The power of negative entrepreneurial thinking

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting tired of all the entrepreneurial cheerleaders and hoopla. The message is that if you only have perseverance and grit, you can be successful. If you can just walk across some coals, the brass ring is almost in hand. You can achieve anything if you put your mind to it!

Instead, for physician entrepreneurs, there is a lot to be said for the power of negative thinking and the ability to say no:

  1. It is just easier to get rid of stuff and toxic people than create new positive habits. Acting on no is a lot easier than acting on yes. Have you done anything about those new year’s resolutions 5 months later?
  2. Entrepreneurs manage risk. That means worse case assessment and how to manage it.
  3. Thinking negatively might discourage you from wasting a lot of time and money on something that you are,quite simply, not built to do or really are not very happy doing.
  4. Recognizing insurmountable barriers makes you more appreciative of what you already have
  5. Negative thinking releases you from expectations imposed on you by parents, society or your boss.
  6. There is a lot of power in a positive no when you are protecting your interests
  7. Saying no opens the doors of opportunity to something else
  8. It turns out visualizing the positive can backfire.
  9. Defensive pessimists were more anxious and set lower expectations for themselves in analytical, verbal, and creative tasks. Yet they didn’t perform any worse.
  10. Optimism. at the extremes, creates unrealistic expectations and people see through the facade. The idea is to be balanced and create a realistic picture of the challenges ahead…nothing to fear but fear itself kind of thing.
  11. Saying no to things means you can barter for things instead of rent them, and rent instead of buy or do without altogether. Then, you won’t have to ask for money.
  12. Saying no to things will help prevent blurring your focus or tempt you to multitask when you just have so much bandwidth.

13. Failure should be the foundation of your success.

14. There are many benefits to not giving a F#$K

15. It helps you avoid the distraction of traction.

Recent surveys show that managers tend to consider compliance restrictions and a lack of resources as the main obstacles to innovation. This common wisdom suggests eradicating all constraints: by getting rid of rules and boundaries, creativity, and innovative thinking will thrive. Research, however, challenges this wisdom and suggests that managers can innovate better by embracing constraints. Experts reviewed 145 empirical studies on the effects of constraints on creativity and innovation, and found that individuals, teams, and organizations alike benefit from a healthy dose of constraints. It is only when the constraints become too high that they stifle creativity and innovation.

The main reason why US sickcare costs so much is that all the stakeholders refuse to say no. No to prescribing worthless and harmful treatments. No to things that cost too much. No to approving drugs and devices that are not cost-effective. No to habits that are harmful. No to policy changes that risk losing in the next election. It is just too easy to say yes to feeding at the $3.8T trough.

In addition, there is power in telling people what your company is not. Particularly in dysfunctional industries, like sickcare, it sends a message to stakeholders that you are not like all the rest.

You also have to be careful about not letting negativity sink your organization and succumbing to loss aversion and negativity bias.

Being negative and grumpy will get you about as far as being a foolish Pollyanna. Otherwise, as they say in the Lone Star state, you will just be one of those people with a big hat and no cattle.

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs on Twitter@ArlenMD and CO-editor of Digital Health Entrepreneurship