“An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees just the red stoplight… The truly wise individual is color- blind.” Albert Schweitzer
I learned a really difficult life lesson this month. I, the eternal optimist and consummate positive thinker were blinded by my medicine. It’s a powerful personal story and yes it dawned on me in the middle of recounting it to my entrepreneur group the reason is lesson is amazingly applicable to business.
Here goes. My husband and I just built a home. At the final accounting ending up in our builder, it stumbled on the light we were a significant amount over budget. More than is commonly expected. While I won’t enter into detail about how we stumbled on learn this so late in the game (that is a separate issue that people also was required to cope with) imagine the impact this costly news had for us. After our initial panicked reaction, and process with our builder, something suddenly became specific in my experience. The house cost us what exactly a property on this size and specification should cost. How could this have happened I wondered?
When I originally got estimates from local builders, they told us just what the house we planned to build would cost. The number was greater than we wanted to pay. Then, along came our builder who in his exuberance about our project and want to meet our budget optimistically told us he could build our home within the range that worked for individuals. Of course, we were delighted and made plans to break ground.
This is when the problem began. His unrealistic optimism meeting my unrealistic (and) optimism took over as perfect recipe for broken expectations, and ultimately a bigger than an anticipated mortgage.
It’s a delicate distinction to create. Optimism versus reality. I still believe wonderful my being that positive thinking and optimism fosters a wholesome outlook on life and encourages good results, but,
when can excessive optimism blind you to reality?
Jim Collins, in their book, “Good to Great,” covers this very challenge he calls “The Stockdale Principle” which states, you need to be realistic about your current situation and yet, stay optimistic about the future. He would be a prisoner of war in Vietnam and noted that his fellow prisoners have been the eternal optimists and knew they’d be rescued any day all died. Conversely, the prisoners who looked at the painful day-to-day reality they were in, yet somehow knew it will all be ok survived.
So, how can the excellence of optimism versus reality connect with your small business? Where might you be neglecting reality in favor of being optimistic and missing a crucial possibility to make a change? An example that comes to mind is from a business owner I was recently coaching. He was wondering about an employee that didn’t appear to be an excellent fit for his company. Even though his other employees were complaining, he was hopeful something is acceptable out. He didn’t desire to allow the employee to go and was resisting doing what he knew he ought to do. He was confused about reality and calling it optimism. When he saw the real difference he was able to be decisive.
Another area where it’s easy to be blinded by optimism is in the financial arena. Not having adequate fiscal reports or budgets in place they are driving your decision making and depending on your optimism instead of reality can result in a cash crisis and ultimate business demise.
Take a look at your relationship with optimism. Ask yourself if you employ optimism being a skim coat for denial, perhaps bordering on delusion. If so, find the perfect balance between staying positive yet not being afraid to look squarely at reality. In my experience I know that the truth is always deal-able, it clearly may not be my preference inside the moment, but life always seems ok inside the end -somehow.
When it’s all regulated said and done, I can afford the larger mortgage, and I use a beautiful house that’s worth greater than I paid to construct it. But, I can’t help but wonder the amount of stress and aggravation I might have avoided if I had seen that my optimism was actually denial in disguise and accepted reality right from the start.