Instead of your glass half-full, try it completely empty

Josh Linkner
June 28, 2020

Josh Linkner

Five-time tech entrepreneur, hyper-growth CEO, NY Times bestselling author and venture capitalist.
Business Something Different Creativity & Innovation Innovation

"If you view the glass as half-full, you're an optimist," the old saying goes. "But if you see it half-empty, you're a flat-out pessimist." We take this metaphor to be a truism, pushing ourselves to see our cups as full as possible.

But what if we'd be better off with a completely empty cup? It reminds me of the famous parable:

A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor’s cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It’s full! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “This is you,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup.”

Looking at the glass-half-full metaphor differently, perhaps we need to empty it out instead filling it up. If our cup is so full that we have no room for new ideas, we become resigned to never learning new things and ultimately run the risk of irrelevance. On the other hand, Eastern philosophy teaches the power of the beginner's mind: with nothing already in our cups, we are free to fill up with fresh ideas, teachings, and knowledge.

Telltale signs that you should empty your cup a bit include phrases like, "We've always done it that way" and "That's just the way it's done around here." Keep a close eye out for, "We already tried that in the past," a signal that your cup runneth over with the poisons of conventional thinking.

If we want to enjoy sustainable success in these tumultuous times, we need to clear out the old approaches to make room for the new. Let's focus on what's possible, instead of only the world as we already know it. Open-mindedness is a key ingredient in your efforts to conquer tough challenges and seize new opportunities.

So the next time someone accuses you of being a "glass-half-full" person, offer them your full portion so you can savor your empty cup instead. Let's pour out traditional thinking to make room for a Big Gulp of new possibilities.


Book Josh Linkner for your event at https://premierespeakers.com/josh_linkner.

Josh Linkner

Want Josh Linkner for your next event?

Find out more information, including fees and availability.
Find Out More
Keep Reading
Instead of your glass half-full, try it completely empty
Josh Linkner
Josh Linkner
June 28, 2020
"If you view the glass as half-full, you're an optimist," the old saying goes. "But ...
Where's Your What-If?
Josh Linkner
Josh Linkner
June 21, 2020
Spending a good chunk of my days researching human creativity, I landed on a strange phenomenon. What-if questions, one ...
The Often-Overlooked Step That Can Boost the Quality of Your Work
Josh Linkner
Josh Linkner
June 07, 2020
We generally think that a great work product – especially an artistic ...
Instead of your glass half-full, try it completely empty
"If you view the glass as half-full, you're an optimist," the old saying goes. "But if you see it half-empty, you're a flat-out pessimist." We take this metaphor to be a truism, pushing ourselves to see our cups as full as possible. But what if we'd be better off with a completely empty cup? It reminds me of the famous parable: A universit...
Read More
Where's Your What-If?
Spending a good chunk of my days researching human creativity, I landed on a strange phenomenon. What-if questions, one of the hallmark techniques of innovation, can also serve to extinguish imagination depending on where they are used. Oddly, the same framework can both ignite creativity or quell it, subject to where it is placed in the inventi...
Read More
The Often-Overlooked Step That Can Boost the Quality of Your Work
We generally think that a great work product – especially an artistic effort – is imagined, conceived, and launched simultaneously. But the notion that a single, smart idea can immediately turn into a brilliant final version has the same logic flaw of a newborn baby popping out of the womb with a college degree. In fact, one of the most importan...
Read More
Random Acts of Creativity
It turns out, this past Saturday was National Creativity Day. Who knew? While I think it's terrific that we have a holiday to celebrate the universal human gift of imagination, it made me think that everyday should really be National Creativity Day. We've been led to believe that for something to count as creative, it has to be a masterpiece. A ...
Read More
In Case of Emergency, Break Glass
As each day of economic free fall continues, many of us are struggling to figure out what to do next. Whole industries such as professional sports, corporate conventions, and vacation travel have been frozen in time with no full thaw in sight. There are certainly some of us that need to embrace the most dramatic solution - to break the glass in ...
Read More
Transcript Josh Linkner - Creative Quarantine
TRANSCRIPT: Brian Lord: Hi, I'm Brian Lord, your host to the Beyond Speaking podcast and today we have on a proud, creative troublemaker, Josh Linkner. So Josh has been the founder and CEO of five tech companies that sold for a combined value of over two hundred million. He's the author of four books, including The New York Times bestseller D...
Read More
How a Llama Could Conquer COVID-19
As frustration continues and economic fallout mounts, we're all getting stir crazy. When will our normal lives resume? How will our economy recover? What will be the long-term fallout of coronavirus? How soon can we expect a vaccine? World leaders and scientists scramble to answer these questions while billions of people wait, lives on hold. Nea...
Read More
Redefine These 8 Words to Reimagine Your Future
Too often, the words we use tell a hidden - an incorrect - story. Certain words are loaded with preconceptions that may inhibit our ability to win, grow, and thrive. Nine such words have long bothered me, having witnessed their ability to block potential and dampen enthusiasm. Let's look at these eight trigger words, and explore how a redefiniti...
Read More
The Ultimate Customer Experience
With glimpses of hope that our economy will reopen in the coming months, it's time to start thinking about our businesses in a post-pandemic landscape. How will the world change? How will your industry be different? How will you adapt to the new circumstances? The sheer volume of unknowns can feel overwhelming, making it difficult to even know w...
Read More
How One Musician Used a Quarantine to Become a Legend
When first hitting the scene, the now legendary Charlie "Yardbird" Parker was described as mediocre at best. His music seemed undisciplined, out of control, and fraught with mistakes. Like most musicians, Parker practiced regularly but was struggling to achieve major improvements in his playing. How, then, did Charlie Parker become the master th...
Read More