James “Jimmy” Pattison is the quintessential Canadian success story. Dropping out before finishing his business degree at University of British Columbia, Pattison, after trying many different jobs, finally found his calling selling used cars. By the early 1960’s, he borrowed $40K from a bank, sold his house, pledged his life insurance to GM and opened a Pontiac dealership in Vancouver. By the mid1980’s he was selling more cars than anyone else in Western Canada. Today, he owns: 25 car dealerships; a number of Peterbilt truck dealerships; Overwaitea Foods; Save-On-Foods; a John Deere dealership with about 20 locations; Ripley’s Believe It Or Not; Guinness World Records; close to 50 radio and TV stations; many other assets not mentioned here; and is, as of 2021, the 241st richest person in the world with a net worth of about $10B USD.
How, you might ask, could Pattison, in his own words, repeatedly make the SAME mistakes? After all, one would clearly assume he is a rather smart enough fellow to avoid doing so. Well, the answer lies in the world of psychology. The reality is that we tend to move towards psychological comfort and away from psychological discomfort. As such, when we experience anxiety or pressure (discomfort), we often default to emotional security even if circumstances dictate otherwise. For instance, people who struggle overtly with being liked will often take the path of least resistance and avoid an issue that may well be critical to an outcome. And they will do so because it brings them psychological wellbeing – no matter how serious the consequences might be. Effective individuals move towards psychological discomfort if it makes the most sense for the business or organization. While we might not know what Pattison views as his mistakes, he clearly demonstrated his ability to move towards psychological discomfort when needed.
Born 93 years ago this month, Jimmy Pattison seems to know something about psychology. After all, every one of us, sometimes quite unwittingly, makes the same mistakes over and over again– whether we acknowledge it or not!