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Positive Thinking – 5 Ways to be Plato, not Socrates

Positive Thinking – 5 Ways to be Plato, not Socrates

Positive thinking. The mantra of life coaches, business mentors and bookmakers all over the world over. Positive thinking is the key to success, they insist. Thinking positive brings positive results, depending on your viewpoint, either an immutable truth or an exercise in self-delusion.

The placebo effect is known and recognized, if not entirely understood. And it doesn’t really resolve the dilemma, because although it brings a positive result it relies on induced self-delusion to do so.

In the business world, matters aren’t so simple. For one thing, success built on false optimism is rare and short-lived. For another, positive thinking needs a foundation in fact, reason and experience. So even if you want to think positive, it isn’t always easy.

This isn’t new. The ancient Greek philosophers, Socrates and Plato, resolved the underlying truth of a belief by being dialectical – a conversation between different points of view, to establish the truth by reasoned argument. Socrates’ approach was largely negative, to refute beliefs by arguing their weaknesses. Plato, his pupil, took a different tack. He liked to arrive at a positive end by negating the negative arguments with the force of positive counter-argument.

Success is a Matter of Choice, Not Chance

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This is a conflict met by entrepreneurs, as a matter of course. Everyone who ever had an idea and put it into action has met Socrates. “That idea won’t work”, he says. Sometimes he even explains why it won’t work. The entrepreneur’s response is to be Plato.

The essence of his being an entrepreneur is that he has applied positive thinking from the outset. He has seen the positive in his idea and has recognized its merit. He chooses to accept his own judgement, and his dialectic seeks a positive end.

So the question he asks is not “Can I do this?” but “How can I do this?” In finding his answer he doesn’t delude or lie to himself; he simply approaches each obstacle as a puzzle which, as puzzles do, has a solution. That is positive thinking in practice and the life coaches and business mentors have a point. Lack of experience precludes me from judgement on the bookmakers.

The application of positive thinking is a powerful driver of an entrepreneur success. Self-belief is essential to an entrepreneur mindset; without it, the journey is harder and the obstacles higher.

We’re not all blessed with self-belief, in fact most of us are naturally lacking in it. But the positive thinker can lay the necessary foundations of fact, reason and experience by his own hand. There are many ways to do this but here, from my own experience, are simple examples

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Plan Everything, From the Word Go

Identify and list your objectives on your journey to success, however you define that. Plan the actions you must take on a daily, weekly, monthly and even annual basis in order to meet those objectives.

Every task you undertake will then have a positive purpose and will lead to a positive goal. Keep to your plan. Every task completed will have context and will provide satisfaction and a sense, ever growing, of achievement. This is momentum. When you have momentum it becomes harder to stop than to keep going.

Focus on What You Do Well

If you’ve chosen your business thoughtfully you should enjoy what you’re doing. Focus on the stuff that speaks to your passion, do it to the best of your ability, and your sense of pride and achievement will feed your positive momentum.

If you’re uncomfortable with your ability to do other things – designing a website or writing quality copy, say – delegate it. The internet is stuffed with freelancers who will do most things, well at at little cost. Don’t let your areas of weakness slow your momentum. Delegation is not failure, it’s a positive solution that keeps you on your plan.

Review Everything You Do

Regularly apply critical scrutiny to everything you do. This is a positive process. Identifying weakness allows you to eliminate that weakness and thus strengthen your business, going forward.

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It allows you to strengthen your own knowledge, and understanding, of your business. These are self-belief foundations built on fact, reason and experience. Equally, recognize, take pride and satisfaction in the things you have done well.  “Feel good” is important; it builds confidence and resilience.

Approach Setbacks in the Same Positive Manner

Every day is a school day. We learn as much, and maybe more, from the things that go wrong as the things that go right. Everyone makes mistakes, but we learn from them and learning is a positive process.

Some setbacks are nobody’s fault. On 20 March 2014 London newspaper the Independent ran a story headlined “Psychic Cancels Live Show Due To Unforeseen Circumstances”. It can happen to anyone.

Understand that Reward is Directly Proportional with Input

This isn’t simply another way of saying “more effort = more money”. Input is more than just effort, it’s value. Value is a combination of things, including innovation, uniqueness and usefulness. The more value you develop in your business and the more value you provide to your customers the greater will be your reward.

And reward is more than just money. It’s money plus pride plus satisfaction plus self-respect.  To anyone who wants these things, it is surely the pinnacle of positive thinking to understand and to appreciate, that the means to them is entirely within our own hands.

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After Plato came his pupil, Aristotle. His take was the one we should remember:

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”

Featured photo credit: Karen Ellot via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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