Success Follows The Incurable Optimist

The most powerful personality traits to develop in one’s quest for success are incurable optimism and integrity.

Optimism is defined as “the belief that good things will happen to you and that negative events are temporary setbacks to be overcome.” (-Mayo Clinic ).   Integrity, as I would define it, is “doing the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason – despite any consequence.” When you combine those two qualities what you have is a person who seeks out the best outcome in every situation, while still being honest and forthright about the facts of situations as they exist. A person who exemplifies these two qualities will garner significant trust and respect from his or her clients, coworkers, managers, and subordinates – all of whom contribute toward helping that person achieve great success.

There is a distinct difference between an optimist and a pessimist:

An optimist sees challenges as temporary, able to be overcome, and as stepping stones that are leading them to a better solution. A pessimist sees challenges as permanent; they see them as massive stumbling blocks which make it impossible to move forward, thus signifying the end of that road. Finally there is the incurable optimist, which is that optimist that relentlessly pushes forward, time and time again, never letting trials keep them from believing in the good that lies up ahead. These are the best optimists of all.

A good example of an incurable optimist can be seen in a personal story that occurred recently: I have a teenage daughter who passionately loves basketball. She worked incredibly hard to make the varsity team of her high school junior year, only to tear her ACL in the second game of the season. It was devastating news, but she was determined to have the surgery and be vigilant with her physical therapy so she could be back on the court in time for her senior year to begin. She saw her injury as a temporary hurdle that hard work would help her to overcome. And it did. That is until a few days ago, when she stepped onto a basketball court for the first time seven months after surgery only to have her ACL re-tear on her first attempt drive to the basket. She immediately knew that her dreams of returning to basketball had come to an end as she will once again have to go in for surgery this week for a second ACL repair, just two weeks before her senior year begins. Once again, devastating news to accept, yet within hours of her injury she began talking about the fact that there must be other talents she is supposed to discover within herself that go beyond basketball. That exemplifies incurable optimism at its finest.  She recognized the gravity of her injury, yet she saw it as a temporary challenge that would lead her to discover additional talents and opportunities ahead.

Without question, optimistic people are a lot more fun to be around. They are genuinely happier, healthier, more attractive people. The have an energetic sparkle that draws everyone to want to be around them. I call this the “Tigger factor.”  If you think back to your childhood days of Winnie the Pooh and his friends Tigger and Eeyore – ask yourself who you would rather spend time around – Tigger or Eeyore? Clearly the answer is Tigger! After all, Tigger’s are wonderful things, plus they bounce and bounce and bounce and bounce…OK, you get the jist. Seriously, Tigger is cheerful and happy and fun.  He is a party unto himself. Whereas Eeyore is depressed, grouchy, and just plain whiny, and there is nothing enjoyable in being around a whiny person. We are drawn to those people who display the Tigger factor because optimistic people make everything happier.

That optimism is of tremendous value for one seeking funding for their business. As an investor, I pay very close attention to the level of optimism of the entrepreneurs seeking an investment. First, I will have to spend time around that person if I invest in their company, and again, no one likes spending time around an Eeyore. Second, I need to believe that the entrepreneur I am investing in will be the type of person that can see a positive outcome for any difficulty they face. Without question there will be numerous trials ahead in their business, and I need that entrepreneur to use those trials as stepping stones to bigger and better outcomes, rather than letting them become roadblocks to their success.

It is important to point out that there is a huge difference between optimism and over-confidence.  When someone is over-confident they tend to ignore the barriers all together, having an attitude of “that couldn’t happen to me.” Whereas when someone is optimistic they have an attitude of “It may happen to me, but if it does I will find a way to get through it, and I will make it even better in the end.”  The attitude of the first person brings fear to the heart of an investor or an employer, while the attitude of the second gives a feeling of trust and comfort.

The ideal find for either an employer or an investor is coming across that unique person who has both an incurable optimism and the integrity to share all the facts of things as they exist. They present the best picture without over-embellishing, and they express a positive outlook without over-promising.  They can be trusted, relied upon, and to top it off, they are pleasant and fun to be around. With all of that it is no wonder success is sure to follow them.

There may only be one Tigger in this world, but there is plenty of room for many more incurable optimists to join the ranks of fun, fun fun!

~Amy Rees Anderson   (follow me on twitter @amyreesanderson )


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