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Before becoming the President of the United States, Donald Trump was a well-known American business magnate, investor, television celebrity, and author. Trump was famous for setting standards of excellence in real estate, sports, and entertainment. In New York City and around the globe, the Trump signature was synonymous with prestigious properties and high profile events. His business activities also included several controversial bankruptcies.
As President, Trump presides over a divided country with remarkable resilience. He endured two years of media speculation until special counsel Robert Mueller’s report confirmed that he did not collude with Russia to tilt the 2016 election. Trump survived impeachment by the House of Representatives and was acquitted by the Senate on February 5, 2020. He is now leading the U.S. efforts to combat the coronavirus along with widespread social unrest.
As the author of Optimal Thinking, I had been aware of how Donald Trump thinks for over 25 years. In 2016, I conducted an analysis of his statements during his U.S. Presidential announcement speech and his first interview after the John McCain heroism controversy. I rated these statements according to my Hierarchy of Thinking Styles model.
The analysis revealed primarily extraordinary negative thinking in his announcement speech, followed closely by extraordinary positive thinking. Trump’s ABC interview response with Martha Raddatz about his controversial John McCain remarks revealed approximately the same amount of extraordinary positive thinking and extraordinary negative thinking. There was more negative thinking than positive thinking in both speeches.
Trump is clearly an extraordinary thinker. Unlike moderate thinkers who are motivated by acceptance, extraordinary thinkers are motivated by being outstanding and making a difference. While Trump delights in pioneering remarkable achievements, he also ventures into arenas where others fear to tread. During his candidacy, Trump’s frequent use of extraordinary negative thinking demonstrated his disdain and deep concerns about the state and direction of the United States. He continually mocked prior administrations dealings with China and their failure to curb illegal immigration from Central America.
Trump deploys extraordinary negative thinking to express his opinions about most of his competitors. When insulted personally, he responds with extraordinary negative thinking. Many of his statements are deemed offensive, false, misleading or lacking evidence.
Trump uses extraordinary negative words like “stupidity”, “disaster”, “vicious”, and “disgrace”. He employs phrases such as “serious trouble”, “horrible labor participation rate”, “the big lie”, “amazingly destructive”, “political hack”, and “terrible story”.
In contrast, Trump deploys extraordinary positive words like “great”, “thriving”, “fortune”, and “terrific”. He also uses phrases such as “beyond anybody’s expectations”, “truly great leader”, “tremendous potential”, and “I’m really rich”.
Not surprisingly, Trump used very little moderate thinking (positive or negative) in his announcement speech. But in his interview, although non-apologetic, he demonstrated an ability to moderate his thinking. Around one-third of his comments were moderately positive or negative, with roughly the same amount of extraordinary positive and negative thinking. While still polarizing, his interview had fewer extreme statements than his initial announcement.
Optimal Thinking empowers us to be our best and stops us from settling for second best. With Optimal Thinking, our highest self takes charge. We focus on the best or most constructive thoughts. We choose our best option in any given moment and take the smartest actions to achieve what is most important. We are not concerned with others’ concepts of “the best” and we are not in competition with anyone. We focus on what “the best” means to us and attach our own value to it.
The Trump brand is based on delivering the best, whether in real estate, golf, pageantry, casinos, signature items, or reality television. Trump deploys Optimal Thinking to produce his most outstanding successes. He uses Optimal Thinking to envision the highest standards, continually focusing on executing projects on time and on budget.
Trump employs words like “finest”, “smartest”, “right”, and “greatest”. He deploys phrases such as “smartest negotiators”, “best hotel”, “most highly sought after”, “the strongest military that we’ve ever had” and “the biggest bank in the world”.
Below are three examples of how President Trump deploys Optimal Thinking:
America will no longer settle for anything less than the best.
My highest duty as president is the security of our people, the security of our nation.
I will never stop fighting for the people and issues that matter most.
Optimal Thinkers accept, understand and bring out the best in others. We ask the best questions to invite the best solutions, and pursue the best means to achieve the best ends. When the cost of failure is high, we create an optimal contingency plan to achieve the most constructive result.
A big thinker and unrelenting achiever, Donald Trump could lead America to unprecedented heights. However now, more than ever, we desperately need America’s CEO to deploy Optimal Thinking to overcome the extreme polarization in Washington and nationwide. Given the President’s artful negotiation skills, imagine what could happen if he put his mind to this acute problem and met the challenge in his usual style, head-on. This could be his greatest accomplishment.
If you are a CEO, senior executive, or rising star who is facing an immediate challenge, I would like to prove that Optimal Thinking will give you the best chance of achieving everything you want. You will experience consistent peak performance to best resolve your greatest challenge.
This article is part of our How CEOs Think article series.
If you would like to nominate a well-known leader for a thinking analysis, feel free to include them in your comments below.