Managing optimism and pessimism can be challenging. Being pessimistic helps us anticipate dangers and is essential for survival. However, optimism is just as important. One of the most important components of anything from a healthy relationship to making a long-term investment is having faith that things can and will get better even in the face of lacklustre evidence.
Since optimism and pessimism appear to be opposing viewpoints, people tend to favour one over the other.
Optimism and pessimism are balanced by successful people:
One of the best examples of the effectiveness of this hidden skill is Bill Gates. He insisted on having enough cash in the bank every day since he founded Microsoft, enough to sustain the business for a full year in the absence of revenue.
Charlie Rose questioned him why he carried so much cash in 1995. He stated that the business for the following year wasn’t certain because technological advancements change so quickly, “including Microsoft’s.”
He reminisced in 2007: “I was always concerned about not getting paid because I worked with people who were older than me and had children.” Can I afford to make the payroll?
Here, a strong dose of pessimism coexists with optimism and confidence. Gates seems to understand that being pessimistic enough to survive in the short term is a prerequisite for being an optimist in the long run.
Why being a “rational optimist” is something you should aim to be:
The fact that optimism and pessimism are on a continuum is crucial to understand in this situation.
There are pure optimists at one extreme. To them, negativity is a weakness and everything is wonderful and always will be. They can’t imagine anything going wrong since they are so self-assured, which stems in part from their ego.
You have utter pessimists at the other extreme. They consider any positivity to be a weakness and believe that everything is horrible and always will be dreadful. A portion stems from their ego; they are so self-conscious that they find it hard to believe anything is going well. They are equally distant from reality as the pure optimist, and they are the reverse of each other.
The intermediate ground is occupied by what I refer to as the logical optimist: those who recognise that history is a never-ending series of difficulties, disappointments, and defeats but who maintain their optimism because they believe that obstacles will eventually be overcome and progress will eventually continue.
Although they may come seem as hypocrites and flip-floppers, they are frequently just thinking ahead of others.
Therefore, the key in any industry, whether it be banking, careers, or relationships, is to be able to weather short-term setbacks in order to endure long enough to reap the benefits of long-term progress.
Have pessimistic plans and optimistic dreams.
Those can appear to be incompatible abilities. They are, too. It makes sense to believe that you should lean towards optimism or pessimism. Realising that there is a place and a time for both and that they can and should coexist is difficult.
However, this is the pattern observed in nearly all long-term successful endeavours.