Blog Post

“Hope is not a strategy” What I learned at NAFDMA pt 2 of 3

Lee Rubin on stage at NAFDMA with the 5 C’s of Building High Performing Teams dropped a quote that stuck with me.

It is shocking how little we actually know. It is unbelievable how little it takes for us to believe. As you consider all the uncertainty in the world, you should be suspicious of incredibly certain people.

In his keynote speech, Lee Rubin warned us that

“Hope is not a strategy.”

As the tide of information overload rises, there is increasing pressure to relieve the stress of uncertainty in our lives in whatever way we can.

  • Don’t like her idea? She’s dumb.
  • Don’t like his politics? He’s a tool for the establishment.
  • Trouble training workers? They don’t make kids like they used to.
  • Can’t find enough workers? No one wants to work anymore.
  • Business growing like crazy? I’m a genius.
  • Was the event under-attended? You chose the date wrong.

Complex issues, market swings, and human resources challenges boiled down into 2 to 8 words?

If you’re starting to get suspicious that this reductive mindset doesn’t adequately tackle each of these complicated issues – trust your instincts.

The dangers of the reductive mind. We’ve gone over this; your brain is lazy. It wants to reduce thinking to a minimum to conserve calories because it developed during caveman times.

News Flash: We’re no longer short on calories. The habit of reductive thinking tricks us into reducing complex thoughts into sound bites. Twitter encourages 144 character snippets.

Your brain is trying to think less and react more. As you ‘doom scroll’ through endless feeds of snippets, the claims, the headlines, the pictures, the videos must become more outlandish to penetrate your desensitized mind.

Think about this:

YOU have complained that you “Don’t have enough hours in the day” on the same day you picked up your phone to ‘check in’ on Instagram and looked up 45 minutes later, unsure which room of the house you were in!

Social commentary over, now on to business.

  • Hoping that next year will be better than this year is foolish.
  • Hoping that next year’s crew will work harder is foolish.
  • Hoping that your event will grow attendance is foolish.
  • Hoping that your relationship with your teenager will improve is foolish.

All this “hoping” is a way for your lazy brain to feel like it has solved the uncertainty problem around your business.

You: “We have a real staffing problem coming this Spring.”

Brain: “Hopefully the right people will turn up this year.”

You: “That feels possible.”

Brain: “Powering down now.”

But, like Lee said, “Hope is not a strategy.”

You: “We have a real staffing problem coming this Spring.”

Brain: “Hopefully the right people will turn up this year.”

You: “That’s B.S., and you know it! You need to come up with a better freaking plan than that!”

Brain: “Uh, right, what did that lady say at NAFDMA about hiring and recruiting? Didn’t Hugh write an email about that? Bob was talking about his recruiting at retirement communities…”

That’s a strategy.

In his book, Extreme Ownership, Jocko Willink says,

Once people stop making excuses, stop blaming others, and take ownership of everything in their lives, they are compelled to take action to solve their problems.”

When I speak at schools, I use this quote after asking the students about some of their challenges during high school. Inevitably they reference,

“I had a terrible teacher,”

“My parents never helped me with homework,”

“I was always picked on,”

“I never got the chance to sing/play/throw/pitch,”

and so on.

Then, I say, “Sure, but what did you do about it?”

These kids are hoping, and therefore passively waiting for, a magic teacher, a magic girlfriend, a magic friend group, a lucky break. Hope is, in fact, their only strategy and the only strategy they can foresee in the future for themselves.

During these Career Day talks, my point is to encourage students to realize that they have much more power over their lives, their actions, and their outcomes than they ever imagined.

I got caught “hoping” this past year. All the factors discussed led right up to it. I was too busy to plan the marketing for our blueberry season. I figured that “What I did last year was fine and should grow the season for us without much effort,” so I put it on autopilot, changed nothing, and… got nothing.

Once two weeks into a four-week season, I realized that nothing new was growing, selling, or happening; it was too late. Suddenly I was filled with easy explanations that sounded like this.

  • It must be too hot.
  • People are lazy and don’t want to pick fruit like they used to.
  • You were focused on peach season, which is bigger anyway.
  • Blueberry season isn’t worth your valuable time.

My reductive mind sold me out. Not only did my lazy brain prevent me from doing the thoughtful, creative work to market my blueberry season, but it was trying to excuse away my inaction with even lazier excuses!

Friends, Hope is not a strategy. I’m guessing you’ve experienced the hollow feeling when it is too late to correct your lack of planning, preparation, and positive action.

If you find yourself being reductive to prevent or reduce problem-solving thought, call yourself out. If you find your staff using excuses or justifications for inaction, call it out – appropriately.

“There are no bad teams, only bad leaders. The leader’s attitude sets the tone for the entire team. The leader drives performance—or doesn’t.” Leif Babin, Extreme Ownership.

Give yourself and your team the time and space to plan each major activity, crop, event, and season. Develop a written strategy, a plan, for each. Expand your team’s critical thinking by expanding the planning timeline.

hope you find encouragement in the fact that you have more power and control over your lives, businesses, family dynamics, and personal outcomes than you imagined.

While “hope” is not a strategy, being hopeful, being positive, once you set the wheels in motion, is critical to success as you adapt your plans to changing circumstances.

Have a great week,


PS Thinking about a Sunflower Festival? What if you could work with a group of motivated operators and have access to 5 YEARS worth of vendors, best practices, seed discounts & LIVE meetings to ensure you grew your event? Check out the Sunflower Mastermind group CLICK

Look at the sheer intensity of the event panel Q&A! What a fun session in which I got as many ideas as I shared. Did you get to hear about our historic event flops? Maybe later…

Related Posts