Embrace Optimistic Pessimism for Business Greatness

For a while I thought I was a bit of a pessimist. When I am
presented with new things or risk I immediately think of all the things that can
go wrong.

But then I realized that I also dream fairly big.  I always have.

And continue to do things despite the fear or risk. Try to figure
out how to get past all the things that can go wrong. Rewrite the rules if required.

Because I understand the risk, and choose to do it anyways,
I don’t tend to quit when things go a bit sideways. I knew what I was getting
into.

Kids and Food

I did this getting our first dog as an adult. I really liked
border collies. If you do the research there are a lot of horror stories of all
that pent up energy, instinct and focus gone wrong.
Think eating your car or ripping apart a wooden fence.

I got not one, but two. I was prepared and it was great.

I was prepared for both the upside and downside.

Blind Optimism

It might be the pessimistic side of me but I think that
blind optimism is dangerous:

  • You can be anything you want.
  • Work hard enough and you can succeed at
    anything.
  • Do what you love and the money will follow.

Don’t make me channel Larry Winget again! Things don’t always work out by putting on a happy front.

Too much optimism leads you to take foolish risks.

Pessimism keeps us alive and reduces risk.

Too much pessimism paralyzes us and keeps us from greatness.

The Question

Bob Burg asked in his latest post:

“Is anything of importance
ever actually accomplished or “created” by a pessimist?”

If you believe people are either optimists or pessimists
then the answer is no.

But is it black or white?

Most people are a mix of the two extremes.

Your mind determines how see things. Optimism and pessimism can
vary based on your mood, state of mind and your faith in your abilities.

I am very pessimistic about my chances of surviving extreme heli-skiing
for example. I am quite optimistic that I will find something to eat for
supper.

In Decisive

In the book “Decisive” (by Chip Heath and Dan Heath), the authors talk about how to make better decisions.

Neither pure optimism or pure pessimism lead to better
decisions.

They recommend a balance of both. They call it “Bookending
the Future”.

Pre-Mortem:

  • What if things go horribly wrong?
  • What would cause that to happen?
  • How can we avoid or prevent those things from
    happening?
  • Etc.

Pre-Parade:

  • What if things go amazingly right?
  • Are we prepared to handle that level of success?
  • What can we do now to prepare for success?
  • Etc.

These are the two extremes of pessimism and optimism; the
bookends.

Reality will likely be somewhere in between.

Anticipating problems helps us deal with them when they occur.

Conclusion

Truly great decision making requires the ability is to be
able to consciously move between optimism and pessimism.

The optimism gives you the dream. The pessimism gives you
the ability to reduce the risk and make better decisions.

So the answer to Bob’s question:

Optimists tempered by
pessimism are the most likely to do and create important and worthwhile things
in the world
.

Courage is the bridge between knowing what can go wrong and
chasing the dream anyways.

An optimistic pessimist is required for business greatness.

P.S. Where are you on the scale? Leave a comment below.

P.P.S. Please subscribe to my blog via e-mail by entering
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By | 2017-04-04T15:50:50+00:00 May 21st, 2013|Categories: Books and Courses, Doug's Blog, Leadership, Mindset and Motivation|

About the Author:

Doug Wagner is an entrepreneur, President and Co-founder of Sunwapta Solutions. Sunwapta's mission is to help businesses transform from surviving to thriving, sustainable growth. From strategy to implementation, this means marketing, sales, managing your brand and delivering consistent value. Get more clients and keep them.