As Cy Wakeman says in her book, “No Ego“, “Stop believing everything you think.“
There we were on a business call and one of our associates was acting like the deal was a foregone conclusion. And, in fact, the deal looked good, the other party seemed interested, there was no good reason it shouldn’t work out.
Only it didn’t work out.
Our associate had assumed the other party was in, but they weren’t yet. Maybe if that assumption hadn’t been made, we would have picked up on the prospect’s concerns better and made the deal happen. That wasn’t a fun learning experience for any of us.
People make assumptions happen all the time. Why? Because there’s a narrative in your own head, built up from your experiences, from what your friends say, from what you hear on the news, from all sorts of places, that tells you how things are supposed to go. So when events seem to fit the pattern, you think you know what is going to happen. You assume.
And often that assumption is wrong—way wrong. And you are shocked. Why are you shocked? You’ve heard plenty of stories about assumptions being wrong. You know how this works.
They said the Jets will lose to the Colts, but then Super Bowl III happened. They said the USA cannot beat Russia in hockey, but then the miracle on ice happened. They said the Giants can’t beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl, but then the Giants did just that—twice! I could go on. This stuff happens every day, in circumstances large and small, in sports, business, and life.
Don’t assume. If you have to make a guess about something—say, how long a project is going to take or whether an equipment upgrade will be cost-effective or if you will earn the prospect’s business—remember it’s only a guess, a working model you’re using as a tool until you can get better information. You can’t predict the future. You can’t tell what’s going on when you aren’t there. Feeling sure that things are going one way is no guarantee that they really are.
The only time an assumption can really work in your favor is when someone else underestimates you. Then you get to show them their assumptions were wrong!
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