I remember hearing my ocean rowing friend, Sally Kettle, saying that her crewmate/mother and she had banned the word “hope” from their boat.

I was shocked.

I’d been conditioned to think that hope was good. Where there’s life, there’s hope, and all that stuff. Surely hope for a better tomorrow would stop the slow slide into despair?

sally kettle
Sally Kettle

But eventually I came to understand what Sally meant. On the Atlantic I had expended a lot of energy hoping for better winds, better currents, less pain in my shoulders. But hope had paved the way for disappointment. When conditions and shoulders remained unchanged, hope hurt me, and the bigger the gap between the hope and the reality, the greater the pain.

I gradually learned to focus on the things I could control, like how many hours I spent at the oars, and to surrender to the things I couldn’t control, like how many miles I covered in a day. And to stop wasting energy hoping for things to be other than exactly as they were.

Hopes, wishes and dreams – they have their part to play. We need to imagine a better future before we can create it. But then the hope has to be translated into a plan, a way to get from where we are to where we want to be. Hope alone does not create change. Action does.

To hear Sally explain her theories on hope, check out her Four Thought talk on the BBC.


Other Stuff:

Thanks to the organisers, the audience, and the other speakers for a fabulous evening at the 5×15 talks on Monday night. I was first up, so I got the chance to then sit back, relax, and enjoy listening to the others – Gavin Francis, Raj Kohli, Isy Suttie, and Andrew Solomon.

If you live in London, and haven’t yet been to 5×15, do check it out. It’s like a mini-TED, and a lot less expensive. The talks were recorded and will be going online at some point soon – I’ll let you know!

With the (rather tall) Row For James crew

It was also great to meet the Row For James crew, who will row the Atlantic later this year in memory of Harry’s older brother, James, who committed suicide 10 years ago. They’re raising funds and awareness for depression in young people. More details, and an opportunity to donate, here.








  • Hope, as the benign sentiment that things may get better, is a good thing. But as an expectation that it will, it’s a downer. The world by its nature is oblivious to our expectations. That’s a hard pill to swallow. But if you get over it everything a becomes easier. Or as my Drill Sergeant said: “Hope in one hand and crap in the other and see which one fills up first”

  • Very different and very authentic approach.It may be applied in daily life.What I understand from this article is to take action.My values to be taken action are mindfulness,self acceptence,gratitude,compassion,forgiveness.

  • Yes, we always have hope, often for others, (“I hope things get better for you”) or when not having a clear idea of how to deal with something that might happen,(I hope it doesn’t break) but as I’ve heard before, “Hope is not a plan of action”!

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