ptimism and the importance of the down side

TRC 029: Optimism and the importance of the down side

founder experience leadership Feb 15, 2024

Read time: 4 mins

I am pretty much an optimist.

In life as well as business.

My glass is nearly always half full and even when things feel tough, I tend to believe that with the right though, effort, collaboration, innovation, things can be made better.

It has generally felt like this has served me well in starting and running businesses.

Despite all the barriers and difficult times, my positive view of the world has kept me going.

But it does have a down side.

I like to get going, to make progress - but sometimes this means that I haven’t taken much (or any) time to consider obvious questions:

  • What were the different options for how we could have got started?
  • What were the risks that we should have considered?
  • What other information would have been helpful for making a better decision?

Optimism in business can drive innovation, risk-taking, and growth.

It's the lens through which opportunities are spotted and seized.

However, unchecked, it can lead to overconfidence, and sometimes, costly mistakes.

Pessimism, on the other hand, often gets a bad rap.

But in the right doses, it acts as a useful counterbalance,

It can provide a reality check and prompt the preparation of contingency plans.

It's not about expecting the worst; it's about being prepared for it.

So, how do you find the balance:

  1. Embrace Optimism to Innovate and Grow: Encourage your team to dream big and chase bold ideas. Foster a culture where optimism fuels creativity and ambition.
  2. Use Pessimism as a Reality Check: Regularly assess risks and challenges. Let a view of the dark side guide you in identifying potential pitfalls and mitigations.
  3. Encourage Open Discussions: Balance in perspective often comes from diverse viewpoints. Encourage your team to share both their hopes and concerns openly. Optimistic voices can often be the loudest in the room, encourage some of the quieter ones to speak up.
  4. Learn from the Past, Plan for the Future: Use past experiences to temper optimism with lessons learned. Have you seen this picture before? What happened last time? Build a business memory by getting into a habit of writing down your expectations and measuring the results. Optimists can also have a tendency to paint too rosy a view of the outcome when expectations are not clearly set before you start.
  5. Flexibility is Key: Businesses are dynamic. Sometimes, a situation warrants optimism, while at other times, a dose of pessimism is necessary. Being flexible in your approach can make a significant difference.

Don’t forget to be positive - starting and running a business requires a ton of resilience. It can be too hard if all you see is downside.

But unbridled optimism can also lead to bad decisions that don’t take account of obvious risks.

Having a view of what can go wrong is important, just don’t let it stop you making decisions.

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