Glass Half Empty


Is the Glass Half Full? Is the Glass Half Empty?

It’s one of my favourite questions of all time. I love to ask this of the audience whenever I speak at a conference or event. If you’ve been following my content for a while, you probably won’t be surprised at my answer to the question. You may, however, not expect my reasoning.

The origins of this philosophical question aren’t really known for sure. It has widely been attributed to US President Ronald Reagan in a 1985 press conference. However, the question appeared at least as early as 1933 in an LA Times article. Regardless of the origins, the point of the question remains the same. To identify a person as either a pessimist or an optimist based on their answer.

To an optimist, so the theory goes, the glass is always half full. They are always positive and full is considered a more positive concept than empty. Conversely, the person who believes the glass is half empty, is deemed to be a pessimist. A person with a negative outlook can only see the empty part, not the full part. Not surprisingly, when I ask this question at spa conferences, the majority of the hands go up for Half Full. What else would you expect? We’re spa people. By our very nature we tend to be positive, right?

Drinking or Pouring

The best answer I’ve ever heard to this question came from the now notorious comedian, Bill Cosby. His response when asked was, ‘It’s depends on whether you’re drinking or pouring’. That answer is both funny, as you would expect, but also insightful. If you are pouring the water into the glass, in your mind, it is half full. You still have another half to go before you complete your task. However, if you are drinking from the glass, your perspective is very different. Your glass is now half empty. If you keep drinking it will soon be all gone.

So, what’s my answer?

To me, the glass is always half empty.

And this is not a negative perspective. In fact, it’s very positive! How so? Very simple…

In the Empty Lies the Opportunity

The full section represents demand that has already been filled. There is nothing more to be done here. The empty section, on the other hand, is the wide open spaces. That’s where the unmet demand is. And so that is where the opportunity is. For anyone in business, the empty represents the upside.

Thus, as I head in to 2018, my focus will surely be on the empty.

What about you?