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“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
The quote “The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails” is a popular philosophical quote from John Maxwell, and is also attributed to William Arthur Ward where Ward first used the word realistic instead of leader. Since it breaks the standard dichotomy of the glass is half full, glass is half unfilled paradigm. It adds a third decision to the blend. For this situation, the 'half unfilled' complains. The 'half full' envisions a superior future. The third group takes care of the situation.
The quote explains the psychological nature of human beings. According to Willian Ward, human can be divided into three types, pessimists, optimists and leaders. The first type of people with pessimistic mind are individuals that always complain and blame others for their failure and problems and they believe that something is wrong with everything around them. Pessimism is a state of mind in which one anticipates undesirable outcomes or believes that the evil or hardships in life outweigh the good or luxuries. In case of wind blowing, pessimists instead of attempting to change the situation, they react with a negative attitude and complain about the wind.
The second type of people with optimistic mind are the individuals who do not complain or blame others for their failure or problems but instead they believe that someone else will appear and will fix their problem that they are facing. Optimist are mostly unrealistic individuals and they believe in change and mericals. Optimism is the hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something. In case of wind blowing, optimists are hopeful and has mindset of the sail changing on its own.
The third type of people with realistic mind are leaders. They are realistic individuals and they neither complain about their problems nor they expect others to fix their problems. They are the leaders who initiative in solving their own problem. They use their mind to create solution for the obstacles they are facing. Realistic leaders accept all aspects of the situation. Realism is the attitude of accepting a situation as it is and being ready to deal with it accordingly. The leaders take something negative and find the positive from it and still understand that nothing ever goes as planned. Regarding wind blowing, realistic leaders use their mind to deal with the uncontrollable acts of the wind with the sail.
We can apply this classification concept to our lives and find out what type of person we are. We should determine where we want to go and how we can set our sails to get best advantage of the prevailing winds. If you say that it’s impossible to make any headway in the current situation, it is useful to remember that some of the greatest fortunes were made in poor economic times. We have to change our attitude to the believe that nothing is impossible. Building such believe It isn’t an easy task but through the time, you can overcome the reluctance and become a realistic person.
When applying this theory to leadership and a company’s climate, it can be said that true leaders can see, feel or smell what’s on the horizon. Like a Captain in the sea that navigates the tough waters as well as the smooth waters. When there is a problem in the company, they neither react with a negative attitude nor they complain about the wind and blame others for their failure. Leaders are initiative in solving their own problem. Realistic leaders accept all aspects of the situation. The leaders take something negative and find the positive from it and still understand that nothing ever goes as planned. Roger Martin for Harvard Business Review discusses this while speaking about Bob Young in his article, How Successful Leaders Think. The article points to Mr. Young as a leader that was able to notice that several options could be available to his organization if he moved carefully to optimize his potential within those options. He did, and his navigation paid off well. He adjusted the sails and set a course to control the company climate and grow the organization.
In concluding, I would like to end my writing with the quotes from the American country music singer, television host, actor, entrepreneur and creator of the Jimmy Dean sausage brand Jimmy Dean who said, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” The entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker Jim Rohn also said that: “It is the set of the sail, not the direction of the wind that determines which way we will go.” I believe it can be applied to our lives in general. You can complain, you can wait for things to get better, or you can get up off your butt and start doing something about the situation.
Not every situation can be salvaged. Some things will turn out badly. But there are few things that cannot be changed at least a little, if you are willing to work at it. Yes, you may still lose, but you might just be able to score a few points, if you work hard and smart.