Optimism is the Superpower of the Entrepreneur
I drew together my thoughts on entrepreneurship and optimism for a "fireside chat" with Sangeeta Mulchandani and her Wade Institute of Entrepreneurship students.
The entrepreneur's superpower lies in their infectious optimism and magnetic optimism, which not only spreads positivity through smiles, eye contact, laughter, storytelling, and positive questioning but also irresistibly draws crowds to them. This ability inspires colleagues, customers, and stakeholders to reach out and touch a positive future.
What is optimism?
At its simplest, optimism is an expectation that good things will happen and that things will work out in the end.
Optimism, a beacon that ignites the spirits of entrepreneurs, emerges as a paramount force driving innovation, resilience, and success. Entrepreneurs, who dare to challenge norms and forge uncharted paths, are inherently blessed with an eternal optimism that fuels their journey.
In our research interviews, notable figures from the entrepreneurial landscape painted a vivid picture of optimism as a mere trait and a superpower that propels them forward.
Research backs up this idea. Dispositional optimism is correlated to entrepreneurial success, and dispositional optimism is a defining characteristic of entrepreneurs. As Frederick and Erinn Crane wrote, "It appears that dispositional optimism training may just be what the doctor ordered to improve the success rates of entrepreneurial ventures and to ensure the future of entrepreneurship."
"As an entrepreneur, you have to be an eternal optimist!"
That's what Chris Gale told me. Chris is the CEO of Latin Resources and served with me on the Council on Australia Latin America Relations. This profound insight perfectly captures the essence of an entrepreneur's mindset: their unwavering optimism serves as a steadfast compass, guiding them through the uncertainties of their journey.
So too, Nick Stanley, CEO of Runway, told me, "It’s been my experience that optimism is the single-most-important characteristic of the successful entrepreneur."
"A good plan and hard work helped me get there, but neither are possible without healthy optimism. So, be the eternal optimist."
That's what T. Boone Pickens said, another eternal optimist and entrepreneur: I had the honour of spending time with him at a retreat hosted by the Wall Street Journal. T. Boone's wisdom underscores the inseparable connection between optimism and success: The convergence of strategic planning and unyielding optimism forms a dynamic blend that paves the way for entrepreneurial triumphs.
Miriam Feiler told me optimism weaves its threads into the very fabric of entrepreneurship: "Optimism drives every entrepreneur. The deep belief that we can, and will 'make it,' whatever our 'it' is, enables us to push through the obstacles." This sentiment resonates with the idea that optimism is not a passive trait but a proactive force that propels entrepreneurs to overcome hurdles with unwavering determination.
My colleague Jason Cotton head of the Intelligent Water Networks, believes, "Entrepreneurship is seeing what everyone else sees but thinking what no one else has thought. That's because entrepreneurs see through a lens of optimism, enabling them to see the market gaps and opportunities. They see what is possible."
Jonathan Lamb, CEO of The Entrepreneurs' Forum, echoes the sentiment that entrepreneurs are champions of resilience and optimism: "Entrepreneurs are all about resilience and optimism... key to creating future jobs and prosperity." This viewpoint underscores the profound impact of optimism in shaping not only individual journeys but also the economies they contribute to.
The indomitable Richard Branson, a celebrated entrepreneur, encapsulates the essence of optimism's power: "Those swimming in a glass half empty are more likely to drown than those swimming in a glass half full." 😀 He advocates for optimism that fuels hope, focusing on the future and propelling forward momentum. This philosophy aligns perfectly with the entrepreneurial spirit of turning obstacles into opportunities.
Rachel Carlson, CEO of Guild Education, offers a perspective that aligns optimism with human potential: "Like most entrepreneurs, I am a wildly optimistic person." This optimism, she believes, stems from a deep-rooted belief in our collective ability to create positive change. The optimism-driven innovation that entrepreneurs cultivate becomes a driving force in shaping a brighter future.
Michelle Worthington, an author, celebrates the role of creative entrepreneurs in nurturing innovation: "I am optimistic when I see creative entrepreneurs." She emphasizes that creative minds infuse businesses with unique concepts, strategic thinking, and a fresh approach to problem-solving.
Andrew Reid, CEO of Rival Technologies, recognizes the expansive impact of optimism: "As an entrepreneur, I hold an abundant and optimistic view of technology." This perspective mirrors the entrepreneurial spirit that thrives on adopting innovative technologies to drive progress.
