Why Every Entrepreneur Should Cultivate Optimism

Recently I saw a post on Quora answering the question, “What is the single most unfair advantage a person can have?”.  Among all of the usual suspect answers, one stood out.


That short answer, by Sondra Webber, went on to say, “Studies show optimistic people are more successful, and happier, because they believe in themselves and more or less make it happen.”  That answer just happened to hit home for me that day, as I was thinking about the own life and my own entrepreneurial activity.

Pessimists Miss Opportunities

I realized that pessimists lose in three ways.

  1. Pessimists dismiss opportunities when they see them because they don’t believe the opportunities are attainable.
  2. They don’t see opportunities because they don’t believe that it is even worth looking.
  3. When we take a step in a new direction, the vista is different.  Pessimists don’t ever see positive new vistas that are built on the results of positive actions and thoughts.  Worse yet, they see new negative vistas built from the results of their negative direction.

The implications for optimists are the reverse.

Optimists See Opportunities

Optimists are open to opportunities.  They will try something.  Perhaps, as Sondra says, because they believe in themselves.  But perhaps, I think, because they believe in the opportunity, whatever it is.  I see that all of the time in my entrepreneurial friends here at Founders.  We’ll be talking about something, anything.  An idea will pop up.  Somebody will say, “Awesome, what a great idea!”  Someone else will say, “We’ve just gotta do that!”  And then maybe a couple of people will head to a whiteboard or the front windows with some dry erase markers.  Pretty soon domain names are being purchased and code is being written.

Optimists Create Opportunities

Believing that something can be done, and then starting to do it, is enormously powerful.  Starting work on an opportunity puts you in a position where you might see even better opportunities.  As I’ve recently retooled some of my own professional services, the product that I started creating has changed based on ideas I never even imagined until after I started developing the idea.  Had I pessimistically avoided developing the initial idea, I would never have seen the other more powerful ideas.  I’m willing to bet that every entrepreneur has experienced this same phenomenon.

That Helps Entrepreneurs Play to Win

It’s simple.

  • Because optimism helps you see and take advantage of opportunities, you can’t win without it.
  • Because optimism helps you create opportunities along a positive vista, you can’t win big without it.

Cultivating Optimism

Cultivating optimism is not difficult (yeah, I know that sounds sorta optimistic itself).

The first thing to understand is that cultivating optimism is not the same as reducing pessimism.  It is not setting aside time to identify and study those occasions when you have been pessimistic and vow to get better.  When you work to reduce pessimism, your framework is still pessimism, so although you may change you are still grounded in the world of pessimism.

Instead, try taking some time each day to practice being purely optimistic.  Take ten minutes (or more) and let yourself think optimistic thoughts (force yourself at first, if you have to).  Imagine you will have a successful outcome to some of the key things you are working on in your venture.  Imagine you will have a successful relationship with those people that are habitually hard for you to deal with.  Imagine that your team is really, really motivated, full of great ideas, and just plain primed to kick ass.  Imagine that the city looks sparklingly great early in the morning.  Imagine that you have everything it takes to be uber-successful in your market.  Etc.  Just practice being open, concentrate on how all that feels, smile a lot, and see where it leads.

I predict that two things will happen.

  • Your framework will change.  You will begin to think from an optimistic viewpoint, rather than a pessimistic viewpoint.
  • Your perception will change.  More and more each day (outside of your 10 minute practice time), you will see positive opportunities that will help you achieve success.

Have fun!