Is Your Glass Half Full of Half Empty? – How You Tell Your Story Matters

October 17, 2019
Sanjib Kalita
Editor-in-Chief
Money20/20
“Red, red wine, it's up to you
All I can do I've done
Memories won't go, memories won't go”


There’s a saying that if you look at a glass half-full, you’re an optimist and if you look at a glass half-empty you’re a pessimist.  While this might be an oversimplification, it provides a snapshot of one’s frame of reference.  I ordered a glass of red wine at the restaurant, recently.  I finished half my glass and took a picture of it.  I was enjoying my glass, thinking about the half full/half empty dichotomy, when the UB40 version of the song, “Red Red Wine” started playing on the jukebox.  I did a bit of research and learned about the prior versions of the song that were also successful back in their day.  Below are links to several of the more successful versions.

Neil Diamond Version, (Original) 1967

Peter Tetteroo Version, 1968

Tony Tribe Version, 1969

UB40 Version, 1983


Each of these artists saw the glass of wine in a completely different way and created dramatically different versions of the song.   While the lyrics might be the same, the tone, tune and pacing drive different results.  I then thought about how different people might look at my glass of red wine and produce a wide range of comments.  Having seen a wide variety of people speak, from different functions, roles and types of companies, I’ve noticed patterns through the years.  Here are some example comments about the half glass of wine from archetypes in our industry.


Global Bank CEO: This glass of wine is an example of our excellence at scale. Over 100 million people drink a glass of wine like this on a daily basis around the world. We have been in the wine business for over 200 years and our vineyards have been productive from changes in empires, world wars, and every single economic condition. We are better positioned than our competitors to build on our strengths and grow into new markets.  When you sip this glass of wine, you are experiencing the collective history and efforts of generations.  Nobody else can match this experience.


Fintech Startup CEO: We built our company because we knew there was a better way to produce and distribute wine. Our team uses the latest predictive technologies and blockchain-based supply chain to produce world-class wine at mass-market prices. This glass took 2 years to create but has the quality of wine that is significantly older.  Market testing indicates that our initial market will be over 100 million people and can quickly grow to a billion within a few years.  Be the first in your social circle to own a case – or a piece of the winery.


Regulator: What is the safety and soundness of this wine?  Our team performed numerous tests on it and they all came back negative on toxins, so I feel relatively confident about it.  The viscosity and physical appearance of the wine also appears to be within regulations.  Due to my regulatory role, I can’t comment on the quality of this wine, but I can provide you a letter of no action.


VP Risk Management: I wish you had brought this my attention earlier.  The reason we have weekly cross-functional risk meetings is precisely for this purpose.  I’m shocked to say that 100% of this grape juice has gone bad.  Who signed off on this delivery?  We should go back through our portfolio and identify all grape juice like this and destroy it immediately.


VP Marketing: – This glass of wine is a perfect metaphor for our company.  We strive to be open with our customers – as transparent as this glass!  But our amazing product is only at 50% of potential.  To capitalize on this opportunity, we’ll need additional funds for advertising & PR as well as funds for channel marketing programs to get preferred distribution.  To get the full effect of our proposal, I’d suggest that you drink that glass or bottle of wine beforehand.


COO:  We are at optimal operational levels for this month. Our KPI’s indicate that production and distribution are at code green.  In other words, we have ample capacity for market growth while maintaining adequate inventory for current market demand.  In order to ramp up for the busy season, we’ve started hiring trainees at the Fresno facility.


Phishing Email: Thank you for ordering this free glass of wine.  It’s only half full because we’re missing some data to complete the transaction.  All we’ll need is some simple information such as your Social Security Number, your passwords, and bank account details.

We all bring the sum total of life experiences when we tell a story.  This brings a unique voice, but it also expectations and biases, some which can detract from goals.

Looking at the breadth of stories above, it’s amazing to recognize they’re all about a simple glass of wine.  We all bring the sum total of life experiences when we tell a story.  This brings a unique voice, but it also expectations and biases, some which can detract from goals. And as we’ve seen from the different versions of the same song, even with the same words, delivery drives dramatically different results.  Remember this the next time when communicating within or outside of the company.  Whether seeking sales, resources, investment or a relationship, we should strive to not sound like a broken record.