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Episode 27 — Why Hope Is Actually Weakening You

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About this episode

From politics to Star Wars, hope has been held out as the answer to all our problems. But let’s face it, it took another couple Star Wars movies before things worked out. So when is hope useful, when is it useless, and when does it actually get in the way? We’ll cover all that in this episode.

Hosted by Bitesize Bio’s own Dr. Nick Oswald featuring Kenneth Vogt of Vera Claritas.

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This is an automated transcript and may not be 100% accurate.

INTRO (00:10):
This is The Happy Scientist podcast. Each episode is designed to make you more focused, more productive, and more satisfied in the lab. You can find us online at scientist. Your hosts are Kenneth Vogt, founder of the executive coaching from Vera Claritas and Dr. Nick Oswald, PhD bio-scientist and founder of Bitesize Bio.

Nick Oswald (00:40):
Hello and welcome to The Happy Scientist podcast from Bitesize Bio. If you want to become a happier, healthier, and more productive scientist, you are in the right place. I am Nick Oswald, the founder of Bitesize Bio and with me as the driving force of this podcast, Mr. Kenneth Vogt, my friend mentor and founder of the coaching company Vera Claritas. Today, we will be discussing something deep. It’s why hope is actually weakening you. Okay. What is that all about Ken?

Kenneth Vogt (01:11):
Well, first off, I don’t want to scare anybody cause I know we’re all big fans of hope and yeah. And yeah, there’s, it’s been, hope has been used in, in a positive way, in so many different settings. And I mean, it’s almost almost a caricature sometimes, you know, hope was a big part of politics. Hope was a big part of Star Wars. You know? I mean, it’s something that we’ve, we’ve loved all our lives and we don’t notice sometimes though that hope actually will weakness. And that might sound scary at the beginning because you might think, wait a minute, if hope is actually weakening me, that means you’re going to tell me to get rid of it. And I don’t think I can live without hope. Well, yeah. And so I wanna, I wanna set everybody’s mind at ease. I’m not gonna make you live without hope.

Kenneth Vogt (02:07):
That’s not the point of this and I’m not telling you the hope is bad, but I am telling you that hope alone is gonna cause you some problems. And you got to make sure that you don’t, you don’t over rely on something that has, it has a purpose, but it isn’t a cure all for everything. So I want to start off with, by describing hope in three States. Now this, this should speak to some scientists out there. You know, you’ve got your, you got your, your, your gas, liquid solid mode of thinking about things. Well, hope can be the same way, but I want to, I would actually approach it from an even more, even more hardcore setting. Mathematics. Math may be the ultimate science. I know that may be heresy to some of, you

Nick Oswald (02:55):
Now, you’re sapping my hope.

Kenneth Vogt (02:58):
Well, we’ll think of it this way. If we think of things that can be in a state, that’s either on or off, but then there’s also a state that’s just, in-between, it’s it’s neutral or undetermined. Well, hope can be like that. We can be without hope. I mean, absolutely. You know, without hope. And then we act in a certain fashion as a result of that. And I’m not just talking about, you know, you’re without hope about your health or your finances. I mean, I’m talking about just in your average, day-to-day working routines. You will have times when you’re without hope. When you see something you got, man, that’s not going to work. You know? Well, that’s being without hope now. It’s not so awful to recognize that something’s not gonna work. In fact, that may cause you to take steps to, to fix the problem or to avoid any potential harm.

Kenneth Vogt (03:52):
So being without hope actually has some value. Now there’s the state of you don’t have any hope. It’s just like, well, you know, I I’d like this to work out, but I don’t ever see any reason to, to, to trust. It will workout. On the other hand, I’m not, I don’t see a guaranteed failure either. When you realize you don’t know, that is very, very useful. Recognizing that, you don’t know that that really opens up reality for you. It opens up, it opens up facts for you. So it is good to know when you are, when you’re just missing help. And then there’s the final state, the one we’re all talking about, you’re being hopeful. I really hope this is going to work out well. Okay. You may. Why do you hope it’s going to work out? Well, we hope things are going to work out because we see a benefit.

Kenneth Vogt (04:47):
We think that if it goes the way I want, things will be great. Okay. That that’s not necessarily a compelling reason to expect something will work out though, just because it would be good for you to work out. Doesn’t make it work out. So you have to recognize when you’re doing that. Then when you’re just, when you’re merely hoping when hoping is, is wishing, I wish that it would turn out a certain way. It’s a fantasy it’s yeah. It’s just held out. There’s like, Oh, wouldn’t it be great if, yeah, wouldn’t the world be wonderful if this happened this way and or wouldn’t my life be easier if this happened or wouldn’t, wouldn’t this experiment. If this experiment would just do what I want it to do, it would be so much better. And, and then, then it would, it would allow us to move forward on this, this, this, and this.

