Getting Real: Your Glass Is Not Half Full or Half Empty


Life is hard. That is the line I use to start talking about the model I built to help leaders develop resilience. It is always fun when the ‘rah rah’ people are sitting in the front because they tend to shake their heads and get annoyed until finally one will raise their hand and tell me that this statement is pessimistic. Usually shortly after that, someone tells me that my glass is half empty. I assure you that it is not.

The reality is that this statement has nothing to do with optimism or pessimism. M. Scott Peck begins his book, The Road Less Traveled with: “Life is difficult. It is a great truth, one of the greatest truths [he says this because it is one of Buddha’s Four Nobel Truths]. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – than life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”

In the new testament of the bible, Jesus tells us that ‘In this life you will have troubles.’ He doesn’t say you might have troubles or that some people do. We are all included in it. Admittedly, some have more challenges than others, but what we go through tends to be measured against our own experiences, so the level of the challenge or trouble, cannot be compared one to another.

This is not pessimistic. It is not about whining. Instead, it is about about ‘facing down reality. It’s about staring reality back in the face and saying, ‘I know you are, I didn’t expect anything less.’ And once that is your expectation, you can be prepared for it. In truth, it is not optimistic or pessimistic. It is a very down to earth point of view and is a lot like saying there are 8 ounces of water in a 16 ounce glass, instead of, ‘it’s half full’ or ‘it’s half empty.’

Choosing to believe that life is hard, does not make it more or less hard. It is merely a filter or orientation to choose through which you might view the world. This particular filter enables one to expect challenges and look for the meaning in adversity. This filter is about asking ‘Why NOT me?’ instead of asking ‘Why me?’

Some ask, ‘Why is life hard?’ Life is hard for a variety of reasons, but not the least of which is that we all have filters that shape how we view the world. Our filters are based on our experiences, attitudes, beliefs and assumptions that have all been shaped by all we’ve been through over the course of our lives. Embedded in our filters are expectations of how we anticipate others will act or should act. But the thing is, everyone else has filters too. So in our quest to live up to all we think we should be, we bump up against the expectations everyone else has for us. Essentially, we try to be ourselves in a world that tries its hardest to make us someone else. This causes stress. The great poet e. e. cummings once said that, “To be yourself in a world that tries it’s hardest day and night to make you everyone else is to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight and to never stop fighting.” When we’re all fighting a battle, stress is rampant; because it’s hard. That’s the reality of life. It’s the reality of leadership. 8 ounces. Not half full. Not half empty.

We work with organizations, leaders and teams who want to add more value and exceed expectations. Facing down reality is the first step to increasing resilience and in this market, resilience is critical both for leaders and organizations.


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