Call me Mr. Realism

Screen-shot-2011-06-07-at-5.05.51-PMGabriele Oettingen wrote a fascinating piece in The New York Times a few weeks back that really struck a chord with this blogger.

Entitled, “The Problem With Positive Thinking,” Oettingen’s article focused on weight loss programs she’d studied and how detrimental positive thinking was to dropping pounds.  Oettingen wrote, “…positive thinking often hinders us.” She also says, “Positive thinking fools our minds into perceiving we’ve already attained our goal, slackening our readiness to pursue it.” To which I’d add, “Amen, sister.”

I often engage in conversations with our senior staff about a new business pitch or defending an existing client. When I think we’ve missed the mark in our presentation and suggest we move on to greener pastures, I’ll often hear, “Steve, you’re such a pessimist.”

Au contraire, I actually see myself as a realist. So instead of wasting time and money creating drop-dead creative follow-ups to dazzle the prospect/client, I, instead, choose to move on. I think it’s a much more realistic way to view the wonderful world of strategic communications.

Oettingen agrees with my philosophy (or maybe I agree with her POV). She’s developed an approach that combines positive thinking with realism. Simply put, it works in the following way: “Think of a wish. For a few minutes imagine the wish coming true, letting your mind wander and drift where it will. Then shift gears. Finally, spend a few more minutes imagining the obstacles that stand in the way of realizing your wish.” The last part is spot on, especially when pertaining to defending a piece of business.

Robb High, a new business guru, advises readers to “Never defend a piece of business. Instead, immediately resign the account and go after their competitors.” While I agree with High in general, I wouldn’t resign the account for a very practical reason: I’d want to collect the 60 or 90-days of billings guaranteed in the contract.

But, I think Oettingen and High are spot on. It makes no sense to smell imaginary roses when the odds are very good you’ll end up picking thorns from your bruised body.

And, that’s why they call me Mr. Realism.

7 thoughts on “Call me Mr. Realism

  1. I read this in “Good to Great” — when Admiral Jim Stockdale was in Vietcong captivity, he learned that the ones who survived were the pessimists. Why? Because they have given up hope. ANYTHING positive is a net gain, so keeping it real — not sunshine and lollipops — is the best defense.

    I’ve worked in enough places where we wasted too much time “saving” accounts that would already be out the door if the client had an ounce of decency to admit we were toast. Most times they were just juicing whatever creativity we had to steal ideas, act like their genius selves came up with it, and then expected Craven New Agency to make it happen. The only fun was watching fearless team leaders turn to jelly before the client, or go into Tourette’s-like rants.

    No, I don’t miss it. Or as the cute little kids in their “Frozen” outfits like to sing, “Let It Go.”

  2. Thanks for the note, Trish. I completely agree re: negotiating with an employee who has resigned in order to induce her to stay. We almost never offer a counter. That said, on one or two occasions it worked, and the employees are still with us.

  3. I never thought about it from a business pitch angle, but we were talking about it from the HR angle the other day. That by offering a counter offer to an employee who resigns, you’re simply buying them more time to find an even better job. They’ve already divorced their mind of the job and are obviously looking.

    And I too, am a realist. It’s the only way to be and I’ve been fortunate that has been seen as a positive.

  4. Everyone knows the RepMan keeps it real. That’s what makes your posts both entertaining and valuable.