Why I choose Samuel Beckett over positive thinking, any day

I believe we can learn more about what it takes to succeed from the closing assertion of Beckett’s The Unnamable than any other motivational book

You must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

This insight about the need for persistence in the face of obstacles and even despair offers no illusions about what it takes to keep going or false promises that success will be great when you get  ‘there’ (wherever that is).

This is useful advice. We should be given more of it.

Instead, we’re meant to be inspired by motivational cries and images of a positive Duracell-style achiever who stares doubt in the face and relentlessly bangs the drum; pitting the emotional equivalent of an airbrushed model against our puny efforts.

This makes us feel bad.

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Platitudes undermine credibility

The leadership space is peculiarly susceptible to platitudes.

But oversimplification makes them inadequate for dealing with the real difficulties that people face.

We relate to the grain of truth that a platitude embodies but often apply them in the wrong context in ways that do not fully reflect the complexities of a situation.

Part of a leader’s role is to help others be stretched but not overwhelmed by a problem.

Think about the leader who says bring me solutions not problems. In such cultures, employees may lose confidence if they don’t have an answer or feel it’s pointless to raise real issues that require multiple inputs to solve and that could become problematic and expensive down the track.

A more balanced approach might be to say: let’s talk this through. First tell me what you’ve done so far and some of your ideas. 

It’s less snappy to be sure.

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