Hello my name is Thomas and I’m an optimist. You see, I’ve thought that being an optimist, particularly in business, was one of the greatest sins a leader could commit. I had this opinion confirmed by many colleagues along the way. So, I have been a closet optimist for over 35 years.
Today, I’m coming out of the closet. It’s time to speak the truth about my optimism and let the cards fall where they may.Today’s writing is only focused on the implications of optimism in a business content. More about the impact of optimism in the rest of my life, soon. I can see the challenges to being an optimist. The most obvious is that the view of the future (and the present for that matter) is often obscured by a feeling of hopefulness. I feel that anything is possible. That’s got good points, but it also brings with it challenges. (Note: I’ve noticed that optimism is a common quality among entrepreneurs)
Optimists can miss seeing what’s really going on, right before their eyes, because it doesn’t fit their hopeful perspective. They can hope that the contract will be signed any day now. They can believe that the “perfect storm” will happen and the business idea will be a home run long before events confirm this outcome. Optimists think everything is easy, and overlook the steps along the way that are required for lasting success. The cost of this underestimation of “what’s so” is not meeting expectations of customers, co-workers and other owners, which has a big impact on trust. In extreme cases businesses can run out of resources (think money) before the payoff can happen, which means everyone loses.
It’s important to also talk about the many positive aspects of optimism. The most obvious is that you don’t believe what others say about something being impossible. There are many times, when I have pushed along business ideas, products or programs that everyone (I mean everyone) was saying was impossible. When these work out, the positive consequences can be enormous.
What’s behind my optimism? Part of it is that I like being heroic. I love doing those things that look impossible. It is an emotional high. Others want to play on a team that’s inspired. Optimists are good at inspiring others, for without high levels of energy their dreams would never happen. Being in this highly charged environment is exciting.
I also feel that behind my optimism and the underlying hopefulness is that I don’t want to let anyone down. I know, I know, everyone is responsible for what they feel. Still, there are moments, when an old belief kicks in and says, “You want others to respect you, which means you never disappoint them.” This old programming has a strong partner with optimism.
The first step to being a reformed optimist is acceptance and love. I accept my personality and all that has come from that. I appreciate what I’ve gained from my optimistic experiences. I know that the motivations that have fueled optimism are unnecessary. It’s time to let them go.
The road ahead as a reformed optimist brings the best of my optimistic orientation, which is that I believe that everything is possible, using the gift of intuition to see where things truly are right now. As I started my day, I was feeling bit of dread about writing this. Now, I’m excited to see what this brings.