Author: Dr. Ajit Varwandkar

We often use this proverb – “Hope for the best and be prepared for the worst”. I have severe objections to this saying. Mainly, I am not convinced about using the word ‘worst’. Usually, people are not very confident at the start of a project. There always is a sense of insecurity. The future is always unsure. Who knows what will happen? – that’s the mindset. At such a state in life, the impact of the word ‘worst’ can be a real destabiliser.

Let us take the example of Laddu, who is appearing for a crucial job interview. The fact that he is scouting for a job indicates a sense of desperation. With such a set mental ecosystem, he meets someone whom they trust heavily- say, a parent. At the time, when Laddu starts for the interview from home, the father says – Son, Do hope for the best and be prepared for the worst. 

Worst is the last word uttered by Laddu’s father. This word carries the ultimate negative consequence as well. As a result, Laddu keeps brooding over the “worst” consequences throughout his commute to the interview venue. Thus, subconsciously, he starts preparing himself for a failure-prone performance. 

Laddu’s father may have used the proverb with very positive intent. He wants to prepare Laddu to accept a setback. What if he fails in the interview? In that event, Laddu must not get disappointed and discouraged. Parents and well-wishers generally have pious intentions. However, sometimes unintentionally, their words deliver devastating consequences to their loved ones. 

If I were given the right to rewrite the above-referred proverb, I would have rephrased it as, ‘Hope for the best and be prepared for the next’!! 

A simple change of word can transform the mindset of a person. When we replace “worst” with “next”, the communication essence of the saying gets a new dimension. In the new context, you suggest that the person keep the momentum. The word ‘worst’ indicated a ‘dead end’ to the process. Usage of the word ‘next’ encourages the person’s readiness to keep moving. It prepares the person to accept the consequence without denting their self-respect. 

Let us take yet another illustration. Suppose a class 12th student is to appear for board examinations. He may or may not have prepared well for that particular subject. When he leaves home for school, his mother blesses him and says, “Hope for the best and be prepared for the next”! I am sure you will agree that the usage of the word ‘next’ in this situation is much better than that of ‘worst’! The student would get an idea to accept the performance (and, as such, the result) and start focusing on preparations for the subsequent examination.

Friends, our words can change our worlds! You might as well come across some such phrases or quotes that need amendment. I suggest you do it right now. Here are a few more sayings which I am not convinced with:

To be truly positive in the eyes of someone, you have to risk appearing negative in the eyes of others.
(Not done, why start with an acceptance of being treated negatively by some?)

You cannot be good to all
(A disengaging quote)

Man proposes, God disposes
(This spreads depression and disappointment)

It is not what you say but what you hide is important.
(why encourage people to hide more?)

Fortune favours the brave.
(Fortune can be friends with anyone)

Practice makes a man perfect.
(Perfection needs focus, energy, system and consistent repetition)

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
(It might make you timid as well) 


You only live once.


Do contact me in case you have any career queries.

Dr. Ajit Varwandkar is the Director of He is a leading career counselor and can be contacted on 9826132972 or email him at

This column was originally published by the author in The Times of India