Image: Bruce Mars
It’s important to feel optimistic about your business. However, the wrong kind of optimism will crush your chances of success.
Let me tell you about the meeting I had with Bob. His story explains exactly what I’m referring to.
I last spoke with Bob (not his real name) regarding his business, back in 2015. He’s the friend-of-a-friend and seems like a really nice guy. He’s also very optimistic about the future of his business. Optimistic enough to refinance his home, something he said he’d already done “more than once”. I found his optimism interesting, as in the 6 years since we last spoke, his business has barely limped along. And back then, he’d already been struggling for years.
So, his business has been going nowhere for a very long time. And based on the plans he shared with me, there’s no realistic chance the business will see any future growth. That’s because his business development ‘strategy’ totally fails to address his actual problems. Sadly, he’ll simply be repeating the same common errors that have been hurting his business all this time.
So, why is this happening and what’s the lesson?
The 2 types of optimism
Like I said at the beginning, it’s great to feel optimistic about your business. In fact, we have to be optimistic. But only if our optimism is justified. You see, there are 2 types of optimism. One is essential. The other one is toxic.
I’m referring to justified optimism and unjustified optimism.
- Justified optimism is based on sound planning. It’s the confidence that comes from knowing you’re doing the right things, correctly. And the knowledge that your business is making measurable progress in the expected timescale. This kind of optimism is clearly justified.
- Unjustified optimism is very different. It comes from ignoring the reality of your situation. It comes from hoping things will ‘just get better’, without making the improvements your business is screaming for. It’s rooted in fear; the fear of change and ironically, the fear of loss.
Unjustified optimism comes with a very dangerous side-effect: It has the exact same power on your mind, as justified optimism. If your business is stagnating or even shrinking, yet you choose to believe everything is going to be great, it acts like a narcotic.
Yes, a narcotic!
Because pumping yourself up with optimism, even unfounded optimism, takes away the pain (or urgency) you need to feel, in order to motivate yourself to fix what’s wrong.
Here’s an example I use, when explaining this to groups of young entrepreneurs.
It’s like seeing black smoke bellowing from the back of your car, but choosing to ignore it and instead, telling yourself that your car is doing great. Even if you 100% believe your car is in amazing shape, the engine will still get trashed if you ignore all that black smoke. The unjustified optimism does nothing to solve the problem. It just stops you doing what’s required.
Business owners tend to be optimistic. Let’s face it, we have to be! The fact we started a business in the first place, with zero guarantee of success, takes a lot of optimism.
The key here is to make sure that our optimism is always justified. And that our optimism is grounded in the reality of our situation today, along with the plans we’re making for tomorrow.