The Flagrant Abuse of Positive Thinking
You might have some memory of Admiral James Stockdale. He was the guy who was Ross Perot’s Vice Presidential candidate in ‘the US 1992 election.
He didn’t fare so well as a VP candidate, but he was quite an impressive military man. He was former president of the Naval War College and was the highest ranking officer in the dreaded “Hanoi Hilton” in Viet Nam.
He spent eight years in Hanoi and was tortured numerous times by his captors.
Mr. Thomas Barnett relates:
“Stockdale tells the story of the optimists who never survived their time in Hanoi, simply because they clung far too much to their dreams of release and in doing so couldn’t handle the brutal realities of what it took to survive the day to day.
“So instead of dealing with the here and now realistically, they tended to cling to the hope that they’d be home by whatever the next holiday was, and when that day came and went, their spirit would be diminished by that measure.
“Over time, they died because their spirit was extinguished by reality.”
Stockdale’s explains his “paradox” this way:
“You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end (which you can never afford to lose) with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
Stockdale was really describing the flagrant abuse of ‘positive thinking.’
And you know what? A lot of entrepreneurs are really just too optimistic. Worse yet, the business opportunity pitchmen exploit this and sell ridiculously unrealistic plans to starry-eyed people.
What a shame.
Then people flip to the other side, which is the CNN version of the world: Everything is hopeless. All you can do is talk your doctor into putting you on prescription drugs.
Both extremes are recipes for crash and burn.
I seriously doubt anything you ever face in business will be as dreadful as the Hanoi Hilton. Still, nothing can be worse for you than to walk into battle with a plastic sword and helmet, and then get cut down with tanks and machine guns.
You wanna survive… then thrive?
Here are some wise precautions that will prepare you for adversity and ensure your success:
* Assume that vendors will be slower than they promise – and that you may have to stand on their heads to get things done (not that you should accept this if it’s going on though!)
* Assume click prices and advertising rates are going to go UP, not down
* Assume Google’s gonna slap you sooner or later, even if you’ve got the most righteous product on God’s green earth
* Assume your best source of customers could dry up with no advance notice
* Assume the buying cycle is longer than you think it is, not shorter
* Assume it’s gonna get harder to raise capital, not easier
* Assume some unforeseen problem, like a product defect, legal challenge or financial setback may pop up
* Assume your top 3 plans might not work out, so have #4 and #5 in place too
Once you’ve assumed all that and planned for it – NOW you can look forward to great success, knowing that you’ve anticipated virtually every obstacle and can make it through. Because when you put those constraints on your plan, you’ll NEED to add a magic ingredient.
This will force your creativity to add one.
One of my Roundtable Members (Roundtable is my private $12K per year mastermind group) asked me about the slippery slope of making bolder promises in his sales copy, which as they got more unrealistic, would also be more appealing and boost the response.
I said, “Well if you make unrealistic promises, you’ll just get a bunch of unrealistic customers, and that’s what you’ll be stuck with – people who dream all day and never do anything. Meanwhile the ones you really want will never believe you anyway.”
That’s always been my approach. Tell people like it is, so they understand what’s ahead of them… then work with people who are not going to die of a broken heart with the 4th of July comes and goes and they’re not out of Hanoi just yet.
The liberating thing about this is, people who are prepared for tough sledding will make it. You will revel in your victory when it does come. With the right overall strategy, victory can be almost inevitable.
P.S. Our Roundtable members gather together in October and we kick off with a custom business rebuild in September. Apply at www.perrymarshall.com/roundtable/
About the Author
Entrepreneur Magazine says: “Perry Marshall is the #1 author and world’s most-quoted consultant on Google Advertising. He has helped over 100,000 advertisers save literally billions of dollars in Adwords stupidity tax.”
He is referenced across the Internet and by The Washington Post, USA Today, and the Chicago Tribune.
Andrew Gallop @ 2:10 pm
Hello Perry, What a great article. I had forgot the Admiral Stockdale story. What an eyeopener, he was very wise. You put it right about promises in what you plan to give people when they join you. Show good leadership skills, but do not overload yourself. Thanks, Andrew Gallop
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