The pessimist sees the glass half-empty. The optimist sees the glass half-full. The realist drinks the water and gets back to work!
I am still in sunny Sao Paulo, Brazil, finishing up work with my US client who has an assembly plant here, as well as having a few other meetings to explore the opportunities for more consulting work. (see my previous post: Blame it on the Samba).
Since Sao Paulo is the “business” capital of Brazil, it is my current focus. Alas, Rio de Janeiro is definitely the “fun” capital but I need to focus, focus, focus (darn it!).
One of the great things about the Brazilian culture is their innate optimism. Nothing is impossible, everything is do-able, and their optimism is definitely infectious. It is probably one of the many reasons why Brazil has secured both the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2014 FIFA World Cup of Soccer. And the discovery of a large area of oil off the coast is also fuelling their optimism (no pun intended).
What I find interesting, however, is the difference I am observing, not just here in Brazil but all over, between “Optimism” and “Realistic Optimism”. These are my terms for this observation, so let me explain because I find a big difference between these two.
Optimism I will define as faith and belief in an idea or goal, and is usually characterised by the phrases, “I can . . . ” and “We will . . . “. The enthusiasm and desire behind these two statements (and others like them) make the individual and the idea or goal very believable. Many times I have been recruited by this optimism and have whole-heartedly joined the team of the optimist to charge up the “hill”.
But if you are like me, there have been numerous times when infectious and inspiring optimism proved to be less than realistic and sometimes, very hollow. We get all excited, we build castles in our mind, fantasize about the end goal, and march off with enthusiasm. But without a plan!
That is why I distinguish between Optimism and Realistic Optimism. Realistic Optimism is backed by realistic planning and is characterised by the phrase, “I can, I will, and here is how”. Having a solid plan puts even more power behind the energy and motivation of optimism. Having a solid set of action plans gives confidence and stay power when the first few obstacles and barriers are encountered. Obstacles that quickly defeat those with just optimism alone.
Here in Sao Paulo I am talking with an organisation that is interested in building a consulting firm based on my process of integrated leadership alignment and strategy execution. They are all enthusiastic about the value this can bring for extending their brand. They can see the need in the marketplace for a consulting firm with real expertise and hands-on capabilities instead of the normal consulting experience of an “army of juniors” and stacks of reports.
Sounds ideal, right? But so far I am experiencing considerable Optimism without much Realistic Optimism. They are long on ideas and enthusiasm and short on plans and commitment. Like you, I have faced these kinds of choices before.
How is your track record on choosing between Optimism versus Realistic Optimism? Can you step back and really see the differences?
Tight Lines . . .
John R Childress
PS. If you are a fan of English Premier League Football (Soccer), this article is a perfect example of the difference between Optimism and Realistic Optimism: Swansea’s Optimism Frustrated By Moyes’ Cunning Plan