The one with the mumbo jumbo

The year was 2005, the meeting was a regular customer launch project meeting and the person holding court was not making a point any time soon… I was sat next to one of my colleagues from manufacturing and we were having a whispered conversation about an issue that had been bubbling under for a few weeks. His take was erring towards ‘head between knees, kiss ass goodbye’, mine was more ‘let’s turn this problem into an opportunity’.

After a frustrating few minutes (whilst the other colleague continued to his ‘monologue without point’) I pointed at a glass of water and said something along the lines of “your problem is to you that isn’t even half full, it’s half empty and about to be drunk”. His response cracked me up and is something I’ve used on numerous occasions to illustrate different perspectives,  mindsets and accountability and it went something like this:

“What you don’t understand is I’m in manufacturing. It’s not about half full or half empty. It’s about Sales didn’t tell us how much water the customer wants, Marketing haven’t told us what type of water it needs to be, Technical haven’t calibrated it, Supply Chain haven’t got sufficient supply of water, Finance want us to do it half the people and report on something we don’t know yet and as for HR they haven’t got us the right people we need to do the job. Basically I don’t know how full it is and there’s a list of people who’s fault it is!”

I laughed. He laughed. Our colleague finally made his point and the meeting continued.

If you think about the half full/half empty debate there’s a third contender which is the vessel is holding half its available volume – the realist!

I think I sit somewhere in the third camp maybe with a hint of half full thrown in – I’m a realist who thinks there’s usually a solution to move the situation on. I have always and continue to struggle with those who automatically see the positive without acknowledging the realistic context.

My first brush with any form of positive psychology was in 1997 listening an author and speaker called Brian Tracy. Mr Tracy is a well known speaker and his book “The Psychology of Achievement” is very popular. As part of the seminar I experienced he talked about using positive affirmation to increase or reinforce self esteem. The exercise involved standing in front of a mirror and whilst making eye contact with yourself intoning “I like myself” 20-30 times. Not meaning to make light of his work I personally found this exercise massively uncomfortable and whether it’s my inherent ‘Britishness’ or the fact that this and other exercises set off my ‘manipulative’-ometer, his approach just didn’t land for me.

Having sat through several amateurish attempts of sales people enacting NLP techniques on me and seeing people buy-in and drop-off several similar programmes I spent most of the time ignoring the whole concept of positivity, positive psychology or however it is being referred to (mumbo jumbo) until fairly recently.

A fellow blogger, Sukh Pabial, is to put it mildly, a fan of mumbo jumbo positive psychology. He started listing daily the three things that had made that particular day a good day. I started playing along and still do, although mostly to myself on the train rather than ‘out loud’ on Twitter. This activity has yet to set off any –ometer and actually is like the ‘stopping and smelling the roses’ I wrote about here

Which brings me, finally, to the point. Sukh is holding a workshop on all things positive psychology and in a conversation about our differing points of view he as much as dared me to go along. I have some diary challenges which I am juggling but in dropping the gauntlet Sukh also offered me 2 free tickets for other people who may be interested. So here’s the challenge – the two people who come up with the best or funniest reason I should attend Sukh’s workshop get the 2 free tickets.




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7 responses to “The one with the mumbo jumbo

  1. I read a quote last night, “the glass is neither half full, nor half empty: it is twice as big as it needs to be”. And why should you go? Because your mere presence fills up a room.

    I don’t want the tickets though, I will be practising my own brand of positive psychology with a bottle of red and a plate of cheese in the sun in August!


  2. I think I’ve heard a variation on that one too Neil – the third interpretation is ‘The Management Consultant says the glass needs re-sizing’!

    You should go Rob, it’s a Friday morning and there are plenty of good pubs nearby where we can spend the rest of Friday being all things positive!

    I’m not looking for ticket but will try and help publicise the offer.

  3. Great stuff as usual Rob. I said something similar here, only with more swear words:

    Not that I would ever put Sukh in the same class as the mumbo-jumbo merchants I had a go at in my blog.

    As with all these things, some useful stuff can be given a bad name by charlatans who claim it can do what it can’t.

  4. If you re-read your penultimate paragraph it shows you’ve had a little success with a simple exercise Sukh has suggested. You might learn something else… (or pick up something you already knew, just needed it to be pointed out! A long shot perhaps 🙂 ).

    I cross the road at the first sign of mumbo jumbo, but I have noticed I’m making a concerted effort to highlight achievements especially when it has been a tough week!

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