Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Are you an optimist, a realist, or a pessimist?

{Print by Roll and Tumble Press on Etsy}

I used to work for an internet startup company. It was a good job while it lasted – I made decent money, learned a lot, and was given crazy roles and tasks that forced me outside of my comfort zone and helped me to grow. All of these experiences were invaluable. The thing that lacked value was the management’s blind optimism.

In my interview I was asked if I was an optimist, a pessimist, or a realist. I answered that I was a realist and was told “realists are just pessimists who don’t realize that they’re pessimists.”

I thought their definition of realists was crazy and argued my point that being a realist is actually better than being an optimist.

{Print by Susannah Tucker on Etsy}

Realistically, everything is going to work out. Time will march on no matter what we do or don’t do. Everything that sucks today will feel better in time and everything that feels amazing today will fade in time. Realistically, there is no sense in freaking out over the small details when they won’t really matter tomorrow, next week, or next year. This is why I am a realist.

Now, do not mistake my realist personality for unmotivated. I am not saying you can do nothing and everything will just happen the way it is supposed to happen. A lot of effort and planning needs to go into your success and needs to be executed to the best of your ability. All of this is a part of being realistic. Costs need to be looked at with a realistic eye as do risks and advantages of various business decisions. And, when the little things (or big things) go astray (as they inevitably will) remember that realistically, things will work out. Just fix the problem and move on.

{Print by dear colleen on Etsy}

We all know that being a pessimist has its major disadvantages, but most would not consider optimism to be a disadvantage. After my year and a half at a now debunked startup, I know that extreme optimism can be a thorn in your side. Many optimists think “do whatever! Spend all the money! It will all happen because we believe.” That’s a great way to think, but not a great way to run a business.

{Print by Virginia Kraljevic on Etsy}

The basic day to day happenings of a business must be looked at with a realistic mindset. Blind optimism will cause you to be just that – blind. It will cause you to overlook what actually might be hurting you. It will cause you to make rash decisions without calculating the risks. It will cause you to think that your belief in your company is the sole reason it will succeed. Believe in your dream with your whole heart, but be realistic in the fact that optimism isn’t enough. A strong dash of realism is necessary.

{Print by Katan Designs on Etsy}


  1. Very true Gina! I think I'm a realist too. Blind optimism can be very annoying...and complete pessimism is quite depressing!

  2. So true! I always considered myself a bit pessimistic, taking the attitude that there are no disappointments for pessimists, just pleasant surprises when things work out. But I never cross so far into pessimism that I stop trying, I'm just constantly prepared for bumps in the road. Which probably puts me closer to realist than pessimist, now that I think about it. :-)

  3. I loved reading this. I think I too am a realist - there is good and bad in life, and if you stay positive while accepting the bad, and focus on what you can change, then that feels real to me! Thank you for using my photo, I feel honoured!

  4. I agree with all of you. Being an optimist is fantastic, but being blind to the realities of life will hold you back. I think the best way to be is realistic optimist. :)


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