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How Donald Trump Thinks


How Trump Thinks - State of the Union 2019Before 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 presided over a divided country with remarkable resilience.  He endured two years of media speculation that he colluded with Russia to tilt the 2016 election, until special counsel Robert Mueller’s report refuted the claims.  Acquitted by the Senate, Trump survived two impeachments by the House of Representatives. During a period of widespread social unrest, he led U.S. efforts to combat the coronavirus with timely vaccinations.

As the author of Optimal Thinking, I have been aware of how Donald Trump thinks for three decades. 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.

How Donald Trump thinks

What Motivates Donald Trump?

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 have failed or fear to tread. Few historians anticipated the U.S. brokering peace treaties between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, changing the landscape of the Middle East.

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.
Why Trump is polarizing

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.

Why Donald Trump Needs Optimal Thinking

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 strives to deliver the best, whether in real estate, golf, pageantry, casinos, signature items, or reality television. Trump has deployed Optimal Thinking to produce his most outstanding successes. He uses Optimal Thinking to envision the highest standards, 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”.

How Donald Trump Uses Optimal Thinking

Below are three examples of how America’s former CEO 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.

An Optimal Thinking Challenge for President Trump

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 still lead America to unprecedented heights. Now, more than ever, we desperately need America’s former CEO to deploy Optimal Thinking to help overcome the extreme polarization in Washington and nationwide. Given the former 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.

Want to Put Optimal Thinking to the Test?

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.

The transcripts used in this article are US Candidacy Speech and McCain Aftermath Interview.

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.

17 Responses to “How Donald Trump Thinks”

  1. Todd P says:

    Great article. Trump is driving the world crazy because he is small minded, nasty, vindictive, divisive and unpredictable. He doesn’t have the mindset to be an admired, inspiring leader. Instead of bringing the country together during this pandemic when the media question him, he attacks them with his extraordinary negative thinking. This isn’t what the world needs.

  2. Confused says:

    Trump survived many failures and still became president of the U.S. He is another PT Barnum. He has the whole world wondering what he will do next.

  3. Thomas Newman says:

    This is someone with very low self esteem. He uses offensive words to describe others, however, those are the same words people use to describe him.

  4. Luke B says:

    This article nails Trump. I’m a Republican but can’t stand his divisive extraordinary negative thinking that on too many occasions does not coincide with facts. Your article has given me new understanding about how he ticks. We need an optimal thinker for President.

  5. Darren P. says:

    It looks like Trump will become the Republican nominee. If he does, he will need a boat load of optimal thinking to win the minority vote. He’s used extraordinary negative thinking in situations that are important to hispanics and women that will be very hard to overcome.

  6. Walt Berman says:

    What a fantastic article. Trump is undoubtedly an extraordinary thinker. Now he’s threatening to boycott the next debate. That’s not mainstream, moderate thinking as you point out. He uses extraordinary thinking to get attention. We are now assessing whether his extraordinary thinking is best for the country.

  7. Bruce Moss says:

    You have an interesting site and your analyses of these top CEOs are unique and thought provoking. I took your assessment and was amazed how accurate and helpful it is. It should be compulsory in every company as a recruiting and training tool.

    As Obama stated on 60 minutes, Trump knows how to get attention, but he won’t be President. His understanding of the issues is superficial. I agree that he is an extraordinary thinker and now that I am familiar with your thinking system, I hear it in his language. Thanks for your great contribution.

  8. Bill J says:

    Trump is not capable of bringing the country together. His ego is too big. He fights with anyone who disagrees with hi. I enjoyed your article. It is very credible.

  9. Mike Sullivan says:

    Your analysis of Donald Trump’s language is accurate. However he scores on negativity, there is irony here. He represents a refreshing and completely intelligent paradigm shift in the direction of realistic problem resolution. He towers over the more mild career politicians who may perhaps score higher on positive political talk but whose actual performance and quality of ideas are mediocre. Donald is optimal in leadership and frankness.

  10. M.T. says:

    Loved your article. In Trump’s attempt to win the U.S. CEO role ( which I predict will fail miserably), he is using extraordinary negative thinking to bully his opponents and anyone who gives him a hard time. He’s crude and nasty and repeats the same extraordinary negative talking points. Very unpresidential.

  11. Leon Perkins says:

    Trump is a wild card. Fascinating analysis.

  12. Anne Green says:

    You have got Trump’s modus operandi down. Great analysis and challenge.

  13. Chris Jenkins says:

    If Trump took on your challenge and made it part of his campaign, he could become the next republican nominee. I don’t think it’s in his DNA and one reason he’ won’t be the next president, Still got to give him credit for bringing up controversial issues and getting tons of publicity.

  14. Barry Walsh says:

    Great challenge worthy of Trump’s money and time. I doubt that he could meet your challenge. He’s a fighter and thrives on controversy.

  15. […] to Trump’s announcement speech and his ABC interview with Martha Raddatz, Glickman created a thinking profile that is as unique as Trump’s fingerprints, accurately reflecting his strengths and […]

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