11/10/17

It seems like optimism is the default outlook when it comes to really successful people. I've noticed this to be especially true in corporate settings.

As someone who is somewhat skeptical/critical/cynical, I definitely don't fit the catgory of "optimist". There are outliers to everything. That being said, I'm not doing so bad. But I often wonder, if I was naturally more upbeat, would I do even better?

Do you guys think one is born an optimist, and leverages this demeanor to his professional advantage?
Or do people who land great positions become optimists because, well, they got what they wanted.
In other words, which came first, optimism? or success?

--

"An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stoplight.. the truly wise person is colorblind." ~Albert Schweitzer

Comments (21)

11/8/17

I fully believe attitude can impact your success. And more so on the negative end. Based on observation, people that go about life complaining/feeling sorry for themselves/generally spewing negativity into the world don't have success fall into their laps, regardless of background or smarts.

There is probably a similar effect at the opposite end of the scale - many of the most successful people in the world have had to endure failure after failure after failure to get where they are, and it's possible that a relentless sense of optimism helped push them through.

I don't think a normal level of skepticism/cynicism would hold a person back, as long as they aren't too big of a dick.

Financial Modeling
Best Response
11/9/17

Successful people are not homogeneous. Some are successful because they're happy and they bring energy to motivate others and build relationships. Some are successful because they see things others can't. Some are focused and excel at execution, etc. It's all about finding the right environment/career for your skillset and personality. Capability is a multi-dimensional issue space and we're all mixes, you just need to find the right environment and role where your skillset and personality allow you excel at the work required of you.

For instance, I run on fear and anger and my cynical worldview and borderline sociopathy are big drivers of my success. I'm unhappy and I always identify and fear the worst possible outcome. That motivates me to grind. I get scared I will fuck up, something will go wrong, etc. And I am consumed with avoiding those outcomes at all costs. I like people and I'm happy around people I work with, but when I sit down to grind, it's all fear, depression, isolation, anger. It's one of the things that makes me so good at what I do. I can sit down for 14 hours and not think about my life outside of the work I'm doing. I can bring all the horses to bear, something very few "happy" people can do because other things in their life excite them. Nothing excites me so I work to avoid fucking my life up along the axis I can control - my career.

I know tons of pessimists and hyper-pragmatists who are super successful because their jobs involve assessing, anticipating, and managing risk. Just about finding the right role.

11/9/17

jesus dude..

11/9/17

Lmao the first paragraph is pretty spot on. But I laughed at this part:

TrackBack:

I get scared I will fuck up, something will go wrong, etc. And I am consumed with avoiding those outcomes at all costs. I like people and I'm happy around people I work with, but when I sit down to grind, it's all fear, depression, isolation, anger.

I don't even know if I understand this type of logic..

"Loser terrorists" & "bad hombres"

"Typical candidates are those who attended a reputable academic institution"
-Most job applications

11/9/17

Haha that's sort of the point; we're all so different. I don't understand the type of logic that motivates happy and optimistic people to get stuff done. If I was happy and had a good life I was content with, I wouldn't strive to achieve much, I wouldn't dedicate myself to my work, and I would be distracted thinking about happy times and good stuff coming up. To each their own.

11/9/17

I guess I get that, but the thing is is that feeling like the world is ending, and feeling all this depression and anger, for me, would get exhausting. I would get tired. I would get less done. If you give off the happy and motivated vibe, it's like the adrenaline carries you to get things done and it doesn't feel like work, so you have more endurance. But to each their own.

11/10/17

I'm generally pretty optimistic, but I do think feeling a little scared is a great motivator--scared of failure, scared of underdelivering, scared of missing out on opportunity. I just know that when I have something I'm working on, it makes me feel good to think it will be a big hit. Most times I end up a bit disappointed, but that is something that I feel. I want to complete projects to be included and I'm happy when it goes well or when I think it will. It's just it can be a bit blinding because if I'm not a little scared sometimes mistakes are made out of lack of carefulness. But I get what you're saying just not to the fullest extent.

"Loser terrorists" & "bad hombres"

"Typical candidates are those who attended a reputable academic institution"
-Most job applications

11/10/17

No offense at all, but you have to get rid of this grindy Analyst mentality by the time you start Private Equity or nobody will sit you in front of a client.

11/10/17

Reading what I wrote, I definitely get that it gives off the perception that I'm not sociable, etc. That's just how my mind works internally, but I don't give off that vibe at all. I am pretty energetic with people, it's just mostly a facade since I'm not happy deep down. I've made a big effort to be sociable around the office, and I think I'm actually one of the better-liked guys in my group (I arrange a lot of the group drinks, MDs have been bringing me to client meetings faster than the rest of my analyst class, etc.)

But I appreciate the advice. I'm definitely going to continue to try and re-evaluate how I go about work so as to avoid any behavior that might peg me as gremlin grindy analyst. Haha, not sure I'm going to PE though. We'll see, I'm looking at my options.

