During my undergraduate days I remember watching one of my professors work through a mathematical proof on our lecture hall’s chalkboard. This particular proof involved quite a few steps. At one point, as he scribbled the formulas and described his process, several of us noticed that he had made a mistake, thereby rendering it logically impossible to derive the correct result of his efforts.
As he neared the hoped for outcome, the professor paused, apparently realizing that he had somehow gone astray. He looked back at his earlier work. And then back again at where he had left himself. The seconds creeped by as we all waited and wondered how he was going to own up to and undue his error. After a few more awkward moments he finally exclaimed: “and then a miracle happened.” And then, without further explanation, he skipped the last steps and wrote the desired final answer on the board.
Over the years, I’ve noticed twisted versions of this scenario play out in many forms, in ways big and small.
The company that says they are committed to growth and innovation, yet has no real process or meaningful budget to support this goal.
The friend who constantly laments their life situation, yet keeps doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome.
The sales forecast that’s based on faith, not science.
The talking head who meets resistance to his ideas and simply repeats himself, just more loudly.
The marketer who promotes average products for average people–and promulgates tired one-size-fits-all approaches–and waits for remarkable results.
The political leaders who think we can bomb people into loving and respecting us.
All of them have made fundamental mistakes along the way. All of them can’t own up to and address their errors. If they are honest, all of them are counting on a miracle.
Sure, there is a chance that lottery ticket will pay off. Maybe, just maybe, repeating the same unsuccessful tactics will finally yield a breakthrough. And perhaps there IS a divine force who–after they’ve picked the winner of this week’s SEC showdown and chosen among the Shias and the Sunnis–will turn His/Her/Its attention to whatever it is you are working on and fundamentally alter your course.
Errant steps, periodic lapses in logic, flat-out mistakes and the occasional embarrassing failure are all normal parts of the human experience. And there’s no good reason to fight our humanity. But there are lots of reasons to examine our beliefs and challenge our default tendencies. There are plenty of reasons to get rigorously honest with ourselves.
From time to time, in some way shape or form, consciously or unconsciously, we are all hoping for a miracle to happen. There is nothing fundamentally wrong with hope.
But hope isn’t a strategy. And expecting a miracle to happen doesn’t really count as one either.