The Cure for Pessimism

I’m a huge fan of “just go do something,” but a world filled with options and uncertainty paralyzes.

When fear prevents the next step, pessimism prevails. Pessimists can’t lead.

“The more fearful we are the more pessimistic we grow about the future,” Soren Kaplan, author of, Leapfrogging: Harnessing the Power of Surprise for Business Breakthroughs.

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The cure for pessimism:

Refusing to take the next step because you fear failure creates pessimism. On the other hand, anticipating and preparing for contingencies is wisdom, not pessimism.

Churchill put it this way, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

I asked Soren for a cure to fearful pessimism. He said, “It doesn’t matter what you do next as long as you do something and learn.” The worst thing you can do is sit and stew.

Kaplan said, “Do something you believe is right – that aligns with values and makes sense – and you create optimism. The exciting thing about optimism is it fuels action.” But how?

Choosing the next step:

During our conversation we explored strategies for identifying the next “best” step. Soren suggested three questions:

  1. Where is the opportunity for biggest impact? Prioritize.
  2. What must be done? Urgencies are determined by threats and opportunities.
  3. What are the abilities of the team? Where can the horses in the barn take you?

Expert opinions, data, and research are helpful but not necessary. Just go do something. Soren said, “Mitigate risk by asking, what’s the smallest step you can take that gives the biggest impact.”

The only thing remaining is the courage and resolve to step out and learn.

“To achieve greatness: start where you are, use what you have, do what you can.” Arthur Ashe 

In a world of options and uncertainty, how can leaders identify the next “best” step?