11/16/17

You'll be fine, just relax a bit. Banking, PE and finance / professional services / investing in general is very stressful; you don't want to add additional stress to yourself or others. In fact, being the calm, collected one in the group is a huge value add.

11/10/17

I totally get it. I am motivated by something similar. I think that people are basically motivated by one of the following two basic things:

  1. A desire to get things done.

OR

  1. A desire to avoid things.

For example, when a person wakes up to go to his work he can either get up in the morning thinking it's great to get into office early and get a hold of things, or, he will first hit the snooze button to take out few more moments of sleep. Then hit snooze the 2nd time and think he can miss his breakfast and still reach on time. Then hit it again thinking he can rush to be on time. Finally get up thinking that if he is anymore late he will most probably get into trouble with his boss. So in order to avoid that he gets up and goes to office.

Both types of people can survive and succeed but their driving force behind them are completely different.

I am motivated by me wanting to avoid failing, avoid not being good enough. Now this avoidance of something can be called fear, pressure or any other adjective. But the basic push behind the drive is not some pristine /positive emotion (for the lack of a better word).

"The markets are always changing , and they are always the same."

11/10/17

I have no idea why but reading this just made me so uncomfortable lol

Financial Modeling
11/9/17

sounds cliche but no matter how smart you are and how hard you work, if you don't believe in yourself then there will always be a limit on what you're capable of. so yes optimism helps leads to success, then they play off each other (more success leads to more optimism, more optimism can help with more success)

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My story | My Linkedin

11/9/17

Yeah, I definitely believe optimism impacts success. Thinking about entrepreneurship in particular: you have to be extremely optimistic in my opinion to be able to see your business come to motion. Say you start a business, spend tons of time getting it started, and you don't get any sales, and your initial marketing campaign was a bust. You have to be pretty optimistic, after spending all that money on marketing, to think that spending even more money on marketing and spending more time improving aspects of your business will eventually net a return. To be able to identify a niche in which there's a problem or a lack of proper execution of a business model, and think you can improve upon it and make money, requires at least some degree of optimism.

I feel like, in finance, maybe optimism is a little less important sometimes. But it's important to make a distinction between attitude and how one thinks about things. It probably helps most people to be naturally upbeat, simply because it tends to make people like you more, and probably helps your overall drive to get things done. On the other hand, if you're investing, being skeptical in your thinking helps a lot.

11/10/17

I am naturally optimistic given that my parents are the sort of warm, down to earth and caring type of people. They are self-made millionaires and serial enterprenuers. They had their fair share of struggle/ rags-to-riches experience, but it did not make them bitter nor arrogant; and that sort of up bringing shapes my world view.

And in that context, I am a bit more optimistic; but this has been viewed as arrogance by some who feels that I didn't have to try as hard as others. Case in point, in a business environment, I am more likely to be the guy who would say that "this is a great project; even though we have a few challenges, we can definitely find ways to work around that."

But optimism should not translate to being naive. To be successful, you still need a healthy dose of caution and skepticism; and to do things after you have taken "calculated risks" into accounts. Another way is to bring in a partner who is slightly more sensitive and more cautious into the project that can help to balance out your slightly optimistic view of things.

11/10/17

I think the picture we paint of "optimists" is a little misleading. Michael Jordan was technically an "optimist". No, he wasn't cheerful or upbeat, but I'm certain he believed that each shot he took would go in.

So maybe by optimistic we really mean a kind of delusional certainty. It gives you the confidence not to hesitate or second-guess yourself, and increases your focus/will to execute-which all contribute to overall success.

Thoughts?

11/10/17

Maybe its just semantics, but I think buoyancy is probably a more accurate and fair characterization than optimism. Practicing buoyancy is a mixture of optimism with eyes wide open and persistence in the face of adversity.

An important and often overlooked part of the equation is how people compartmentalize bad outcomes. If you are able to de-catastrophize and depersonalize you are more likely to stay the course. Conversely, if you think that every setback is both pervasive and persistent, then there is a significant mental and emotional tax associated with that.

11/10/17

Personally, I think life is about balance and not letting yourself get too high or low. I know it's cliche but I heard the saying 'Happiness = Reality - Expectations' for the first time a few years ago and I've tried to internalize that as best as I can. I think successful people can manipulate this equation based on the set of cards they are dealt. I.e., constantly try to improve their reality while managing expectations. Not to say that you shouldn't shoot for the stars, but just keep it in perspective.

"Who am I? I'm the guy that does his job. You must be the other guy."

11/16/17
MonkeyWrench:

Personally, I think life is about balance and not letting yourself get too high or low.

Yes this is spot on. It took me years to learn this and even more years to effectively live it on a day to day basis.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

11/10/17

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11/10/17
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