Optimism has a secure place on the list of qualities every entrepreneur must possess, sitting neatly alongside self-belief and determination.
If you’re not able to look on the bright side of your mistakes and setbacks, they’re going to linger in the back of your mind and eat at you, preventing you from moving on to bigger and better things.
However, is high optimism an inherent benefit, or can you be too optimistic? So optimistic, in fact, that your commitment to cheery positivity damages — or even destroys — your startup?
Instead of building the anticipation, I’m going to cut right to answering the titular question. Yes, being too optimistic absolutely has the potential to result in the death of your fledgling business.
If you care to stick around despite the speedy conclusion, we’ll take a closer look at what exactly a surfeit of looking on the bright side can do to knock you off course:
Fortune plays a significant role
And by “fortune” I don’t mean your financial clout, although that’s certainly a huge factor too (more on that next) — I mean luck. Random chance. Circumstances conspiring for or against you, with your actions making little difference along the way.
The frustrating truth about the business world in general is that you can do everything right and still get nowhere, all because a couple of breaks went against you.
Someone lucked out, and you didn’t. They got the big client because they happened to share a hobby with the CEO, and that success made them wealthy and powerful, all while you continued to struggle.
Optimism wouldn’t see you fight against this — it wouldn’t have you rail against the arbitrary whims of fate. It would have you shrug, acknowledge that you’d been totally defeated, but conclude that things would be fine and your luck would turn eventually.
Instead, try some realism. You can’t control everything, but you can control many things, including how you react to fate giving you a shrug of the shoulder.
Instead of placidly rolling with the punches, start punching back. Get mad. Maintain your conviction that things can work out in your favor, but only if you do everything you can to make it happen.
Failures teach you important lessons, too
What can go wrong with a new business?
I could make a list and keep adding to it for days, but let’s rattle off a selection to advance the point. You could fall foul of copyright laws. You could hire someone who proves to be dangerously incompetent. You could rent an office and discover a rodent infestation. You could be the victim of financial fraud and see your savings vanish.
Furthermore, there are the many things that inevitably go “meh.” Your flagship product doesn’t take off as you expected. You don’t get the sweetheart offer from investors you were counting on. You discover that your preferred slogan is already taken, and you need to rework it.
Facing and overcoming these setbacks is a vital part of becoming a seasoned entrepreneur with a razor-sharp gut instinct.
If you refuse to consider the negatives and repeatedly assert that everything will work out fine, then you’ll set yourself at a disadvantage even if it does work out. You might even put your head in the sand to avoid hearing bad news that you need to hear.
Appear professional always
Getting your startup fully established — and ultimately scaling it — requires that you have the ability to inspire others and bring them on board. You could be handling your recruitment process or pitching to prospective customers: either way, coming across as incompetent is perhaps the fastest way to kill any interest in your company.
Now think about this: what impression would you form if you took a meeting with an entrepreneur who grinned throughout and radiated unstoppable confidence?
Confidence is good when it’s warranted, but not when it’s unnaturally set in place. You’d end up viewing them as insincere (or even delusional) because of their unnervingly-glowing perspective.
Real professionalism isn’t about simply telling everyone that things are looking great. It’s about soberly acknowledging your mistakes and explaining what you learned from them. It’s about the efficient handling of admin tasks (everything from leaning on scheduling tools to arrange meetings to tracking your finances properly). It’s about doing your research and building a thorough plan. It’s about coming across as human.
Would you invest in someone always optimistic? They might end up spending that money on magic beans, or putting it all into one roll of the rice with the unshakable conviction that their hunch would pay off. That’s incredibly dangerous — so be smart.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst
People don’t generally get life insurance because they expect to die in the near future. They do it because it’s a matter of covering their bases. In the event that things go horribly wrong, their families will be somewhat protected.
As a business owner, you need to adopt a similar perspective. Businesses rise and fall all the time, and you have no guarantee that yours will stick around, even if you do everything right.
So, temper your optimism. Keep fighting for your dreams, but using a rational framework. Radiate positivity, but openly face challenges. If you can manage that, you’ll have a balanced platform on which to build your brand.