Thinking positive is self-delusional! Fail to Fail!

Following current discussions on climate breakdown, our serious situation, and potential solutions, I hear a lot of talk about “hope”, and “staying positive”. However, I cannot understand this, because this rarely works for me. Instead I prefer a motto, which Eric Schmidt (Google) describes as “fail to fail” [1].

“Staying positive” may have the advantage for some people to avoid getting blocked by a flood of negative thoughts, but this attitude is likely to give you a biased view of reality, which ignores potential problems and difficulties and may ultimately mean that you fail in the  long run.  In addition, one does not invest one’s whole life energy in the  project, because it is looking good anyway.

“Fail to fail”, however, means that you assume a worst case scenario, that everything is completely undoable and will turn out terribly. This usually has the consequence (for me at least) that one feels quite terrible and overwhelmed, but because of one’s survival instinct one’s mind cannot live with this doom and gloom and starts trying to find a way out in a feverish way. This means one is working really hard and invests almost all  vital energy in solving the problem. In addition, one thinks of all potential short-, mid-, and long-term problems and how one might overcome them. So as the project comes along and one expects to fail, you realize, since you anticipated all problems and solved them, you “fail to fail”, which means one ultimately successfully reaches one’s goal.

Since I think the climate crisis is a far too serious existential problem, which has zero tolerance for self-delusion, I recommend to apply the “fail to fail” strategy. However, I would also like to acknowledge that there may be better strategies depending on the person, problem, and setting. I also admit, that one cannot always live in a state of existential threat, and one has to decide oneself which coping strategy to apply to manage one’s own emotions and energy in the best way.

[1] Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg (2017). How Google works. Grand Central Publishing.