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May 24, 2016

Hope for the Best and Prepare for the Worst

Image from Wikipedia
This quote probably ranks somewhere in the top 3 among surgeons when operating on "challenging" cases. It simply is not enough to know how to perform an operation, but also plan for any possible complications that might occur when minutes if not seconds count. Certainly, the surgeon does not want to waste time coming up with a plan B or C on-the-fly if something untoward happens... but rather, it has already been figured out even before the initial incision was made.

That got me wondering where exactly did this quote come from... Doing a google search comes up with numerous sources including Lee Child, Denis Waitley, Steve Hunnewell, etc.

But perhaps the true source of this quote comes from John Jay, an American statesman, diplomat, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, signer of the Treaty of Paris, and first Chief Justice of the United States (1789–95).

The first mention of this quote was in a letter he wrote to Edmund Randolph on July 30, 1794:
...The subject of the debts is attended with difficulties. The minister has been informed that the law in Virginia relative to the evidence of book debts has, since the war, been made more strict than it was before. If the law has been thus changed, and made to apply to pre-existing transactions, there is room for complaint... I have read your thirty odd papers to and from and respecting Mr. Hammond and his complaints. You have, in my opinion, managed that matter well; continue, by all means, to be temperate, and put him in the wrong. Let us hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I confess I have hopes, but I also perceive circumstances and causes which may render them abortive... [link]
He used this same quote a few years later in Jan 1, 1813 in a letter to Reverend Dr. Morse:
The aspect of the times certainly continues portentous. To hope for the best and prepare for the worst, is a trite but a good maxim; especially when associated with the reflection that He who governs the world can restrain the wrath of man as well as the rage of the ocean. It is a favourable circumstance, that the delusion which, like an epidemic, has prevailed throughout our country, is abating in many of the States. Calamities sometimes afford good remedies for national distempers. [link]
And again in a letter to Judge Peters in Dec 26, 1820:
Here also the distress of the times is felt very sensibly. Habits of expense, unproductive speculations and debts injudiciously contracted, press hard both upon debtors and creditors. How long this state of things will continue, or how much good or evil will eventually result from it, cannot now be calculated. They who hope for the best, and prepare for the worst, will doubtless mitigate some of their troubles, and probably obviate the occurrence of some others. [link]
Reference:
John Jay, The Correspondence and Public Papers of John Jay, vol. 4 (1794-1826) [1893]. Online Library of Liberty
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Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

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