The Ben Franklin Plan: Practice Contrarian Thinking

Portrait of Benjamin Franklin
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In honor of Ben Franklin who focused on one virtue a month each year (plus humility, which he worked on all year round on the advice of a detractor),  I’m working on one  life principle each week from Sunday to Saturday.  Will you join me?

This week’s life principle will help you make decisions and solve problems.  When you are certain that you are absolutely right about something, but somehow things don’t seem to  be going as you planned, consider contrarian thinking.  Doing so will enable you to consider the situation from an opposing viewpoint.  In throwing the whole basis of your thought, and all the premises and assumptions that go with it, up in the air you may be surprised to find that they land in a new place that works!

Week 2:  Practice contrarian thinking

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2 Responses to “The Ben Franklin Plan: Practice Contrarian Thinking”

  1. 1 Courtney

    I love this one because it’s such a challenge–it’s asking you to think how you don’t normally think! And it’s hard to embrace whatever you come to, because “that’s not what I would do”!

    • Courtney, it is hard to abandon the mindsets we have and to let go long enough to go with a totally different approach, isn’t it? The good news is that the more you “think contrarian” and see how incredibly well it works for you, the less reluctant you will become.

      My dramatic example of the power of contrarian thinking happened the first day, or night actually, that I heard of the concept. At the time I had recently sold my CPA practice and started a new career as a trainer. The problem, as you might imagine, was that the only training gigs I was offered were about taxes or financial matters, which I didn’t want to do. I wanted to train people on soft skills like communication or leadership, or re-inventing yourself.

      I went to bed one night really frustrated about this and asking, “Will I ever be able to un-CPA myself?” Tossing and turning, I finally decided to just give up on sleep. I decided to try contrarian thinking as a way to solve my problem, to trust that being a CPA was the best route for me to be a successful trainer. So I grabbed the local CPA chapter newsletter I spotted on the top of the “Toss” pile on my desk and began to read, mumbling “I love being a CPA, I love being a CPA” (which, by the way was true for 15 years, but wasn’t any longer).

      What I hadn’t noticed when I gave the newsletter short shrift earlier, was an article about how a local PR firm was working with the chapter to help CPA’s who wanted to try their hand at writing become published. I called the contact listed in the article the next morning at 8am. Long story short, I ended up with a cover story for a prestigious Houston business magazine about how creative thinking can enhance profitability in CPA firms and several lucrative training contracts on the subject. What fun! And a perfect marriage of my left and right brained self. Exactly the kind of thing I wanted to do. So, in embracing my “CPA” self, I actually was able create a new self.

      I’ve been sold on contrarian thinking ever since, especially for desperate situations in which I’ve tried all of the logical things, all the things that are supposed to work. It’s like finally looking for and finding your glasses in the place where they couldn’t possibly be after you’ve looked over and over again in the place where you are sure they are and they are not.

      Now you try it and tell us your success story.


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