In this week’s Business Success article, Alan C. Fox argues that it’s better to better to overcome your possible pessimism, and succeed in spite of it. Fox is the author of People Tools for Business: 5o Strategies for Building Success, Creating Wealth, and Finding Happines.
I’d Rather Succeed Than Be Right
By Alan C. Fox
“I’d rather be right then be president,” said former US Congressman and Secretary of State Henry Clay, Sr. (1777–1852). And right he was. The senator from Kentucky ran for president three times during his illustrious political career, and lost every time.
Many of us, perhaps most, often predict our own failure. “I can’t climb that mountain.” “My speech will be terrible.” “I don’t suppose you’d like to go out with me.”
Why? Simply because it is much easier to fulfill a prediction of failure than it is to actually succeed.
But wouldn’t you rather predict success ten times, succeed five times, and be “wrong” in half of your predictions than predict failure all ten times and be entirely correct?
I for one would rather succeed.
I’ve used this attitude for most of my career. While I’m not always right, I am always confident. And I end up succeeding a large percentage of the time.
A Sporting Chance
Heck, the highest major league career batting average of all time belongs to Ty Cobb. His lifetime batting average was .366 (1905-28). This means that out of 1,000 at bats, Ty Cobb — one of the best hitters of all time — failed to get a hit 634 times out of every 1,000 attempts.
And Detroit Lions quarterback Bobby Layne is reported to have said, “I’ve never lost a football game: Sometimes my team was behind when the clock ran out.”
No one wins all the time, but you are far more likely to succeed if you go into your next interview (or deal, hearing, or review) anticipating your success.
Early in my career my business partner Harvey and I negotiated for eighteen months to buy an apartment complex. Several times I told Harvey to give up, but he persisted. After a year and a half, the seller finally agreed to accept our offer, and the transaction was later completed. I must admit I learned something from Harvey: to work hard and expect success. Harvey’s confidence was never shaken, and he had refused to take “no” for an answer.
In a 2013 Los Angeles Times interview, the great orthopedic surgeon Dr. Neal ElAttrache (whose clients include Kobe Bryant, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Sylvester Stallone) was asked if he ever got nervous. “No,” he said, adding he always feels confident that he can solve any problem that arises.
So rather than go with Henry Clay’s approach, I’d rather follow the Queen’s advice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:
“There’s no use trying,” Alice said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” replied the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
So why not tell yourself that you can do it—that you will succeed, despite the odds or obstacles?
Impossible? Not at all. And before breakfast is a good time to be optimistic.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had an impossible dream, and look what he accomplished.
Henry Clay, Sr., on the other hand, ended up being right—he lost all three of his campaigns for president in 1824, 1832, and 1844.
• Alan Fox is the president of ACF Property Management, Inc, and author of The New York Times bestseller People Tools: 54 Strategies for Building Relationships, Creating Joy, and Embracing Prosperity. Fox is also the founder, editor, and publisher of the Rattle literary magazine, and he sits on the board of directors of several non-profit foundations. Visit www.peopletoolsbook.com