“I don’t know the word ‘quit.’ Either I never did, or I have abolished it.” – Susan Butcher
“There are no mistakes in life, just learning opportunities.” – Rich Dad
“Start each day with a positive thought and a grateful heart.” – Roy T. Bennett,
The surge of positivity quotes like these in the recent decades is indicative of the sweeping wave of positivity gripping the startup culture of the western world. They are all different versions of the same, “Think positive; the glass is half-full, cultivate a positive mindset,” mantra. Everyone from celebrities to serial entrepreneurs never gets tired of extolling the virtues of positive thinking, even attributing their own extraordinary success to it.
However, the rapidly-proliferating quotes, motivational videos, and blogs on positive thinking overlook or even deliberately hide a harsher truth: The World Of Business Is Largely Negative!
Now, that doesn’t mean that you have to be pessimistic in life. Or that you should have a negative outlook on business. Instead, it means that you don’t have to give a positive spin on every challenge, hurdle, or failure. Sometimes, accepting situations for what they are, especially negative situations, can paradoxically have a lasting positive impact on your mental health and business success.
Yes, failures are powerful teaching moments, but does that qualify them to be classified as positive moments?
The Epidemic of Irrational Optimism
Let’s take a moment to look at the big picture. The world has undergone tremendous changes for the better since the last world war. Mankind has stepped on the moon; a large number of countries have liberalized their economies to unlock new opportunities for their people; we’ve conquered a staggering number of diseases inflicting us. If we generally have a hopeful outlook on the future, then it’s definitely not our fault.
However, all those milestones have convinced us that the future “will,” “must,” and “should” be brighter than ever before in the history of mankind! The alternative is not only impossible, but entirely unimaginable.
That’s one of the reasons why we are not witnessing concrete steps to fight climate change, for instance. We feel that “somehow,” it will sort itself out.
And, that irrational optimism is now pervasive across every aspect of human life, especially in the developed world.
This irrational optimism, when unchecked, has wreaked havoc on global proportions. The 2008 sub-prime mortgage crisis in the USA is a perfect example of unchecked irrational optimism gone haywire. And the culprits here include large banks, politicians, and government departments; in other words, the so-called experts!
Why You Should Reign in Your Positive Thinking?
“Of course, I will succeed in my business. How can I fail after all that preparation and hard work?”
“I have a great product or service. There’s absolutely no reason why they’ll not pay me for it!”
“You fail only when you quit, and I don’t intend to quit!
Thinking along these lines is what pumps up your psyche and keeps you going when you are an entrepreneur fighting your battles under a barrage of setbacks day in and day out. That’s a good thing. However, take a moment to consider this fact: 8 out of every 10 small businesses do not survive more than a year! Now, that’s a shocking fact you must learn to digest.
No amount of self-affirming, positive mindset can overcome hard facts. Our standard approach to handling such negative news is to ignore it or suppress it with self-affirmation. We have grown allergic to the very idea of failures. Instead of looking at a business failure as a failed experiment in a series of experiments, we look at it as a catastrophe.
That’s why negative thinking is vital for a healthy balance.
Anticipating challenges, giving them their due importance, and preparing for failures are how you build resilience. All your positive thinking, daydreaming, and hopeful attitude must be balanced in equal parts by proactively anticipating obstacles and negative thinking. Because running a business is almost entirely about solving the problems you encounter on a daily basis. You can be sure that some of those problems will be unexpected, and when you face them, you won’t crumble like a box of croutons but be strong and resilient enough to overcome, maneuver, or suffer through them in grace.
Embracing negative thinking and melancholy keeps you grounded, which is critical if you wish to be among the 20% of the new businesses that survive the first year.