The Importance of Hope

A little bit of hope goes a long way.

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Resilience is critical for any great leader. But the ability to persevere doesn’t come naturally to most.

Staying on course, blocking distractions and maintaining confidence without evidence requires a mindset and, most of all, the power of hope.

During the 1950s, a scientist studied the power of hope. Dr. Curt Richter, a professor at Johns Hopkins University, conducted an experiment using two types of rats — wild and domestic.

His experiments focused on how long it takes rats to die from drowning in a controlled environment and how hard they would fight for their life. He conducted his experiments by placing rats into buckets filled with water and seeing how long they survived.

Twelve domesticated rats were used in Richter’s first set of experiments. The first of these rats swam around the surface, then dove to the bottom of the bucket and explored what was there for a while. It lasted a total of two minutes before it drowned.

The second set of experiments Dr. Richter undertook involved 34 wild rats. Wild rats are excellent swimmers, and these savage and aggressive ones had only recently been caught.

He expected them to fight hard for their survival. Surprisingly, though, this wasn’t the case at all. Despite their ferocity, fitness, and swimming ability, not one of the 34 wild rats survived more than a few minutes.

After this, Dr. Richter concluded that all rats would give up without any hope. Their prior backgrounds didn’t matter. Then, Dr. Richter introduced hope to the experiment. Again, he placed them into buckets and observed them as they progressed towards drowning.

This time, though, he noted the moment they gave up; just before they died, he rescued them. He saved them, held them for a while, and helped them recover.

He then placed them back into the buckets and repeated the experiments. And he discovered that his hypothesis was right. When the rats were placed back into the water, they swam and swam for much longer than they had the first time they were placed in the buckets. The only change was that they had been saved and had hope this time.

Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.”

It’s been proven over time that we will follow the leader who can awaken a sense of expectation, a belief within. When we believe in the power of hope, we don’t stop, we find a capacity within to reach higher levels.

Selling hope, and making those we lead understand the pathway to achieving our goals promotes it. A little bit of hope goes a long way.

"Remember that hope is a good thing, Red, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." –Stephen King, from The Shawshank Redemption.

Introducing The Daily Coach Network. Accepting Applications Now.

The Daily Coach Network, led by three-time Super Bowl-winning NFL executive Michael Lombardi and Naismith Basketball Hall-of-Fame Coach George Raveling, is a highly-vetted membership community for executives and leaders who approach their leadership development like athletes.

Limited to just 75 members, the community features exclusive, monthly guest speakers and surrounds you with other high-performance leaders from a diverse set of industries and backgrounds so you can learn from their wins and mistakes — without a major time commitment.

Kicking off the monthly speaker series are New England Patriots Head Coach and General Manager Bill Belichick and James Kerr, international best-selling author of the book “Legacy.”

Launching September 2023. Learn more and apply here.