While this post is about my writing to potential business prospects, you can substitute your own subject and have it be just as fitting because the distinction between hope and intention is relevant to every person and action.
Last week, I was contemplating emailing 20 potential clients for my business, most of them the CEOs of big legal or consulting firms, because I was telling myself “I haven’t done any prospecting for ages and I should do some”. I’ve already told you the thought “I should” is a warning sign I’m about to do something inadvisable, but as is often the case, I was blithely charging on nonetheless.
Cold canvassing, as any business owner can tell you, will drive up every fear you’ve ever experienced, and worse, those you fear you haven’t yet feared. I wrote various versions of an email, spent hours wondering which approach was better, sent myself test emails, and still after a few days, I hadn’t sent it.
Then I had lunch with some entrepreneur friends and got present again to the possibility of my business, and I realised I’d been about to do something I’ve done many times in the past. I think of it as lobbing something slightly disreputable over the fence and seeing if it will fly. Like throwing a dead cat and seeing if it will bounce :) I’d been about to throw the email over the fence and then hope like hope someone would pick it up.
I’d been about to send out the email without creating any intention for it. No wonder I’d hesitated; no wonder it’d had no life or joy for me.
It was all about hope and nothing about intention.
I got afresh that something only lives to the extent there is an at-stake-ness. Having something at stake is what makes something a game, what makes it enlivening. Without the at-stake-ness, it’s mere busywork. I promptly created the intention that as a result of getting the email, two of the 20 prospects will do business with me, and straightaway, I wrote the email and sent it without further ado.
Later, I checked and saw 27% of the recipients had opened and read the email which in itself is a great open rate. I have no doubt that if I hadn’t created the intention upfront, the open rate would have been far lower.
You may be asking: what if you don’t end up winning the business of two of these prospects? To which I would reply, so what? It’s not about being right or having every action be a “success”; it’s about being in the game, truly in the game, and about being up to something that matters to you.
Inside intention, all these goodies emerge. Outside intention, there’s simply hope and failure.
Image: Cahill Expressway (1962) by Jeffrey Smart