This is the (other) difference between employees & entrepreneurs.

Optimists & pessimists

Stephen Newton

By: Stephen Newton
Blog

I’ve spoken many times about the differences between entrepreneurs and employees. But I think I missed one very important point… Optimism.

Even though I can’t name you a pessimistic one (ergo, they don’t exist), clearly optimism isn’t reserved exclusively for successful entrepreneurs! That said, there are many parallels to be drawn between entrepreneurs and optimists…

Entrepreneurs are driven by purpose. Purpose that is born out of a natural optimism for wanting to change something in the world, make something better in society. It’s this optimism that fuels the creativity, inspiration and passion that means they won’t give up until they get there.

“Entrepreneurs are driven by purpose. Purpose that is born out of a natural optimism for wanting to change something in the world, make something better in society.”

And what about tenacity and resilience? Most successful entrepreneurs do not come from environments of privilege, where things are given to them as a ‘right’. In fact, expecting things to be given to you is the opposite of both an entrepreneur’s and an optimist’s attitude. For the pessimist however, this expectation can often fuel negativity.

Great business leaders (and great bosses) are those who surround themselves with people who will look for reasons things can be done, not just focus on why they can’t, why they’re “impossible”, “too difficult” or “require resources we don’t have”. The teams that always find a way to get things done are made up of optimists – people who can see a way, get things done, and then continue to make them better and better as they go.

Just like being an entrepreneur, being an optimist is a state of mind. And it’s not just the state of mind you need to have to be a successful entrepreneur, it’s the state of mind you need to embrace to be successful full stop. Whether your ambitions are entrepreneurial or in employment, here lies the opportunity to set yourself apart. It’s simply a question of mindset. And your mindset is something you can change if you want to…

It’s the easiest thing in the world to be the pessimist in the room. We can all be guilty of it! We all need to check ourselves sometimes and think before we speak… because if we’re honest with ourselves, 9 times out of 10 we are criticising rather than constructively building on ideas. And which person would you rather employ? Promote? Do business with? Buying is always an emotional decision – and people buy from people don’t forget!

Of course, optimists (like entrepreneurs) are bound to be wrong many, many times! But isn’t it better to live your life believing in the creativity of the people around you rather than forever being the cynic? Like being an entrepreneur, being an optimist is about being able to embrace failure, take those knocks and get right back up again. This is not something a pessimist can do.

My partners and I often state very publicly that we are building a firm of entrepreneurs. Many find this curious as (with the exception of my partners) my team are all technically employees. But for us, having a team full of people with optimistic and entrepreneurial mindsets, will deliver more value for our firm (which includes them!). More importantly, it will deliver more value for our clients. Entrepreneurs believe that if they produce something of value, they will in turn receive value. So do we…

“Just like being an entrepreneur, being an optimist is a state of mind.”

Don’t get me wrong – entrepreneurs, like optimists, don’t blindly ignore challenges or problems. But if you can only see what’s wrong with something, how are you even going to begin to solve the huge, complex challenges our clients are facing in responding to disruptive market forces? Let alone make the solution better and better, and create real value for the business?

Our philosophy is to help our clients to see what is possible first. We then work our way through any difficulties to help them achieve it, rather than continuously highlighting challenges without any real solutions or definitive action. It’s a philosophy that our clients really respond to, and what we believe makes Elixirr so special.

To build a firm of entrepreneurs, we’ve created an environment where our team is empowered – and keeping it that way is one of our highest priorities. We very deliberately designed it like this as (having experienced it for ourselves first-hand) we believe the inevitable red tape, process and bureaucracy of the big consulting players feeds a tendency towards pessimism, stifling progress. This is not conducive to creating business value – in fact, it’s the polar opposite! Ironic really…

Being an optimist, like being an entrepreneur, is within everyone’s reach

It’s interesting to note that the opportunity our entrepreneurial environment presents drives different behaviours in people. In some, it inspires creativity, ambition and motivation. In others, it drives more negative, pessimistic behaviours like stress, fear, or feeling a little blinded by the challenge presented.

These more negative behaviours come from those who are only seeing things in black and white, rather than being able to embrace the mindset required to work in those shades of grey. Not everyone wants (or is ready) to make the journey, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

For me, entrepreneurialism and optimism go hand-in-hand. And so do career success and optimism. I firmly believe being an optimist, like being an entrepreneur, is within everyone’s reach. It’s simply a question of mindset.

Life is too short for pessimism.