Research confirms what feels intuitive; entrepreneurs are an optimistic group, afflicted with the 'optimism bias,' a tendency to view the glass as half full backed by the belief that negative events are what happens to other people. This is particularly true, one study found , of serial entrepreneurs, those bootstrapping men and women who we celebrate for persevering in the face of multiple failures. The more times you step up to bat, of course, the greater the likelihood that you'll hit a home run. But most of us aren't wired that way. We strike out, so we decide that maybe baseball isn't for us after all.
It's a reasonable, rational response: we learn from our dismal performance, and are no longer as optimistic about our baseball abilities. Serial entrepreneurs don't react like this, though. Failure appears to leave them as optimistic as ever. In an interview with Adam Bryant from The New York Times published today , Shafqat Islam, chief executive of NewsCred, a content marketing platform, talked about the importance of what he calls 'irrational optimism':. He went admitted that while this philosophy has its trade-offs — he often takes on too much, and can be "too aggressive, too ambitious…sometimes things are impossible" — consistently setting realistic goals doesn't produce out-of-the-ballpark results.
An irrational level of optimism may seem extreme, but it can sometimes help to see the world through rose-tinted glasses. Not quite there yet? Here's a collection of ways to stay positive as well as why an aggressively optimistic outlook can lead to great things. Negative emotions diminish the brain's capacity to think broadly and find creative solutions.
The vise grip of fear and stress and the emotions they generate--anger, blame, panic, resentment, shame--limit thought to a narrow field that obscures options. It's not just that you bounce back and then you feel good--feeling good drives the process. A report Fredrickson co-wrote on bouncing back from business failures finds that highly confident founders of focal ventures are better positioned to start and succeed with another venture, which is why overconfidence in one's capabilities is so widespread among entrepreneurs.
For most of us, the chronically optimistic aside negative feedback registers more strongly than positive encouragement. That's why, when faced with challenges, "it's important to take stock of what's going well," says Matthew Della Porta, a positive psychologist and organizational consultant.
As corny as it may sound, positive affirmations help, says Della Porta. By repeating them with conviction several times each morning, you are training your brain to believe them. Finding a way to focus on the positive takes time, Della Porta says. It happens many times each week. But dealing with repeat failure without deciding to hell with it all and getting a day job often requires a seemingly insane amount of self-confidence. You have to be crazy-sure your product is something the world needs and that you can deliver it to overcome the naysayers, who will always deride what the majority has yet to validate.
Luke Holden: Scaling with integrity
Richard Branson is Richard Branson because failure never changed his overall outlook. Richard Branson rarely plays it safe, which means he's experienced a few outstanding failures. Not all Virgin efforts, for example, have disrupted their target markets: Virgin Cola failed to quench consumers' thirst for Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and apparel brand Virgin Ware quickly fell out of fashion.
Critics also question Branson's daredevil proclivities, like his attempts to circumnavigate the globe via balloon or his record-setting English Channel crossing in an amphibious vehicle. That's been part of the spirit of building the brand and building the company, and set it apart from the more staid companies we compete with. On the other hand, one could analyze it and say it's very irresponsible. But we like to break the rules occasionally. We're not all born with Branson level abilities. Sometimes it helps to fake it until you make it.
Why Being Too Optimistic is Bad For Your Business
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