WARNING: IF YOU READ THE FOLLOWING, YOU MAY BE BRANDED A NON TEAM PLAYER!
I don’t like blind optimism. It seems phony to me, boarding on “cultish”. It’s great to be optimistic, I just need it to be based on something tangible. I can be the most optimistic person in the world and it’s not going to help me dunk a basketball at 58 (or any age for that matter).
Unfortunately this attitude, no matter how logical, can get you in trouble in both your personal and professional life.
We live in a society that doesn’t usually have the patience or desire to deeply understand anything. We elected a guy President of the United States based on “Make America Great Again”. What does that even mean? When questioned about how America was going to be great again, there was precious little detail and a lot of, “It will be beautiful, you will love it” in response to any request for details. I am pretty sure the people that voted for Trump were optimistic that the “beautiful” would be provided once he was in the office. I am 100% certain there was nothing tangible to support that optimism.
Can you possibly imagine the peril you would have been in at a Trump campaign rally stop, if you were able to ask for tangible reasons how he was going to Make America Great Again? Yikes. Talk about being branded a non team player. You probably would have been tarred and feathered by the rally attendees and run over by the Trump Train of Optimism. So much for critical thought.
Although more subtle, companies participate in the blind optimism game also. If you have worked for any length of time, you have had a few experiences at companies that ask the employees for optimism based on nothing more than what the owner or senior management wants to be true. Much like a Trump rally, if you ask for tangible reasons why an idea will work, you will be singled out. You won’t be run over by an optimism train, but you will be whispered about as a non team player. Someone who can’t get behind an idea or program. The irony is that the idea or program should have been challenged, debated and vetted before it was rolled out to the entire company.
As I said, it’s good and even necessary to be an optimist. However I don’t want to waste my optimism on blind faith. I want some reality injected into my optimism in the form of facts. And if you think that is actually a form of pessimism, you would be wrong. Even with all the facts you can acquire, there are things in life and business that simply require optimism. You will still have to push “all chips in” at some point with relentless optimism. I want my optimism applied to worthy projects. That’s my definition of a “Realistic Optimist”.