Optimism

In 2008 as the tides turned in the fall, many companies were feeling the stress of times.  Now, not to say that I was or that my clients were oblivious to the economic hardship, but there definitely wasn’t the weight of the world I was hearing from others.

But, why? Why was it different?

One might chalk it up to the fact that I work with entrepreneurs…  people who dare to dream the impossible and are just audacious enough to think they can make pigs fly. No wonder they’re not feeling it. You could also say, maybe they’re addicted to risky environments. Or maybe my clients were just a bunch of “Pollyanna’s” and the realists would be laughing at us all in the end.

I was curious about what was playing out… why were my clients singing the Mary Tyler Moore theme song while others were barely humming?

It actually starts with common core beliefs. An entrepreneur believes:

  • I can offer a product or service that others truly need or want; even if they don’t know it yet.
  • I am capable and can surround myself with others who offset my blind spots.
  • With every no, I’m one step closer to a yes.
  • Hard work and sacrifice is worthwhile.
  • I’m inventing the future.

This last belief was so instrumental to the experience my clients were having in 2008. A lot business leaders base their prediction on the future by the past. This is the way it works… If I do A + B it almost always equal C. Entrepreneurs are inventing the “A+B”… way it will work. They are inventing the future based on this core belief that they can.

Our latest loss to entrepreneurs, Steve Jobs once said, “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”

All these beliefs that entrepreneurs have make them optimists.

It must be optimism, I thought. That’s it. Entrepreneurs must have a higher propensity for optimism. All the people I was working with had the same level of positivity I possess… No wonder we were attracted to one another.

So,what is optimism?

Being optimistic, in the typical sense of the word, ultimately means one expects the best possible outcome from any given situation. This is usually referred to in psychology as dispositional optimism.

Marc Randolph, founder of Netflix, once said, “In my past life as an entrepreneur, this optimism was a critical tool.  I just always believed we would succeed.  Even when everyone else said my ideas were ridiculous. Even when we were almost out of money.  Even when the metrics were all upside down.  I always have confidence that I’ll figure something out.  I just have that confidence that things are going to work out fine.”

Okay, so in order for individuals to not only survive, but thrive through times of adversity, it’s simple… be optimistic! Or is it that simple? Can I choose to be optimistic or am I born optimistic? What do you think?

Is optimism alone enough? If I go back to the definition of optimism there is the idea or illusion or hope of good outcomes. Hope is not a plan. It is an ingredient, but hope alone does not bake the soufflé.

Maybe we need to focus on a deeper use of optimism… resiliency.

What does it mean to be resilient?

Let me know what you think in the comments section, and check back next week where I’ll be continuing the discussion of resiliency.

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