Hope vs Intention


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


11 thoughts on “Hope vs Intention

  1. Your post is the clearest, most concise presentation of this very important topic. Thank you for taking the time to share.


  2. Love how difficulties fall away when our purpose, intentions, are remembered. How could we forget how simple life can be.
    Thank you for sharing the insight you receive from real life situations.


  3. I really like the painting that accompanies this post.

    I believe that intention is very important; the well spring of our thoughts and actions. And would suggest that it has nothing to do with how many people open your letter or answer it, but more about how you would like to serve the single customer that would respond to your approach. How you’d like to strengthen his own capacity for communication with others by giving voice to what he already has within, but hasn’t yet found the exact expression… wishing you good luck and good fortune.


    • Hi Shimon. The painting is a famous one here in Australia. There’s something wonderful, and Alfred Hitchcock-like, about the man. I like what you say about a potential client strengthening his own capacity for communication with others by giving voice to what he already has within …

      In a way, it doesn’t matter what one’s intention is; what matters is that one has an intention.


      • We’re talking about two different things. What you call intention is what I call possibility. Possibility is in the realm of being, and I’m distinguishing possibility and intention. Intentions arise from possibility. I also don’t use the words personality or soul, or the concepts they usually describe, and I understand many people do.


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