Kenneth Vogt (05:45):
Okay. Knowing that that’s the case. That’s when you really have to be careful, you gotta make sure you don’t get caught up in only, only seeing wishful thinking. No, that I’m, I don’t want to turn you away from the idea that, that you can create positive outcomes because of course you can, but you create positive outcomes by the actions you take. And the thinking that you do about it, that, you know, the effort that you put into making sure that you’re doing things that will get a positive outcome. Now, the setting in which we hope matters too, because sometimes it’s just hope. I just hope this light turns green soon. I just, I just hope grandma gets better. You know, I just hope that I get this grant. There, there are different things. So I use the example of the, the recent Corona virus, vaccines people hoped in a vaccine and boy was there a lot of hope going on out there.

Kenneth Vogt (06:50):
And that hope, by the way, it was a positive impact impact there, you know, it, it motivated a rapid development schedule that had never been done before for anything like this. And, and then it’s not just about it got developed, but then it had to be developed en mass. Well, they were able to make that head in emotion. Now they’re developing, getting it out to the public that had to take place. All of these, these things happened in different contexts though, for different people. If you’re a member of the public, the perspective of the public like me, you know, I’m, I’m not a bioscientist, I’m not a vaccine developer. I don’t have anything to do with any of that stuff. So my hope was a layman’s hope. Wow. I sure hope they work this out. I sure hope they can manufacture enough of it.

Kenneth Vogt (07:46):
I sure hope they can distribute it. You know, there’s a lot of it’s out there. It’s not my, not really my problem and not really something in my control. My kind of hope. And in this scenario was pretty much about fantasy. I didn’t, I didn’t help. I didn’t hurt, but I couldn’t impact it. I didn’t have anything much to do with it. Now for most of you that are on the call. And I think I could put Nick in this category, you came from a perspective and edge of it educated bioscientist you still weren’t involved in the actual development, but at least you knew what it would take and you knew what was going on, you know, so maybe you kept yourself informed, you know, and, and, and so you had a more educated approach to that hope. Now, your hope was still there. You still would like to see a benefit for mankind.

Kenneth Vogt (08:39):
You still would like to see it be successful. You would still like to see it be done properly. You know, you didn’t want to see a poor vaccine or a dangerous vaccine. So your hope is a little different than, than mine is just a general person in the public. And then for some of you, there may be a few of you were actually were involved in development. And so your perspective on it was totally different. Now, your hope was that you could do something that you’d never done before, or you could do something more quickly than you’d ever done it before you could do something at a scale. You’d never done it before. So there were still unknowns involved, but there were a lot of knowns. Cause you, you do know how to develop a vaccine. You know what the process has to be.

Kenneth Vogt (09:25):
You knew what the methodologies were, you, you knew what kind of approaches to take. And so, so your hope was tempered by your, your personal engagement, your personal knowledge and, and the things that, that you could actually do to take it forward. Now, if you had had the kind of hope you as a vaccine developer, had, to kind of hope that I had, it had been a disaster, you wouldn’t have taken the steps necessary. You wouldn’t have put into protections and, and, and you know, the limits that you needed to, to get things done properly. You wouldn’t have supplied yourself, right? And you wouldn’t have, you wouldn’t have got up to speed in the things you need to be up to speed on. And that’s what I’m talking about, where, where I’m saying that that hope can actually weaken you, because it will take away from you, things that you really need.

Kenneth Vogt (10:18):
So let’s talk about some of the things you really need in a, in a, in a hopeful situation. First off you can’t hope instead of being educated about something. Now I’m not just talking about, about formal education. You know, it’s not just getting your degree for instance, but it’s availing yourself of available knowledge. There, there may be things out there that are known already, you know, basically steps that have been taken in the direction of the thing that you are hopeful about. That if you don’t bother to learn about that, well, now you’re going to have to reinvent the wheel at that’s the best case scenario or you’re going to, you’re going to blunder on not knowing some things that could have that that could have made it easier or not knowing some things that were already learned that could stop you from being successful.