Stephen Ibaraki, a futurist and entrepreneur, presents a fascinating insight into the interconnectedness of optimism, happiness, and entrepreneurial success: "In collecting more than 200 attributes that define success with entrepreneurs, there are four that stand out—one is optimism." Stephen showcases the transformative power of an optimistic outlook in influencing individual achievements and broader success narratives.
More precisely, Dr Marcus Powe told me, "The Entrepreneur has Curiosity + Imagination + Optimism. Combined, they create the energy needed to overcome the fear of change."
Babette Bensoussan, CEO of The MindShifts Group, believes that optimism is the driving force behind inventors and entrepreneurs. She views the innovative spirit as a catalyst for positive change, with the potential to reshape industries and societies.
Dr Andreas Kappes and Dr Tali Sharot, in their exploration of optimism's role, reveal a nuanced perspective: "Entrepreneurs are more optimist than the average person. Is being an optimist a helpful thing for entrepreneurs and innovators?... Optimism enhances the likelihood of identifying creative solutions." This duality of optimism's influence, fostering creativity while also necessitating prudent decision-making, underscores its complex yet transformative nature.
Nancy Youseff, author of "Fear Money Purpose," emphasizes the distinct mindset of entrepreneurs: "The way I see it, entrepreneurs are typically a different breed: we don't think the same as everyone else. We are eternally optimistic, even in the face of overwhelmingly difficult odds." This breed of optimism fuels the resilience, innovation, and determination that entrepreneurs are known for.
An influential author, Daniel Kahneman highlights optimism's far-reaching effects: "Optimistic people play a disproportionate role in shaping our lives." Entrepreneurs, he contends, are often the architects of change, influencing systems and creating opportunities that drive progress.
Darrah Brustein, an entrepreneur herself, underscores the contagious nature of optimism: "Optimism breeds optimism. Pessimism breeds pessimism. You get to choose." This choice to embrace an optimistic outlook resonates with entrepreneurs as they strive to inspire positivity within their teams and communities.
Gary Gopinathan, an executive director, encapsulates the symbiotic relationship between positivity and success: "As an entrepreneur and leader, I find optimism through surrounding myself with positivity and positive people." This environment nurtures the growth of innovative ideas and solutions.
Optimism is a force that transcends borders and industries. Susan Bibby underscores the importance of an optimistic outlook in the realm of food production and sustainability. Susan told me, “As a farmer and budding entrepreneur, for me optimism lies in investing new innovative renewable technologies in production of clean green environmentally sustainable foods, so that as a country we are self-sufficient. I'm talking about food security. Following years of challenge and markets that are heavily influenced by overseas players I believe Australia has an optimistic future if they begin to start with looking after their own first and with this they showcase inexpensive innovative food production technologies for our own populations rather than selling our commodities continually overseas.”
In the words of Kerry Anderson, author of 'Entrepreneurship: It's Everybody's Business!': "There are only two choices in life... It is purely and simply up to us. No blaming anyone else!" Anderson's perspective encapsulates the essence of choice and accountability that optimism bestows upon entrepreneurs.
Vinisha Umashankar, a schoolgirl and inventor, adds a youthful perspective to the discourse: "I’m not just a girl from India. I’m a girl from Earth. I’m very proud to be so. I’m a student, innovator, environmentalist, and entrepreneur but most importantly, an optimist." This resounding optimism underscores that age is no barrier to embracing the superpower of optimism.
How to Foster Optimism?
We established the Centre for Optimism to foster optimistic leadership. We're driven by a mission to nurture hope and positivity. Drawing from a lifetime of optimism, five years of intensive research into Australian leadership, and five years of research on optimism focused on the questions, "What makes you optimistic?" and "What makes you feel optimistic?" we aim to lift the pervasive 'fog of pessimism.'
We encourage everyone to add a little optimism to their everyday interactions. This could be as simple as modifying a greeting to include, "What's been the best thing in your day?"
For the business leader, we suggest regularly putting "What makes you Optimistic?" at the top of the agenda for the Board and Executive on a monthly basis. We suggest surveying your staff, customers and other shareholders on what makes them optimistic.
At the Centre, we recommend exercises such as "My Optimism Superpower" and "Imagine My Best Self". We also host popular workshops at conferences, workplaces, and schools. Through these endeavours, we empower individuals to envision and build a positive future for themselves, Australia, and the world.
The voices of entrepreneurs and thought leaders echo a resounding truth: optimism is the superpower that fuels the entrepreneurial spirit. This eternal optimism empowers entrepreneurs to overcome challenges, transform setbacks into stepping stones, and envision a world brimming with possibilities. As entrepreneurs create, innovate, and forge ahead, their optimism shines as a beacon, lighting the path towards a future replete with potential.