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“The pessimist believes the glass is half empty and the optimist sees it as half full but the insomniac stays up all night trying to decide the answer.”

This is an amusing twist on the classic expression normally used to show that any given situation can be looked at optimistically (half full) or pessimistically (half empty). The expression is so well-known that personality types are sometimes referred to as ‘glass half-full’ or ‘glass half-empty’. In other words, different people can perceive the same situation in different ways.

Before a colleague told me the insomniac version of the phrase, the most amusing variation I had ever heard went something like this:

“While the optimist and pessimist are arguing, the pragmatist takes the glass and drinks it.”

After doing some online searching, I discovered there are many variants of this expression. Here are some of my favorites:

  • The project manager documents that the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
  • The existentialist wonders ‘what’s the point of the question?’
  • The economist lets market forces decide how full the glass is.
  • The obsessive compulsive checks the level of the water, checks it again, and again, and again…
  • The lush doesn’t worry about half empty or half full but rather who is going to pay for the next round.
  • The IT support person doesn’t answer the question but suggests you try emptying the glass and then refilling it.

Of course, you can create endless variations to fit specific professions or circumstances. Given the current fascination with unicorns – venture capital backed technology companies valued at $1B or more – I thought I would create a version for them:

The entrepreneur says: I can’t believe no one has come up with an app that solves this conundrum. This is a huge, untapped market. I’m going to raise a $50M seed round with a $200M post and create the next Big Data Internet of Things cloud security unicorn.

I’m sure you can come up with some creative examples. Post them in the comments.

This blog was originally posted on Manage by Walking Around on July 26, 2015.

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