Hope Is a Deceptive Reality That Can Trap the Most Savvy Entrepreneur

Tom Panaggio

September 20, 2018

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"I hope."

These two words seemingly evoke a vision of a glorious future filled with certainty and success. Heck, the word "hope" was the linchpin concept an entire presidential campaign was built upon. Yet, basing one's entrepreneurial quest on such a hollow concept will not yield the desired result: success.

Hope, in the rough and tumble world of business is a false reality. In the real business community, success can only come to those who do through execution, rather than hope for success.

We become prisoners of hope when we have an intense desire for a predetermined conclusion, yet we fail to take the necessary steps or put forth the required actions to turn a wish into reality. Hope is just wishing for something to happen and lacks the risk naturally associated with the opportunity.

With hope, there are no perceived consequences, and determination is nothing more than an empty quality. We must take decisive action to pursue success; not hope that success will come to us.

Each week at our sales meeting, there was always one salesperson who, filled with hope, was certain the big sale was just a day or two from closing. All that was needed was more time to focus on bringing this "whale" on board. The client was "right there and ready to commit, and then, everything will be right in the world." To the detriment of his overall sales effort, he was imprisoned by the deceptive allure of hope. He was a prisoner of hope.

As a prisoner of hope, we live in a world where reality is hidden behind a mask of intentions and desire. Optimism convinces us that if we just hope for the best, then good things will happen. Yet the reality of a competitive business environment does not allow for an entrepreneur to hope; it demands we act.

The result of living by hope is we never accomplish our intended goal (success) because we are trapped in a perpetual holding pattern waiting for all the right conditions, or we get caught in a whirlpool of planning. Meanwhile, real opportunities simply pass by the prisoner.

I submit to you one concept that defines the entrepreneurial spirit: 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 business 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 entrepreneurial journey is a key driver in the actions you take. However, the deceptive emotion of hope can cause you to avoid accepting a risk.

There are times in every entrepreneur's journey when they hit a rough point where the enthusiasm of progress is replaced with the anxiety of complications. The simple becomes intricate. Where clarity reined, confusion now resides, and decisiveness is replaced with lethargy. These times are when avoiding the trap of hope becomes most critical.

Now, more than ever, you must embrace risk and release yourself from any fear of failure, and make something happen through action. Here are two situations you must always avoid when you feel the trap of hope beginning to close in on you.

The Trap of Ideal Conditions

Sadly, the failure of many would-be entrepreneurs happens before they take the leap of faith. Boxes in closets, hard drives, and scraps of paper are filled with ideas and business plans that will never see reality because the author is trapped and waiting for the ideal conditions be it money, time, or a better economy.

To a risk-averse entrepreneur, the dream of owning a business will be a perpetual desire that will remain unfulfilled and collecting dust.

The trap of ideal conditions isn't limited to the would-be entrepreneur, either, as experienced entrepreneurs can also be trapped. Many business leaders fail to solve problems or correct mistakes that currently exist because, in their minds, the timing wasn't right.

The truth is: they fear the risk of change. Opportunities filled with risk not only present a new circumstance but also a chance to correct, rectify, or prioritize a situation that needs attention.

As the business leader, you own the responsibility for keeping your business moving forward. Your business cannot be assigned to anyone else or some extraneous situation; that is the core of leadership.

To be successful long-term, you cannot be trapped by unnecessary distractions or wait for ideal conditions. You must keep forging ahead, even in the most unpleasant conditions, because your competitors are always ready to grab your market share.


We love planning vacations, and sometimes, the planning is more fun than the actual vacation. A virtual vacation doesn't include all the delays, long lines, bad weather, or even the cost of a real vacation. However, what a virtual vacation lacks is the stimulation of all your senses. Seeing a video of the seventh wonder of the world is not the same as standing next to it. A virtual vacation never matches the thrill of an actual one, no matter how many problems you encounter while taking the real vacation.

The same thing holds true when planning a business or making plans in a business. Creating a business plan causes the same euphoric experience as planning a vacation. There are never any problems or difficult times when we create a business plan. The upside looks great, the projections and forecasts head in the right direction, and we just don't seem to predict any potential failure along the way.

So, why not keep the fun going by always planning? Plans are important, right? You have got to have a plan.

The answer is: planning is fantasy, and to succeed, we must execute and make things happen. By avoiding the risk of execution for the potential hope of overplanning, we are trapped in a false reality. The momentary comfort we get from rationalizing our inaction does nothing but postpone the inevitable.

Hoping that something will change to improve a situation means you have become a prisoner of hope. Success only comes via constant forward progress that requires making something happen and embracing risk. Enthusiastically seek an opportunity to execute, improve, and deliver results; that is how entrepreneurs succeed.

You cannot allow yourself to be trapped by hope and the artificial security it provides. Free yourself from the false reality of hope, and let you and your entrepreneurial dream soar.

Tom Panaggio has enjoyed a 30-year entrepreneurial career as co-founder of two successful direct marketing companies: Direct Mail Express and Response Mail Express. He is the author of The Risk Advantage: Embracing the Entrepreneur's Unexpected Edge.

Opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of WITI.

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