Victoria Noe

Award-winning Author, Speaker, Activist

What's the Best That Could Happen?

Apr 25, 2022 by Victoria Noe, in writing

I was in New York City in February, on a bus headed down Broadway towards Columbus Circle. Up ahead, I could see a digital billboard on 59th Street; okay, a lot of them. But the words on one caught my eye:

What’s The Best That Could Happen?

I did a double-take, assuming I’d misread it. It must have read ‘Worst’ not ‘Best’.

I was wrong. 

When we debate making an important decision, we often ask ourselves to imagine the worst-case scenario. But it got me wondering: do we ever ask ourselves to imagine the best-case scenario?

I always thought ‘fear of success’ was a joke. Are people really afraid of being successful? Well, maybe not the success itself, in whatever way they define it. Maybe they’re afraid of what it will take to get there.

For me, it’s been an irrational fear of my to-do list growing. Don’t laugh: it’s always a long list. I have enough to do. Why would I want more?

Yes, if I get that grant I’ll have reporting requirements. I’ll have to keep meticulous records, to prove I spent the money according to the parameters of the project they approved. I’ll have to be sure that the funder is listed in the acknowledgements of my book, and in event programs. What if something happens - like a pandemic - that destroys my plans, and I have to get a new project approved?

Not long after COVID hit, I found out I’d been approved for a small grant. It was supposed to cover some expenses for book signings and talks on the east coast. By the time I was notified, almost the entire trip had been canceled. Now what? Do I have to give back the money? That would definitely be the worst case scenario, and not one I’d envisioned being possible.

Luckily, that didn’t happen. But I did have to figure out how to adjust to this new reality, which meant a new project that stood a chance of being approved.

It took a while. I had to shuffle that to-do list. Instead of public appearances being a priority, I prioritized things like creating the audio version of my last book, and upgrading my tech equipment for virtual presentations. Luckily, the funder approved.

I’m a big believer in ‘hope for the best, prepare for the worst’, though the last two years have proven that it’s impossible to prepare for every contingency. But that to-do list came in handy. I was able to replace now-impossible tasks with projects I hadn’t had the time or courage to begin. And I committed to new ideas that would have been unimaginable two years ago.

I’m not exactly saying that COVID was the best thing that could happen, though in many ways it was, because my normally pessimistic self began to feel optimistic. 

And I wonder now, if the worst thing that could happen became the best thing after all.