Filling the Glass - The Skeptics Guide to Positive Thinking in Business
by Barry Maher
reviewed by Ian Bullock

Barry Maher doesn't agonize over whether the glass is half-full or half-empty, his stated mission with this book is to tell us how to fill the other half of the glass. He does this with wit and humor, and a spoken style that makes the reader feel right there listening to him and enjoying the laughter at his jokes. Not for him the messianic zeal of the human resource engineers; his preference is for the skeptical approach, a good hard look at the downside before figuring out how to get to where you want to be. And how to do it with integrity.

"The person I want to be, the person I want to hire, and the person who ultimately will be more successful and more valuable to his company, his family, his society, and himself is the one who takes a look at that glass and is concerned, not with whether it's half-empty or half-full, but with figuring out how to fill it up."

Barry Maher started out in sales, and became highly successful at that, then progressed with motivational selling, and consultancy to numerous leading corporations. This book is about more than sales because he rises above business as such and writes about common sense, wisdom, and ethics. He offers ten strategies for Filling the Glass, provides many supporting case studies, examples, brief tips, detailed tactics, with a few parables to get us started, and to quote:

1. Make peace with the negatives. Every situation has its negatives; make them work for you.
2. Fill the glass. Attitude is important, but reality rules.
3. Become your own guru. You're your own best guide. The most important decisions take place when Stephen Covey can't be with you.
4. Add water. Far too often we keep our strongest selling points hidden. Leave ways to promote your ideas, your projects and proposals, and ultimately, yourself.
5. Bring out the prospect in yourself. Look inside and outside for empathy and understanding.
6. Become an expert witness. Let the other side make its points - and make yours convincingly.
7. Fail toward success. Become a master craftsman, a master craftsman being someone who's already made every possible mistake.
8. Brag about the negatives. Make your biggest liabilities your strongest assets.
9. Change the scale to make the sale. Size may count, but it's not how big it is, it's how big it seems.
10. Never settle for success. Keep your goals from getting in your way; make your journey even more enjoyable than the destination.

Maher claims not to want to be confused with Stephen R. Covey. Nevertheless, one of the many things they both have in common is a belief in a restoration of the character ethic.

Maher is not strong on preaching or moralizing, and what he means by integrity is "…integrity in the sense of wholeness, oneness, relief from the dichotomy of what we believe we should be doing in our careers and our lives, and what we actually find ourselves doing." He generalizes that too many of us compromise our integrity "…believ(ing) our careers and our business lives should be one thing, while the untidy facts keep insisting that those careers and those lives are something else - usually something considerably less."

The author expresses a preference for becoming one's own guru rather than developing a dependence on the motivational kind whose influence often fails the test of time and reality. His advice: "Never let your positive thinking obstruct the reality in a haze of wishful thinking. Acknowledge the reality: perceive it as accurately as possible, so it can be dealt with effectively. Always realizing that - as the gurus keep telling us - we are responsible for our own attitudes and our own happiness."

On defining what one's real goals are, he has this to say: "Filling the glass is about reconciling the disconnects between what you're actually doing and what you believe you should be doing. (It) doesn't mean that you won't have to make sacrifices to get what you want. It simply means that you make certain you actually want whatever it is you're making those sacrifices to achieve." And: "…the key is to pursue the goals you really want to pursue. Not the goals you think you should have. Not the goals your boss or your parents … or even your (spouse) think you should have. Not the goals you have because you feel you have to keep up with the Joneses, or because somebody else might decide that you're not a success."

Never compare yourself to someone who's not even running in the same race.

Maher counsels that you should never settle for success. "Your ultimate goal and your short-term, medium-term, and long-term goals all become essentially the same: to simply see how well you can perform if you perform as well as you possibly can; to utilize every ounce of talent you can muster in every applicable situation, each day, each week, each month. And after each significant interaction, each day, each week, each month, you evaluate yourself to fine-tune your course."

You wouldn't settle for half-empty. Never settle for half-full. Fill the glass.

A healthy skepticism weaves its way throughout Filling the Glass. It's long on anecdote and down-to-earth common sense; refreshingly short on worksheets and checklists.

Ian Bullock
3/20/2001

Filling the Glass

Filling the Glass - The Skeptics Guide to Positive Thinking in Business,
by Barry Maher,
Dearborn Trade, Chicago, 2001

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