What do you think?  Can you be so optimistic that you are completely out of touch with reality?  Can you believe so strongly in your own dreams and ambitions for yourself, your family, and your business that you just do not “get it”?

Just a few days ago, I discovered that one of Frank Sinatra’s trademark songs from a few decades ago is now a ringtone for cell phones.  Written by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, “High Hopes” is all about the need to believe you can overcome great odds against success. 

Many people believe optimism is one of those touchy-feely things requiring a bridle and a bit to keep under control.  And many people, especially those who declare themselves to be the “devil’s advocate”, are anxious to rein in the high hopes of those around them.  These are the chronically negative experts who say “You are moving too fast.”  “You are reaching too far.”  “You have lost all sense of values.”

If you are a business owner, one of your “high hopes” probably deals with succession success – the continuation of family and business success through the next generation.  Sometimes, perhaps most times, achieving success takes a lot of “head butting” – just like it did for the silly old ram in “High Hopes” who thought he could punch a hole in a dam.

There is, of course, another way to use your head.  You can use it as a thinking machine rather than a battering ram.  When you feel overwhelmed and on the verge of defeat:

  1. Take time to organize your thoughts; 
  2. Look for connections between “cause” and “effect”;   
  3. Ask trusted advisers for their opinions; and,
  4. Increase your awareness of the situation by gathering new information.

Under certain circumstances, the negative critics may be right.  After all, Napoleon did get too far out in front of his supply lines; and he did discover that Russian winters are brutal.  However, there is a fundamental game-changing question that you can ask those who do not believe something can be accomplished.  Once you concede the “nay sayers” may have a point, begin by asking this simple question:  “Well, if it could be done, what would it take to do it?”

When John Kennedy announced in May, 1961, that he thought we should go to the moon and back by the end of the decade, NASA had a grand total of fifteen minutes and twenty-two seconds in space flight.  His experts recognized that it would take thousands of hours in space, many more astronauts than the nine available, hundreds of millions of dollars, and technology that had not yet been invented.  Somehow, in spite of all those potential obstacles, we got to the moon and back in just over eight years.

Succession success is not rocket science.  And that is why it is so hard to achieve.  That is why optimism and belief in others is so important and necessary in bringing family and staff together in a common purpose.

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