Genius of the Interactive Style

This is the 2nd of a four-part series on The Hidden Genius of Style.When conducting Taking Flight with DISC training programs, we discuss the hidden genius possessed by each DISC style. These remarkable abilities come so naturally to each style that they may barely notice it. Yet this genius plays a major role in creating success and happiness.
The genius of the I style.

Imagine yourself as a ten year veteran in a company that slowly grew out of a friend’s basement into a hugely successful enterprise. During that period, you logged ridiculous hours, sacrificed much of your personal life, endured multiple company-near death experiences, and after a decade of sweat and toil, you are at last enjoying the fruits of your labor. This is what Virgin Records employees experienced after hitching their careers to Richard Branson’s wild ride from boarding school dropout to business icon status. Then, just as everyone was getting comfortable with their newly earned stability, Branson walked in and announced this to his staff, “I have great news. We’re launching Virgin Airlines!”

The team responded with dead silence. The idea was preposterous and everyone waited for the punch line. Once they saw that Branson was serious, disbelief and shock set in. One startled C style executive asked, “What analysis have you conducted that gives you confidence this will succeed?”

“I’m glad you asked,” Branson responded with glee, “The same customers who buy our records will fly in our airplanes.”

How did the Supportive and Conscientious styles react to that? In fact, a number of them immediately quit. Today, of course, Virgin Airlines is hugely successful and flies to every continent around the globe. Richard Branson is a shining example of I energy unleashed. What is the I’s native genius…one that emanates so naturally from Branson that it appears way over-the-top to other styles? Optimism! Branson believed that with enough hard work anything was possible. As an already successful businessman, he knew there would be trials, set-backs, and lots of stress in building an airline from scratch, but his overpowering optimism visualized that journey as a fresh, exciting challenge that would inevitably lead to great success.I’s are just funny that way. They truly believe that whatever happens will be for the good, so one might as well just go for it and enjoy the ride. And studies show that more often than not, they’re right.

Dr. Martin Seligman, founder of the Positive Psychology Movement and former President of the American Psychology Association, has been researching optimism for decades. His studies reveal that optimists enjoy a higher quality of life than pessimists. They live longer, recover from illness faster, enjoy healthier relationships, and make more money than pessimists. These results are surprising given that pessimists often accumulate more accurate data from which to make consequential decisions than do optimists. So, how do the ‘happy people’ win the day? It’s all about what Seligman calls their “explanatory style.”

Explanatory style determines how one responds to adversity. It’s your inner color commentator that interprets why events happen to you the way they do. To pessimists, obstacles and setbacks are:

• Perceived as personal failings – It’s all my fault.

• Assumed to be permanent – It will always be this way for me.

• Inevitably pervasive – Now my life will never be the same.

The pessimist’s mind-state leads to a downward spiral that ultimately becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Optimists see things differently. When misfortune strikes, I’s easily identify outside factors that contributed to the problem. This inoculates them from taking failings too personally. Since optimists expect eventual success, setbacks are viewed as merely temporary, even fleeting. Lastly, optimists compartmentalize failure, meaning that they do not define themselves by their weaknesses, but rather, by their strengths.

Incredibly, the script reverses when good fortune strikes. Optimists take good news as being largely of their own making, assume that good events will far outnumber bad ones, and envision a life that’s better and more successful as a result. Pessimists interpret good news as largely the product of luck and outside forces, assume that it won’t last long, and discount the long term impact the pleasant surprise could have for them.

For I’s, optimism is a natural, nearly permanent state of being. It’s the oxygen they breathe, powering everything they do, filling their lives with adventure, and enabling them to appreciate the outcome no matter where it leads. Optimism is the I‘s hidden genius and each of the other styles can benefit from a greater dose of its application. As a certain bird chirped in Taking Flight!, “If the bright side wasn’t there, then how come we keep finding it?” Now that’s an optimist!

Daniel Silvert