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Legal & Finance: Glass can be half-full or half-empty, but it still needs filling.

Byline: GarySmith

I was in a pub enjoying a pint the other day when the old debate about whether the glass was half empty or half full came up.

You know the one -according to popular psychology wisdom, if you regard the glass as half empty you're a sad pessimist but half full means, in the word of the song, you 'always look on the bright side of life'.

Accountants and lawyers, as professionals, are generally accused of being half empty merchants.

They look on the downside at every opportunity, the sort of person who can't cross the road quickly enough to escape the sunshine for the comfort of the shade. When I was working as a chartered accountant, I used to be proud to buck the trend and regard the glass as half full.

'Great,' I thought. 'I'm an optimistic accountant.'

I actually felt out of kilter with my colleagues!

As an entrepreneurial type of businessman, however, I have developed my views on this subject, particularly as it relates to business.

Let's turn the conventional wisdom on its head and challenge this crazy myth, indeed the whole half empty/half full debate. By definition, if the glass contains 50 per cent of liquid, it is at its average level half way between empty and full.

Therefore, if one accepts this level of content, one is, in effect, accepting average performance. Surely it would be much better to say: 'Hey, the glass is half empty --that's the space I need to fill, I need to work harder to fill my glass.'

The liquid in the glass represents what we have achieved so far, the empty part of the glass is where improvements can be made.

We shouldn't accept average in anything we do but rather we should examine ways of becoming more effective, providing better service, improving the quality of our lives and 'filling that glass'.

After the heart wrenching England defeat against France last Sunday, I wondered what Sven's position in this would be. He seemed to accept the half full glass of being one nil up and was content to see the game out.

The only logical reason for taking Rooney off was that he wanted to save him for the future matches.

Rooney was the one man who, on the day, the French were worried, indeed scared, about.

Had Sven had the desire to improve and actually look to win the match, he would have been better to leave Rooney on the pitch to give the French something to think about rather being happy at one nil and letting the French dictate play.

See how easy it is to overanalyse many things using the half-empty/half full theory.

In my research, I came across a story of when a thirsty Tao sage was asked to give his opinion on whether the glass of chilled water in front of him was half full or half empty, he went silent, picked up the glass, looked at it...and slowly drank the contents!

The glass is to hold the water and the water was there to be drunk. The essence of life is to live it not debate it. Fill your glass rather than accept anything less.

Anyway, back to the pub, I took a leaf out of the sage's book and downed my remaining half pint and asked the barman to fill it up again.


Gary Smith is chairman of Edge Venture Capital and chief executive of Intandem Films
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 18, 2004
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