Shifting To Neutral — A Mindset For All Leaders and Entrepreneurs

Positive thinking is not the solution.

Photo by Hidde van Esch on Unsplash

When people speak about neutrality today, it often relates to carbon emissions, the internet, or foreign relations. Being “neutral”, however, is also a mindset. Most people know that a negative mindset can have consequences, but few leaders and entrepreneurs appreciate the detrimental effects a positive mentality can similarly have on performance. In the midst of chaos or high-pressured situations, acting overly positive appears fake. Not only will you likely fail to convince yourself in the heat of a tense moment, you will probably appear as a fraud to those around you.

Shift into neutral instead. As quarterback Russell Wilson and mental coach Trevor Moawad describe, a neutral mindset is both about owning any mistakes that have been made and not letting them become more powerful than necessary. It is about focusing on the next objective. The shift to neutral transforms someone into an assassin of the moment, regardless of pressure or expectations. This balanced mindset prevents someone from getting too high or too low, and instead forces them to target the next goal like a sniper peering through a scope.

What’s the Next Objective?

Regardless of profession or craft, by focusing on the next objective, you can achieve and maintain a neutral mindset. Many effective CEOs and entrepreneurs probably do not even realize when their brains shift to neutral, but almost all high performers have this ability. Whether it is a tense meeting, important presentation, or impending deadline, the people who meet or exceed expectations are those with laser-like focus on the task at hand. They constantly ask themselves — what can I do next to achieve this goal? That mental question arises regardless of success or failure. These people keep moving.

For example, if a sales pitch goes awry early, it may be easy to flounder and fold in the moment. By shifting to neutral and targeting the objective, however, not only could you recover, you could also showcase your fortitude by persevering through the sales pitch. Conversely, if you knock a sales pitch out of the park (or at least feel that way), you could dissuade people by acting overly-confident, cocky, or pompous. Someone with a neutral mindset in these situations would refuse to lose focus of the ultimate objective, while considering what the audience wants.

In the sports context, Russell Wilson describes how he finds “one or two spots in the stadium that bring [him] back to ground zero.” He finds these spots regardless of whether he’s thrown five touchdowns or five interceptions. He then targets truth. Wilson asks: “What is the situation and how can I overcome it?” He illustrates this power of neutral thinking on The Bill Simmons Podcast, applying it not only to football, but life situations like someone being diagnosed with cancer. It is less an interview and more a seminar about the power of a neutral mindset, which allows him to hone in on the next objective.

The Downsides of Too Much Positivity

While psychologists have long harped on the association between negative thinking and negative outcomes, there are downsides to excessive positivity as well. Celebrating successes has a time and place, but if there is still a job to do or a goal to achieve, save the celebrations for later. Act like you have been there before. You do not want to peak prematurely and sacrifice any future success.

High performers expect to achieve any successes they enjoy. They do not need to overindulge in the moment because they have already turned to the next task, the next objective. An overly-positive mentality can compromise the completion of subsequent or long term goals. It can affect the ability to identify blind spots that undermine the end game. Worst of all, too much positivity can inspire the “c-word” we all must avoid — complacency.

Acting overly-positive also appears fake when that mentality fails to reflect reality. For anyone fighting in the trenches alongside you at a start-up, corporation, or any other venture, excessive positivity runs the risk of unreasonably inflating expectations. Neutral thinking tempers the rose-colored lenses and keeps everyone grounded and focused on the objective.

Celebrate and Reflect Later

This is not to say that you cannot enjoy the moment. In fact, a neutral mindset encourages emotion through intense sensory perception of the present. What it avoids is the overly-emotional response, whether positive or negative. Therefore, it uses emotion without being emotional.

We all enjoy celebrating. Celebration and reflection are important for overall mental health, but neither should impede the task at hand. Release the balloons when the fat lady sings, not beforehand.

Whether you are a leader or entrepreneur, a neutral mindset will help ensure those celebrations and happy reflections continue for years to come.

Originally published at on November 22, 2020.

Writer and philosopher on law, politics, and random social commentary. Check out my lifestyle blog at

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