Pessimism and Optimism: How to Rise above Pothole Management

Pessimists can’t lead. They worry about things that won’t work. They don’t try things. But teams lose trust in eternal optimists.

Optimistic plans seldom work. Teams grow weary of starting too many projects and finishing too few.

Pessimists are anchored to the present because the future is filled with uncertainty. But optimists launch into the deep unprepared.

Pessimism works when:

  1. Failure is catastrophic.
  2. Organizations are bureaucratic.
  3. Systems are highly regulated.

Think about what could go right when you dream of going to Mars. Think about what could go wrong when you’re designing the rocket.

Pessimism and optimism – you need both to succeed:

  1. Optimism: think about possibilities when inventing the future.
  2. Pessimism: think about difficulties when making plans.
  3. Optimism: think about what might go right when taking action.

Questions optimists should ask their pessimistic self:

We’re going to Mars …

  1. What concerns you about the return flight?
  2. What difficulties do we need to overcome?

When planning, don’t talk about positives until you’ve demonstrated respect for obstacles and difficulties. But whatever you do, rise above difficulties and obstacles.

Hardened pessimists use negatives to prevent progress and innovation.

Rise above pothole management:

Scott Shute, author of The Full Body Yes, explained that pessimists spend their energy and talent on pothole management. There might be miles of good road with one pothole. What does the team do? Obsess about potholes!

Potholes need to be patched, but there’s more to leading than filling holes.

Scott said pessimism keeps us alive in a dangerous world, but it doesn’t bring happiness.

“Optimism expands the aperture of our lives.” Scott Shute

Scott explains the role of pessimism and why developing optimism is necessary.

When does pessimism serve leaders well?

How might pessimists move toward optimism?

Scott Shute on Linkedin and Twitter.

Visit Scott Shute.

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