A Lesson in Hope

I like to gamble. Not to the extent where I’m tempted to take my monthly mortgage payment and leverage it into an Aston Martin. But all the same, I enjoy the lights, the noise, the smell, and the seedy company of a gambling house. And I’ve been found to revel in the thrill of a wager won, and even the despair of a wager lost.

But whether in the loving embrace of lady luck or in the deathly grips of misfortune, I’ve found there’s a lot to learn from throwing the dice, turning the cards, or spinning the wheel.

The most important lesson learned was the analysis of the “gut feeling”. And what I’ve learned about that gut feeling is that there’s no such thing. Often times when people bet big or bet on a long shot, and it pays off, they immediately credit a gut feeling, or sense of the divine intervening on their behalf, as motivation behind the risky wager. But, the reality is there was no gut feeling, and there was no divine intervention. No amount of praying was going to fix those dice or change the face of that card.

But instead what I’ve learned that inexplicable feeling to be, is “hope”. Flashes of hope occur within us all the time, but never are your senses more alive to these flashes than when hanging on the edge of a die, or the flip of a card. Gambling heightens our sense of awareness to flashes of hope to the extent that we will make quick and seemingly irrational decisions based on it.

Now let’s leave the gambling house and travel somewhere a little more productive. Maybe the office, or the field of play, or even the bedside of sick loved one. Have you ever been the champion of irrational hope in those environments? Ever been irrationally optimistic about your team’s chances of landing that contract? Ever been the teammate spurring your fellow members toward victory in a seemingly impossible match? Ever sat face-to-face with someone you love and told them that you’ll get through this together? And meant it? If you have, then you’ve been a victim to these flashes of hope. And what a great victim to be, because these flashes, when shared with those feeling less than optimistic, can be exactly what the team needs to hear in order to take the next step.

When rowing 3,000 miles across the ocean, these flashes aren’t just helpful, they’re vital. Each member of both my teams, at multiple points in the crossing, showed signs of ridiculous, irrational, absurd signs of optimism. Flashes of hope that seemed so out of place, and so at odds with what we were up against, they become hard to justify. But let me tell you, when one of those flashes hit one of my teammates, the others were desperate to be led by them. Flashes of hope leverage human emotion in a way that makes the impossible possible. It allows us to gamble on ourselves against the longest of odds, only this time we’re not reliant on a die to tell us our fate. We rely on one another.

So stay sensitive to those flashes of hope, and when they come, go all in, gamble on yourself, gamble on each other, and watch as it pays off.