The one problem with assumptions

they're the mother of all F*CK UPs

Assumptions. Paul Claireaux

Ask any experienced (and competent) project manager for one word to explain why so many projects fail (which many do) and they’ll probably say, ‘Assumptions’.

In case you’re not familiar with it… It was an almighty assumption (that the engineers were too cautious in advising against launching ‘Challenger’, because of freezing temperatures on that day, in 1986) that caused the Shuttle to explode after take-off – killing all seven of its crew members.

What assumptions do we make that F*CK up our lives?

Well, that would make for a very long blog post. So, I’ll just offer a few examples here and welcome your thoughts below.

We make assumptions that we know the answers to complex problems, in all aspects of life and business – because we assume that most questions can be answered with common sense.

The only trouble with common sense is that it doesn’t make any sense – as we saw here

Mencken. Clear, Simple & Wrong. Paul Claireaux

We regularly make assumptions about what other people are thinking and invariably assume we know how others will react to certain situations, or what we do or say.

Some people even assume that they know precisely what you’re going to say before you say it – and happily finish all your sentences for you.

Know anyone who does that?

All this, despite the fact that we have little or no understanding of ourselves!

Odd that, isn’t it?

Franklin. Three hard things. Paul Claireaux

We also make assumptions about the aim of a project without seeing it clearly written down. We do this a lot with our own (career, business or personal) projects too.

Very often, you’ll find that people in projects are not even pulling in the same direction or have any shared sense of the goal – Go figure!

If you’d like to be part of (or run) more successful projects, try reading this.

10 steps to project success (1&2)

We also make very dangerous assumptions about people who stand on a stage being qualified to be our sage.

Who's that on the stage. Paul Claireaux

We make assumptions about millionaires knowing all the secrets to life

Which means we completely ignore the fact that luck might have played a big part in their financial success.Buffett Swimming naked. Paul Claireaux

Finally, a lot of people like to assume that others will do their job well – without any need for nudges or quality checks.

Why don’t we challenge?

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure – because I do!

I suspect some find it ‘uncomfortable’ to challenge others, either about their work or personal life.

As a general observation, I think a lot of British people go to extraordinary lengths to avoid causing offence.

We’re even careful to apologise when someone else is clumsy enough to bump into us, in the street.

Ever notice that?

Perhaps people don’t like to challenge others because they just assume that the challenge will cause offence… ignoring the possibility that a challenge might be exactly what the other person needs – and would welcome?

I’m not sure, but these assumptions are a real problem, aren’t they?

The thing, is we’re wrong to assume that challenges can only be unpleasant or destructive moments, and we’re wrong to assume that those who ‘challenge’ us are our ‘persecutors’.

I know it’s quite common to see the world that way, but there is a very different way to look at our relationships – and they’re beautifully outlined in this acclaimed book, ‘The Empowerment Dynamic’ by David Emerald.How to improve relationships. Paul Claireaux

We just have to flip our view of the world, so we can start to see our persecutors as ‘Challengers’, and perhaps even challenge them, if they’re not challenging us in a caring and compassionate way – as is often the case.

Can we stop making assumptions?

I doubt it.

It seems to be the way our brains are wired to save energy. We grab at what we think are quick and easy answers to all life’s complex challenges.

It’s worth a try though, especially when you consider that one of the causes of depression is making assumptions about there being simple black and white, answers to most questions in life.

I know I’ve been there, studied it, and escaped it with the help of this wonderful book.

So, let’s try a bit harder to help others, and (politely) challenge each other on behaviours that don’t help us or them.

We might just make the world a better place, and I don’t see any other way.

After all, history is littered with examples of horrors when we just keep quiet.

So, please speak up.

Burke. Triumph of Evil

Can I help you?

Well, if you’d like to work with a coach who will not make assumptions about you, your background, skills or abilities… but will challenge you to improve your situation and achieve more of what matters to you, let’s have a chat.

I don’t have a lot of space in my diary, but I will help if I can.

All the best for now.

Thanks for dropping in,


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As a thank you, I’ll send you my ‘5 Steps for planning your Financial Freedom’ and the first chapter of my book, ‘Who misleads you about money?’Newsletter Sign up. Paul Claireaux 2020Also, for more frequent ideas – and more interaction – you can join my Facebook group here

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