If I were to heed mom’s advice — if you can’t say something nice, say nothing at all — I would do a lot less talking. For some of us (I won’t speak for you), it is easy to go negative. Quickly.
From the half-empty glass to service that is far too slow; from the inconsiderate neighbor to every other driver in rush hour traffic; from nothing but bad news to political rhetoric — it is easy to see the downside.
On one hand, this is great news for the naysayer, who will never be at a loss for material. Call names. Point to flaws. The truth is there is always something wrong.
Perceiving the glass as half full requires a perspective that discerns possibility — a view of what might be, unlimited by the moment. Not framed by devils known. And simply put, sometimes that is hard work.
Such a perspective strikes a different and harmonious chord . . . perhaps because it is so rare. But we know it when we hear it.
Choosing To Do What Is Hard
In 1962 — barely four years after the invention of the integrated microchip and at least thirteen years before the personal computer — the President of the United States stood up at Rice University in Houston, Texas and announced that the United States space program would put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.
It is impossible to remember or imagine how that sounded. The space initiative was fledgling. The U.S. program was perceived by many to be lagging. It had been less than a year-and-a-half since a USSR cosmonaut named Yuri Gagarin had become the first human being in space.
Cost. Risk. Timing. The distraction from pressing matters.
You know there must have been a chorus reciting the negatives. A man on the moon in less than eight years? Really?
But a new course is rarely charted by a naysayer.
Consequential change is borne of an often audacious vision of what could be.
Name the venue, endeavor or adventure — from the profound to mundane — it is always easier to point to what is wrong than envision, articulate and motivate toward solution.
Certainly, the ability to analyze situations, identify problems, and recalibrate direction are immensely valuable skill sets. But solutions (and that is what we’re about, right?) and constructive dialogue rarely break out on a plank of negative insight.
Sure . . . we all have days when the service sucks or forces conspire to accentuate incompetence. And yes, there are days when fear motivates and negative voices prevail. Those days notwithstanding, the danger in focusing on what is wrong is how easily that morphs into anemic vision.
Perhaps leadership is less defined by how good we are at pointing out all that is wrong, and more by a perspective that seeks out and can build on what is right.
Whatever the venue, professional, social or personal, charting a better course — one that moves the needle, repairs what is broken and mends what is torn — hinges on clearly articulating a vision.
What might happen if we were to tap into the fabric of our most noble aspirations, and employ a vocabulary of solution?
Rose-colored glasses? Maybe. Easy? Not for some of us, that’s certain.
But I’m imagining what tomorrow might look like if I am able to rise to the occaesion, and resist the easy road.
At the very least, it will sound a lot different.
“We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” — President John F. Kennedy