Kenneth Vogt (11:11):
So I’m not telling you not to be hopeful, but in the moment, make sure that you’re also educated about what it is you’ve got going on so that it doesn’t that hope doesn’t get in your way. You can use that hope is kind of a, an emotional buoy, but that’s all it’s there for it, it, it doesn’t replace education. None of the thing that hope doesn’t replace is a plan. Now you don’t always have to have a perfect plan. But if you have no plan, if you’re just, you know, just shooting from the hip, how often does that work out? You know, if you’re doing something, something important in something, something that has depth to it. Now, I’m not saying that, that you can’t wing it sometimes and sometimes winging it all that’s necessary, but in the cases where you’re, where hope is a factor, chances are it’s bigger than that.

Kenneth Vogt (12:08):
So chances are, you need to have a plan. So you’ve got to, you’ve got to do your part there. And if you allow hope to blind you to the fact that you have no plan, then you’re only going to hurt yourself. And another thing is having hope instead of preparation, you remember, there’s this old adage that says, if you have six hours to chop down a tree, spend the first five hours sharpening your, saw it, do what needs to be done in advance of what it is you’re, you’re working on. And again, if you’re hopeful about something is probably big enough that it needs some preparation. So don’t let hope get in the way of preparation. And then finally I’ll say, don’t let hope get in the way of effort. You know, there’s there isn’t a proverb. I mean, actually a proverb from the book of Proverbs in the Bible that says, prepare your workout of doors and make it ready for yourself in the field.

Kenneth Vogt (13:10):
It only makes sense if you don’t prepare for the thing that you need to do, how likely are you to succeed at it? And in fact, a lack of preparation can kill a plan. It can kill your education that you’ve already put into it. It, it, it really can stand in the way of many things pardon me. And if you don’t make the effort, you know, so what good is preparation. If you don’t do anything or you don’t, what good is a plan. If you don’t put in the effort, what good is education, if you don’t put in the effort. So all of those things need to be there and don’t allow hope to stop you from, from doing the parts that are still necessary. Now we’ve all had situations where there was something brand new that pops up and oh boy, we really are excited. Somebody gets a new idea. You know, we could develop a vaccine based on RNA. That’s kind of a new idea. Well, and everybody got excited. Yes. But if they hadn’t educated themselves, if they hadn’t gotten plans, if they hadn’t prepared, if they hadn’t made the effort, there’d still be no, we’d still be waiting for a vaccine. So that’s the kind of thing I’m talking about now. So I’ve I have monologued along there for a while. Nick does anything you want to add?

Nick Oswald (14:39):
Yeah. I was just writing some stuff down here, as you were, you were saying that. So I have to admit in the beginning, I was kind of wondering what you were, where you were going to go with this. Like, I can see what you mean. It’s I think if we were going to put it in scientific terms, then if you want an outcome or for, for an outcome to happen or to be propel yourself to an outcome, hope is necessary, but it’s not sufficient. That’s what you would see in in biological terms. And so hope on its own. You need it because that’s the fuel,uto gives you, it gives you motivation. It opens up possibilities. It helps to inspire other people that sets out the vision and all that sort of stuff. But if you don’t add to that, hope, those things that you,ulaid out there, education,uplan, preparation, and effort, then the hope can actually be,ube a blinder. It can actually stop you from,ustop the movement from happening because,uone other, one other thing that occurred to me was that if you substitute the word hope for the word confidence, then that kind of, for me, that’s a bit easier to digest why overconfidence could, could actually stop you from moving forward because you, you just, you don’t do any of the necessary background or,uwork or work that’s in front of you to,uto make it happen. Is that, is that kind of where you’re going?

Kenneth Vogt (16:14):
Oh yeah. I like that. That the way you’re presenting that, so confidence becomes hope plus potentially arrogance. And I want to point out that arrogance can actually be useful in science. If you really truly do know what you’re doing, you can be bold in moving forward, but if it stops there, if it’s just a fantasy, I think I’m all that I think I know better than anybody else. Once you think, you know, everything, you just, you stopped learning you, you don’t know anything at that point. And if you think, you know, better than everyone else, then you’ve lost the access of everyone. Else’s knowledge and abilities.

Nick Oswald (16:56):
So to cycle back to that, and you know, the biological definition of it, or, or, you know, the necessary and sufficient definition of this it’s that hope on its own is as necessary, but, but for, for to drive an outcome, but what you need is hope plus to be what you need for fuel efficiency is hope plus education plus plan preparation plus effort. But if you take away, if you have all of those other things, education plan, preparation, and effort, but you don’t have hope, then you’re unlikely to do it either because you wouldn’t have the motivation,

Kenneth Vogt (17:32):
Right. Hopelessness will lead to, to abdication it. Does you just, you’ll just go. Yeah. But what can we do? Sure. I can take all these steps, but why bother? Cause it wont workout, you know, that’s what hopelessness looks like. Yeah.

