Forbes: The Costanza Rule: When To Ignore Your Instincts And Do The Opposite
There has never been a greater television character than George Costanza, Jerry Seinfeld’s best friend on Seinfeld, the lovable loser who can do no right. While the last episode of Seinfeld aired twenty years ago, George, like every other character on the show, is timeless. In one episode, after a lifetime of failing at all things personal and professional, George reaches an epiphany: Because following his instincts always leads to disastrous outcomes, he realizes he should instead do the exact opposite of what his gut tells him to do. Lo and behold, by doing the opposite of what he would otherwise be inclined to do, George finds himself on the right side of every decision and enjoys the unfamiliar feeling of success.
In business as in life, it's easier to go with the wind than it is to do the opposite. There is far less resistance, and if things don't work out, who can blame you for doing what everyone else would have done? We are trained to play within the lines, and as a result, in most companies, most people consistently think inside the box. But stories are rarely written about people who go with the flow, and those who have the courage to pursue a different path are more likely to attain greatness.
I am a strong believer that everyone should be open to following George Constanza’s lead, as we must recognize that there will be times when the best action one can take is the exact opposite of the one that is being taken. It is extremely important to trust your gut, but it is equally important to maintain flexibility in your thinking, to allow for the chance that your current approach is not the best one.
A great example comes from my own entrepreneurial experience. When we launched Custom Tobacco, our thesis was that cigar aficionados would love the opportunity to create their own fully customized premium cigars in real time. To our surprise, our offering fell completely flat within the cigar community. We came to learn that hardcore cigar smokers care far more about buying their favorite brand than creating their own.
We discovered, however, that our product resonated strongly with an audience that can best be defined as the exact opposite of the group we initially targeted, and in turn, we built the only cigar company in the country with a majority of customers who do not smoke cigars (and the only cigar company with a majority of customers who are women). A willingness to do the opposite allowed us to focus our business on the market that truly appreciates our product: People in search of a great gift and event planners looking to enhance their events.
Every entrepreneur and executive will struggle at some point; bumps in the road are inevitable. My advice is not to abandon your better instincts but to ask yourself if you are at a point where trying something different may work better.
A friend of mine who runs an interesting and popular business has been unable to hire a deputy that has lasted in the role for more than a few months. He has hired many people over the years, and each person he hired fit the profile that he felt is needed for the role. When his most recent deputy left and he was trying to understand how he could solve his ongoing problem once and for all, I advised him to “pull a Costanza and do the opposite.” When you keep hiring the wrong person, hire someone who fits the exact opposite profile of what you think you need. When the audience you are selling to does not like your product, consider another audience. Do not be afraid to think differently and do not be afraid to do the opposite.
Adam Mendler is CEO of The Veloz Group and Founder of Beverly Hills Chairs, Custom Tobacco and Veloz Solutions.