Feigning surprise when things go wrong

Businesspeople have an incredible knack for feigning surprise when things go wrong. For some people it’s more an insatiable knack, while for others it’s a motivation factor. Evidence is everywhere that things go wrong, yet we have become masters of disguising what we already know.

If you’ve ever eaten brussels sprouts, you know bugs lurk beneath the thin layers of green leaves. It’s well known that you either cut your way down to them or eat them. Yet people feign surprise upon seeing the bugs.

If you ever pour oil (cooking, motor, lube, what have you), you know oil drips and makes a mess. You either commit to cleaning it up, or you get dirty. Yet we feign surprise when grabbing a bottle and getting it on our hands.

If you’ve ever had employees, you know they make mistakes. Coincidentally, being human, you and I also make mistakes. Yet we feign anger at others and ourselves when we err.

Things go wrong as a balancing factor. Yes, the world conspires with you to help you achieve your goals, but along the way you will inevitably encounter resistance. How you deal with the resistance determines how much you will succeed.

If you push back too hard, you lose energy and momentum, and it can cost you dearly. If you roll well when things go wrong, you can come out ahead on the other side of the conflict, wiser, stronger, and better prepared.

Feigning surprise when things go wrong is setting yourself up to fail. It also sets up failure for the people around you.

If you need the tension of feigned surprise at failure as a motivational factor, it’s a good idea to first determine if the people around you also benefit from the tension, or if you’re really shooting yourself in the foot by disrupting their energy.

Kelly Hobkirk - teaching marketers how to harness strategy, goals, reality, and purpose to connect and do better work.


Kelly Hobkirk has been helping companies succeed in creative ways for nearly 25 years. His work has been featured in Time Magazine, and books by Rockport and Rotovision. Get exclusive articles when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.

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