Nick Oswald (17:47):
Yeah. I mean, to go to your idea of or your example, other of the the COVID vaccine then was a mammoth operation to do this and a lot of people in the scientific community poured cold water on the idea that we could even do it, that it could even be done. And especially in that time scale, but enough people apparently had hope enough and w to drive it you know, and you know, we, we saw, we did have all of the, the education plan preparation and effort all on us, but if we chose not to have hope, then the thing would never have happened.

Kenneth Vogt (18:27):
Exactly, exactly. So, so what happened there? W how did they do it better than just hope that it worked out? Well, what they did is they had intention, intention that that is there’s, there’s an outcome we are shooting for. We’re not just wishing that outcome would have happened, but that’s our target. We’re moving toward that. And intention is, it’s a very clean word in my mind. It doesn’t have the, the emotional weakness of, of just naked hope, but it also has an heavy, emotional weakness of arrogance. It’s it’s like, no, I’m just, it’s, it’s like talking about confidence earlier. It’s I just, I, I can see where we’re headed. I get where we need to go. And even if you don’t know every step along the way, you can see, well, I know some steps and you can take those. And if you take those steps, well, it moves you forward.

Kenneth Vogt (19:34):
You know? So, so intention creates that action and it starts to chart your course, and then once you’re in motion, it helps improve your motivation because you’re seeing progress, you know, you can do things and it starts to clarify things. It starts to, to take problems out of the way it starts to, to offer up solutions. So intention is a very powerful thing, you know, we, and we’ll certainly talk about intention again, but intention is the antidote for naked hope that you don’t have to have the hope go away to have intention. In fact, hope can work very well with intention, but hope will never overwhelm intention. Intention is definitely going to be the leader in, in that in that comparison.

Nick Oswald (20:30):
And so what would you see like like, like let’s put together a practical practical application of this. Let’s say. So you have someone who is in grad school, the first year of studying for their, and they hope that you can get a PhD. They’re very hopeful that they can do it or not that hope. And the, and the promise of the prize at the end is is, is driving them. What would you what else would you say they have to look at to make sure that they don’t allow that hope to kind of to just be all that’s there. And and, yes.

Kenneth Vogt (21:10):
First is if you’re in a PhD program, congratulations, you’re in a program that gets that result. Well, you have access now to education. You’ve got, there’s available knowledge there. You’ve got mentors available. You got, you’ve got your w what do you call the person that helps you is

Nick Oswald (21:27):
Like bitesizebio.

Kenneth Vogt (21:30):
I mentioned your PhD program, but yes, you got bitesize bio, too. You got your supervisor. Yeah. You’ve got a supervisor. And you’ve gotten probably a fellow students that have, have some of them have already traversed some of the road. You need to traverse. You’ve got, you got people you can lean on. You’ve got resources. Did you have access to so use them? The next thing is, if you’ve got an advisor there, the advisor is probably helping you have a plan, because I don’t know how the rest of you would look at it. I know I’d look at it like, wow. Getting from here to PhD, that looks like, that looks like a multi-faceted road. I think there’s a bunch of things I’m going to have to do, but I need to know which things to do and in which order, and so make sure you, you call on, on those who are there to advise you to get that plan together.

Kenneth Vogt (22:18):
So, you know, what’s next. And then on top of that, of course once you’ve just, you’re engaged in your plan, there’s going to be steps that are going to require preparation. Some of them are going to mean, okay, I need to, I need to study up on this. I need to get I need to get skilled in these particular methods, which again, that’s a, that’s a great place to go to bite-size bio for, you know, learn how to do the things you need to do, but but also prepare yourself. And, and, and it may be a matter of preparing the ground to, you know, maybe just preparation for experiments is a big deal in, in your world. Making sure you have everything you need, making sure you have, you know, the, the supplies and equipment and the time to do something properly, you know, that’s all part of, of the, what goes into preparation. And then finally do the work, get in there and do what has to be done. It’s been done before humans do it all the time. It doesn’t take super human effort. You can do it. It’s been done. You can do it too.

Nick Oswald (23:24):
Yep. So basically you have to be aware, remain aware of these other, other things that are equally as important as hope and make sure that you’re addressing all of that stuff. And I mean, I know I’ve been in, I can think of a couple of situations, especially in presentations where I’ve kind of winged it and kind of thought, ah, hopefully this be all right, famous last words and not done the preparation and it’s not been great. And and yeah, so that that’s, I can see where that is going on. But if you, you know, regardless of what the goal is, you need to make sure that, that, that hope isn’t blinding you to these other things, I guess. Right.

