Rather than adopting Seneca’s approach and imagining a range of possible failures, I’d encourage Rostov to drop his fantasy about explaining the case personally to the head of state. That wasn’t likely to turn out — but I’d say optimism is still a better aid to decision-making. Try imagining a more realistic scenario where you achieve the desired result. In modern day Saint Petersburg, I regularly hear stories of people with different sorts of quite small complaints that they have written to the President about…when they might be better talking to their neighbours or the secretary of the condominium to sort out their difficulties.
But anyway I feel like defending Nikolai here. Maybe Denisov was being over-optimistic in thinking that his letter to the Tsar would do any good — and Rostov just feels he has to do his best out of friendship for Denisov, even if it’s a lost cause.