In Defense of Negative Thinking

This site’s loyal readers (both of you) probably noticed by now that I can be negative sometimes. Actually, you don’t know the half of it, this site is my positive side.

Go Grumpy!
Go Grumpy!

Anyway, Seth Godin just tricked me (again) with a post titled The Problem with Positive Thinking. Spoiler alert: His “problem” with it was that it’s hard. Which is sort of like saying your biggest weakness is that you’re too damn wonderful.

I used to condemn the curmudgeons and naysayers and worship at the altar of Tom Peters and the rest of the “Ready, Fire, Aim” crowd.

And there are a few professional boosters of Boosterism like Godin that make a good living out of enthusiastically championing enthusiasm. And there are a few people who’ve succeeded with that Mickey Mouse attitude. And there’s certainly a large place in the world for positive thinking and enthusiasm.

But I’ve moved to the dark side. Too many decisions, in business, personal lives, and politics get made by reasoning that should be left for sitcoms and science fiction. “Will it work? It has to captain. It’s our only hope.” Score that a 10 for dramatic effect, 0 (or negative ten, actually) for real world usefulness. Our company’s greatest successes came when we learned to think negatively about most of the “great opportunities” that came our way and instead focused on disciplined blocking and tackling. I guess everybody chooses their favorite bogeyman on which to blame the financial crisis. I would argue that a little less positive thinking would have been a good thing in the financial sector.

Yes, being positive certainly has its time and place. But positive thinkers — perhaps you should think more generously and charitably of us curmudgeons.