Sept. 7 2011 02:03 PM

    In my July/August Reality Check column, I considered the "what's next" for the USPS folks who decided to take advantage of the retirement option and wished them well, while considering the people "left" who may be dealing with "survivor syndrome." Following that announcement (along with thousands of others in our industry) I am evaluating the current "what's next" - the USPS' network optimization, or operations facility rightsizing plan eliminating approximately 325 facilities in calendar year 2012 based on mail volume projections.

    As successful businesses evaluate their value chain and capabilities to protect their market share and stakeholder value, difficult decisions result in major impacts. The USPS is in a position that requires this evaluation, strategic planning and reaction to succeed.

    There are many ways to react to this reality, and my approach is based on a recommendation from Nick Vujicic, an internationally recognized preacher and motivational speaker born without arms or legs: "Use everything we've got to the best of our abilities; learn to accept what you cannot control and focus instead on what you can."

    Do you think that people are hard-wired for hope? Some people claim they have an optimism bias. A tendency to be overly optimistic about the outcome of planned actions. Some people claim this bias "creates an over-estimating likelihood of positive events and an under-estimating of negative events." Daniel Kahneman, Dan Lovallo and Bent Fluybjerg (Harvard Business Review, 2003) acknowledge that an optimism bias exists and is often used in a strategic effort to promote large politically charged projects for approval and acceptance.

    You know, if that's what it takes for the USPS to achieve momentum and approval to right-size its network, I'm all for it! I'm optimistic. Mail will remain a powerful, successful marketing and communications channel for many years and a massive network adjustment is just one element needed for future viability.

    Are you optimistic? Want to find out? Psychology Today has a "happiness - or optimism - test" you can take. I didn't pay the $6.95 to get all the results (pretty reasonable cost) but it seems that my cynicism score of 18 indicates that I believe strongly in the goodness of humankind and give almost everyone the benefit of the doubt, accepting what people say and do at face value, while not making conjectures about their motives.

    It's pretty clear what the USPS' motives are. To do all it can within its legal authority to provide a stable infrastructure to help support the approximately 8.4 million jobs and the $1.138 trillion in sales revenue associated with the mailing industry that represents over seven percent of the nation's GDP and over six percent of the nation's jobs.

    You might think it is good to temper optimism and be slightly skeptical to avoid getting taken advantage of. If you lean more to the pessimistic side of the equation and assume the worst, you can miss opportunities, neglect problems that need to be solved and fail to take action that could lead to improvements in your quality of life.

    So how can you maintain a positive attitude in what is likely to be a stressful situation while understanding and working through the USPS network optimization this coming year? Some advice from a university in Iowa suggests:
    1. Make an itemized list of everything you experience that is negative or stressful.
    2. Examine the list and ask?
    a. Can I do anything about this? (remember Nick's recommendation)
    b. Can I change the situation?
    c. What if I changed my reaction to the situation?
    d. Create a plan to change your reaction and do it!
    3. Make a list of positive things in your life
    a. Laugh and spend time with family and friends
    b. Listen to good music
    c. Physical activities/exercise
    d. Take a nap! (Love that one!)

    The bottom line is this reminder from Orson Wells, "If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story." Don't stop this story (that will eventually be positive) until all the details are shared and you work with the USPS to accept what you can't change, and focus on what you can.