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Entrepreneurs Are Natural Optimists

Topic: Entrepreneur Evangelist | Comments (5)

Posted on January 12, 2010 by admin

OptimismOf all the words people frequently use to describe me, “optimist” rarely makes the cut. And while I would argue that the reverse is definitely not true, the term I have self-applied over the years is actually “pragmatist” (even in the name of my own blog).

However, when it comes to the world of entrepreneurship, I am an optimist — and, more importantly, I think that entrepreneurs innately inclined towards optimism. Even more than that, however: I think that optimism is at the heart of entrepreneurial power and success.

Just think about it for a moment. In order to be an entrepreneur, the following is (almost always) true:

  • You believe you can defy the odds.
  • You beieve that you have something special to offer.
  • You believe that you are capable.
  • You believe that the hard work and sacrifice is worthwhile.
  • You believe that your product or service provides a value to your customers.

No matter how you slice it, those are all extremely optimistic notions. And though a bad day may make an entrepreneur question one or two of those premises, part of being an entrepreneur is coming back again the next day, and starting over.

I was thinking about this as I was reading Jeff Cornwall’s article on MyVenturePad called, “Seeing Things “Half Full” is More Important Than Ever!” He talks about a technique I routinely employ (originally inspired by Tim Ferriss’ book, “The 4-Hour Work Week” and his advocacy of a ‘low information diet’): refusing to be taken in by the bad news, and going out of our way to look at good news.

In his book, Be The Solution, author Michael Strong also points out that with all of the media’s tendancy to focus on the negative, it’s easy to forget that society can and does actually make promising, positive progress on solving problems more than many of us realize.

One of the reasons I go out of my way to surround myself with entrepreneurs is for this reason: I need that energy and optimism, particularly on frustrating days or during complicated projects. As social animals, we are subject to the emotional tides of those around us. And, as an entrepreneur, I can’t afford the luxury of being brought down by endlessly bad news that I can’t do anything about. Instead, I make a choice to be optimistic, and that often means putting a filter on constantly negative news.

In a business seminar last year, a facilitator recounted a story of a fishing trip with his best friend, a wealthy real estate investor. In response to the endless news coverage about the recession, the man said: “Recession! Ha! I chose not to participate!”

Scoff away, but there is something defiantly optimistic in that sentiment — and it helped carry me through 2009. So chin up, and remember: entrepreneurs lead the way, and the best way to do that is to remember that we have plenty of reasons to stay optimistic.

Alora Chistiakoff is an entrepreneur, content strategist and project manager who has been developing online business and technology for startups for more than a decade.  She co-owns The Indigo Heron Group, Inc., a content strategy firm in Austin, Texas

  • Chris Bailey

    Alora, I’m not sure if I would say that it’s a “natural” trait. That might actually scare folks off who think they just don’t have the right stuff based on their genetics. But you are right about the optimism bit.

    I would prefer to think of it as “tough-minded” optimism. I’ve learned over the years to temper my pragmatism and override my pessimism. I wasn’t necessarily born this way but life has sort of put experiences in front of me that changed me toward this more “tough-minded” attitude.

  • Alora Chistiakoff

    I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Until you learned to override your inclination towards pessimism, you probably would have had a much harder time building your own business. You are definitely right, in that optimism may not be a natural quality in all optimists. Perhaps what I should have said is that optimism is an innate need in entrepreneurial success — meaning that, if you aren’t that way naturally, you probably want to learn to be a bit more optimistic before you dive head-first into the startup pool.
    Thanks! Alora

    • Chris Bailey

      That I can get on board with. If you wake up in the morning and get down on yourself because your business is taking a lot longer to build than you originally thought, you’re probably going to fail (I did my first go-round). This second time, I still have those same internal voices whispering in my ear…difference now is that I choose to move past them toward a more optimistic view.

      Good stuff and thanks for making me think a bit more about my own attitude toward building something.

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