How optimistic are you?

How optimistic are you?

Two springs ago my Weeping Japanese Maple that “guards” my water garden took a major hit. A Japanese maple is generally a very hardy plant if you plant it in the right spot. The right spot being somewhat protected and in well-drained soil. But like all plants and people, it has a weakness. That weakness being cold weather in the spring after it has budded out.

Marty and his son Grant before school

Marty and his son Grant before school one morning with Japanese Maple

The spring of 2007 was too cold for my maple and one morning it was severely damaged by a frost. I hoped it would be unscathed, but no such luck. A few weeks after all the damage Mother Nature had done became apparent, I had a choice—either I dig it out and throw it in the compost pile or I prune out the dead and see what would happen. I chose the latter and I’m glad I did. Two short years later the plant looks beautiful. I know it will be an incredible specimen that visitors and my family can enjoy. As I think about my Japanese maple, I can’t help but think of the parallels that can be drawn to our current economic condition.

We are all in the midst of a crisis of epic proportions, but there is much to learn from this experience. After all, don’t we all learn the most from dealing with adversity? You don’t learn how to deal with people from working with the easy ones; you learn to work with people by dealing with the difficult ones. You don’t learn how to deliver exceptional customer service by working with the easy clients; you learn how to offer awesome customer service in your quest to separate your company from the pack and deal with those tough clients. I firmly believe you need to practice the art of rational optimism. To win you must believe you can and right now we all need to think about the future.

I define rational optimism to be the process of thinking not what the best thing that could happen might be, but accepting what most likely will happen. Today, it’s all about risk management: if you can handle the best thing (who can’t?); if you can handle the worst thing that might happen. And if you can handle what’s most likely to happen, then you need to proceed. Today, there are people who have given up; they are so negative, it’s hard to be in the same room with them. I suggest you stay away from people like that. You need to get around the people that aren’t running into burning buildings, but are at least trying to throw some water on them or calling 911. Don’t be an observer; take action; look for opportunities.

When I pruned my Japanese maple, I had a vision of what it might look like in the future. As I’ve made cuts in my businesses, I have a vision; I have a plan. And to be honest with you, I feel my business needed some pruning. I had a lot of dead wood that needed to be removed to allow for new growth. I am nowhere near where I want to be, but I can see the future. I’m glad I stuck with my Japanese maple; I assume he’s glad I stuck with him. I hope you’ll stick with your business and see this crisis as the opportunity it is and take the steps right now to succeed in the near future.

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