By Maria Valdez Haubrich
Do you always see a silver lining or get bogged down in the negatives so deep it’s hard to reach the surface? Most of us are a bit of both, but overall our natures tend to lean more in one direction.
In our little company of four, we are split down the middle. Two of us immediately point out the positive in a situation and the other two bring up the worst case scenarios. At times it makes for heated discussions (some are doozies!) and other times we all accept the situation in our own way and move on. Overall, the balance is a good one: We don’t get too excited about a new opportunity and throw all our eggs in one basket, or if the naysayers are too, uh, “nay,” the optimists reveal the light at the end of the tunnel and we go for it anyway.
In yesterday’s Los Angeles Times, I ran across a review of essayist Barbara Ehrenreich’s new book Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America, and my immediate reaction was one of indignation and, as one of the Pollyannas, a bit defensive. But reading deeper, her view is that positive thinking in America was always based on insecurity. The more insecure we are, the more we tend to boast and proclaim our victory. Her examples include American capitalism and how everything from poverty to obesity is promoted as being curable by a positive mindset, instead of realistic solutions. The more anxious America gets, the bigger the spin our nation as a super power and leaders of the free world.
I see her point and her call for “vigilant realism”—a balance of neither too much optimism nor too much cynicism, hits home. I’ve known company leaders who surrounded themselves with “Yes Men” who agreed with everything they said and did, which created an atmosphere of intimidation and conformity.
Today, in our burgeoning business, I think our mix of optimism and cynicism clicks just right. We all bring different talents to the table, but more important, diverse outlooks of life and everyone is encouraged to express their opinion and viewpoint—negative and positive. Actually, we don’t know how to do it any differently.