It makes business more interesting when there are a few contrarians around. A Jeff Bezos, a Steve Jobs, or an Elon Musk, those who challenge commonly accepted assumptions. They stir our placid mental waters to get the creative juices flowing.
(Related: Without Customer Trust, Nothing Else Matters)
As it turns out, the start of a new decade is a good time for a little contrarian thought — for looking at things differently. In fact, it may be helpful since we’re entering a period that will present us with far-reaching changes and daunting challenges. In other words, a time when we can benefit from getting tougher with ourselves.
Here are four contrarian thoughts about taken-for-granted ideas that may be tried but, as it turns out, not necessarily true:
1. “Keep your head down and go with the flow.”
Never raise your hand. Don’t do anything to call attention to yourself. Keep a low profile. Go along to get along. Whatever else may be said about the need for new ideas, these remain the mantras for success. Those who dare to wander off the path do so at their own peril.
All of it may have worked when the goal was having managers lead organizations. Their mission was to make sure things ran like well-oiled machines. It’s no surprise that surveys indicate that a high percentage of employees (one puts it as high as 83%) are bored, want new challenges, and are actively looking for new jobs.
Today, the term “manager” is fading and being replaced by a leader, someone who is charged with the responsibility of assuring an enterprise meets challenges by helping people succeed.
2. “Everything’s going down the drain.”
In spite of an abundance of bad news and unspeakable horrors, nothing seems to stop us from hitching our wagons to a star, as the saying goes. Even though we’re faced with mountainous problems, nothing seems to curtail optimism, that tomorrow will be a better day.
To be sure, there are good reasons why the idea of progress holds sway over us. Indicators over the last two centuries paint a bright picture of the future — improved health, longer lives, technological advancements, a better educated citizenry, income growth, and dozens more.
All this is wonderful, except it’s not always the way it plays out in our individual lives: loved ones die, promises are broken, jobs are lost, and dreams don’t come true even when we work hard. As someone has said, “Bad things happen to good people.” They do, so It’s easy to be bitter, angry, and just plain negative.
Not long ago, I spoke with a man receiving palliative care after surgery for stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which was discovered weeks after his long-anticipated retirement. To keep busy following surgery, he took a part-time job. After a few minutes on the phone, he told me he needed to get ready for work, and added, “I love it!” That’s when I came to understand the awesomeness of resilience and optimism.
3. “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
This is good advice since our lives seem to be plagued with endless amounts of irritating, time-consuming, and inexcusable stuff that drives us crazy. This is why it’s helpful to take a “water off a duck’s back” approach as a way to keep our sanity.