that supports our position. Hope is the mirror image of paranoia only worse. When we worry (paranoia), we set up defenses. A worrisome person works to protect themselves from danger, and often from dangers that don’t really exist.

 

The potential loss from “worry” and “paranoia” is significant, but limited: a little time, a little money, an little joy. But the losses that can amass from false “hope” can be monumental. With hope you can bet it all and if your hope is unfounded, you can lose it all. With hope you can very quickly make decisions that will have consequences that linger long after the hope has faded. Because hope is not rational, it can rise quickly and fade just as fast. And because hope is not at all linked to reality, it can result in horrible consequences.

 

Over the last two weeks I’ve spent twelve days in a series of state parks around Texas that have a reputation for interesting mountain biking trails. I always wear a helmet because (as a former special education teacher) I know all too well the results of a traumatic brain injury. I am not paranoid about this matter, but I am consistent in wearing the helmet. I would never ride and “hope” that I’ll be fine, nor would I sit in my camper too fearful of the trails to get out and enjoy life. Neither extreme is healthy or productive.

 

Instead I look at the risks, mitigate them with rational safety precautions, and then enjoy myself to the fullest extent possible.

 

Every time I head out to the woods I set up a few automatic stock trades that might or might not fill while I’m out on the trails. I have a few buy orders if the price drops low enough and a few sell orders if the price jumps high enough. No matter what happens I’m going to win. I either pick up a good stock at a great price if the market drops significantly, or I sell a stock at a great price if it jumps significantly. And if it chugs along at an even level, then I’ll collect the dividends and interest. But I never have to “hope” the market does anything!

 

I fully expect the market to swing up and down like it always has. I will capitalize on that consistent pattern. But I do not make financial decisions by “hoping” that my decisions are accurate. Instead I base them on patterns that have proven true over time. That means I’m wrong quite often since these patterns are never 100%. I miss opportunities from time to time. But I never suffer traumatic losses, because I never allow “hope” or “fear” to guide my decisions.

 

If you have nothing else going for you, then by all means, “hope” for the best. But if you are in a position where you have ANYTHING worthwhile to lose, please, base your decisions on something more substantial.

Getting Things Done, Success