Optimism Leads to Success

by Ron Potter

A recent quote about Warren Buffet said:

Your success didn’t lead to optimism, your optimism lead to your success.”


Wikipedia defines optimism as “A mental attitude reflecting a belief or hope that the outcomes of some specific endeavor will be positive, favorable, and desirable.”

Notice that it says a mental attitude.  In simple terms, pilots are interested in altitude and attitude.  Altitude refers to how high you are.  How much you have achieved.  Some measure of success (money, position, title).

Attitude is a reference to the natural horizon.  Are you pointed up, down, left-leaning or right-leaning?

Success to Optimism

If your optimism depends on success, you’ll soon realize that success is fickle.  One change regardless of the cause can change your success overnight.

  • Markets change – talk to Polaroid or VHS producers.
  • Appetites change – ask package food companies
  • Fashion changes – ask Henry Ford about auto colors.  He is reported to have said, “They can have any color they want as long as it’s black.”
  • Disruption– ask companies about competitors coming out with new products that eat into margins of successful products

The point here is that “success” can change very rapidly and have nothing to do with your actions.  If your optimism depends on success, it will change as rapidly.

Optimism to Success

On the other hand, if you tend to be an optimistic person, that seems to withstand external success and failure.  I’ve had three different successful careers.  Upon graduation from engineering school, I had a “successful” career working with wonderful teams building large projects.  Some of them approaching a billion dollars in their construction budget.

Then one day I was introduced to my first pc.  This was before Microsoft,  IBM, and Apple.  And yet I felt that this little box was about to change our lives.  I spent the next ten years with a “successful” career in the software development business.

Then I took on the career that I felt I had been headed for all my life.  I became an external coach focused on Teams, Leadership and Culture.  I spent nearly thirty wonderful years in that career.

You were just lucky

Along the way, many people would tell me that I was just lucky.  I guess they just chose to ignore those times when I went broke pursuing those careers.  They seem to ignore the hard work and difficulties that I overcame to achieve my “success.”  But there were those few that understood the hard work and heartaches that I was going through during those tough times.  One colleague whom I had not seen in person for many years asked me how I was doing.  When I answered with a simple “OK”, his reaction was that I must be really down.  He explained that I had always been one of the most optimistic persons he had ever known so if I was simply doing “OK” I must really be down.

Your success didn’t lead to optimism, your optimism lead to your success

Times were indeed difficult.  But I was always optimistic.  It may just be me but I’ve noticed through the years that I don’t even care to be around people who are pessimistic.  They’re just downers in my mind.  Times were always difficult in one way or another.  But being optimistic vs pessimistic is a choice.  Chose Optimistic.  It makes life much easier along the way.

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