Kenneth Vogt (24:05):
And yet have self-awareness. So it’s a matter of sometimes, you know, just because you’re confident in yourself, don’t be hopeful that I know what I need to know, make sure you know, what you need to know. If there’s more knowledge you need, make sure that you know, where the gaps are. If you need to have a plan, make sure you have one and, and make sure that plan has been examined, that it’s been vetted. That it’s, that it’s good enough. Cause it may be, you know, somebody gives you maybe your advice it’s they have a very complicated plan and maybe you feel like I don’t need that. And it may be true. You may not, but have you actually examined the plan you have? Is it good enough? And then, you know, again, preparation is again, awareness thing, knowing what am I really prepared to do?

Kenneth Vogt (24:52):
And, and it’s, it’s tough when you first step on the stage and then are asking yourself that question like, well, am I prepared for this or not? You know? And then of course, you know, effort, effort kind of shows itself. If you’re not making proper effort, it much better for you to notice that you’re not making the effort yet than to wait for somebody else to notice it. And especially if it’s somebody else who is going to be judging your performance. So, you know, look at yourself first and be aware of whether or not am I bringing, am I bringing my best game right now? Am I bringing a good enough game right now? And I’m not talking about, you know, getting worried about about Oh, am I good enough? I mean, you know, come on is this needs to happen is what I’m doing. Good enough to get that. That’s the issue. It’s not a personal thing. It’s not a matter of self judgment, but it’s a matter of, okay, did I, did I stay up too late and am I too tired to do what I needed to do? Did I, you know, did I not get everything together that I need to accomplish this task? You know, be aware of what effort you made.

Nick Oswald (26:02):
Okay. And so the crossover and intension. So what would you say the, you know, so you said that intention is a cleaner way to look at this then than hope or against, I guess it’s more rounded and, and there’s that. So would you see kind of intention as kind of hope plus edge Clifton plus plan plus preparation plus effort plus whatever else.

Kenneth Vogt (26:26):
Yeah. And in fact that that is, that’s a very good way of looking at it. So the intention is not without hope, but it’s definitely not without the, those other four things you’ve mentioned, you know, education, planning, preparation, and effort, intention . I have that and intention, even if it’s, when you establish an intention, you may not have those things, but intention will make you go get those things. It’ll move you to do what needs to be done and to look to look clearly at what’s in front of you and to see where the holes

Nick Oswald (26:57):
It’s interesting. It strikes me that under the, in that equation, you would add intention includes responsibility taking responsibility as well, because you can, you can hope for something without taking responsibility. If you don’t take responsibility, you’re not going to do all of that other stuff.

Kenneth Vogt (27:16):
Exactly. I hoped for a vaccine. I didn’t do a thing.

Nick Oswald (27:19):
Oh, you got it. That was quite good. Well done. There was no guarantee was there? No. No. Okay. That, I think that, that, that’s a really interesting way to look at things actually. And in the show notes, which are available on the this is Episode 27 of the podcast. If you go to and look at Episode 27, then you’ll find the show notes. We’ll lay out the stuff that Ken has talked about here. I think it’s a really good way to look at it, regardless of what the next you know, what you’re hoping for for the next in life. I think it’s a really good formula to look at yourself and see whether there are any gaps in how you’re approaching things, because that can really give you a way to to give yourself a better chance of getting the results you want.

Kenneth Vogt (28:15):
Exactly. And by the way, Nick is hoping this will be 27. I think it’s going to be 28, but we’ll see.

Nick Oswald (28:21):
You’re right. We talked about that before yet. I shouldn’t just hope that I know what what the episode number is going to be. I should actually make sure that I, that I know before I start talking about these,

Kenneth Vogt (28:33):
Nick is a scientist. He’s not a mathematician.

Nick Oswald (28:36):
That’s true, but it shouldn’t be what to count to 28. So yeah. Okay. So this is episode 28, so that’s where you’ll get the show notes from. So I think, is there anything else you want to see on this, Ken? Nope, that’s a wrap. Okay. So we’ll just direct people to the show notes, as I said there, and to, if you want to drop us a question or get more resources that we’ll be dropping in there over time. And finally, to remind you that if you haven’t looked at episodes one to nine already, if you’d go and have a look at those, it has some foundational principles that can I would highly recommend. There are some ideas that can in as synthesized over the years and can provide really good frameworks for you to get results that you’re looking for. So I think we’ll wrap up for today. Thank you, Ken. And thanks everyone for listening.

Speaker 1 (29:36):
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