How NOT Thinking Positive Can Lead to Career Success

WHAT? How can not thinking positive be a boon to your career??? You must think I’ve gone off the deep end.

Well I haven’t. Trust me…we’ll be ok by the time we get to the end of this. 😉

Let’s start with the story of an executive who was so caught up in his vision of huge career success and how he was going to make sure it happened EXACTLY the way he envisioned it, he wound up missing important cues that could have told a less “positive”  (more flexible) person where he needed to zig instead of zag.

Uh..I need to make a slight detour here before getting to the actual story.  Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely believe in being positive when running a business or  tackling a project of any kind. And I also believe in having a positive image of things working out.

But that positive mindset has to allow for flexibility, so the vision we have can be adjusted as new data and experiences are added to the picture. Some folks are so caught up in their own version of what career success means, they miss the chance to recover from miscalculations or changing conditions – and they miss the chance to redesign their success vision based on reality.

Now back to the story, which I found in this June 23, 2009 Forbes article by Steven Berglas:

The Power of Not Being Positive

Berglas tells us about an entrepreneur named Gene who finally found career success by letting go of the rigid vision of success to which he had been clinging. That vision which had long ago stopped working for him, wound up being a key obstacle to real career success for Gene. Once he was willing to look at things clearly as they were in the moment and not as he wished they would be, he came up with a vision redesign that led him to where he is now – happy!

It all comes down to our definition of job success and how flexible we can be when faced with unexpected challenges (always to be expected).  If we could only use our long-range lens, we’d see that what at the moment may seem like an obstacle to success, may turn out to be a wonderful clue to where we really need to aim our dreams.

Truth be told, it’s actually positive to allow ourselves to see obstacles as they really are – and not as an affront to our ability to surmount all challenges and emerge victorious. (The latter being the myth of how career success works.) The real trick is being positive that we can find a way to deal with whatever comes, even if failure  – or at least a momentary version of failure – is part of the picture. Sometimes it’s not the subject your photographing but the lens you use.

How’s your power of NOT visualizing success? Have you ever had to zag when you expected to zig?


About the author…

Ronnie Ann, founder of Work Coach Cafe, bases her real-world advice on her many years as an organizational consultant where she helped interview and hire people, added to a certificate from NYU in Career Planning & Development and her own adventures as a serial job seeker. She can also be found on her new blog, and on Google+.


  1. Veddy interesting. I think many of us have confused “thinking positively” with “overly detailed, anal-retentive, obsessively plotted exactness”. We have been led down this path by positivity gurus who tell us we must be as specific as possible when framing our desires. I used to subscribe to this theory but have canceled my subscription. I now think goals can be broader without losing power, and results can be satisfaction-oriented rather than liner-outcome oriented.
    Oh…oops. You did ask a question, here. I believed I have demonstrated my zagginess sufficiently! Thanks, RA, thoughtful post! 🙂

  2. Hi Muse! I think you and I could have a great conversation about this. For me, thinking positively is great – unless it is used in a way that becomes the chains that bind and limit. So ironic since people think it expands, even when used to ask for teeny-tiny goals at every turn. What a boring way to live!

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