The most important quality for success in entrepreneurship and in life is the quality of optimism. Optimists have an unrealistic expectation of success. As a result, they are willing to try far more things without becoming discouraged. In addition, because of their unrealistically positive attitude, they are willing to persist much longer than the average person. Optimism is a wonderful quality as long as you have it under control.
Taper Your Optimism
In order to be successful in business, and in any activity where your money is involved, you must temper your optimism with negativism. You must be enthusiastic about the possible upside of the investment but you must be sceptical, critical, suspicious and demanding about all the different ways that your money can be lost.
Listen to Negative Viewpoints
Seek out and listen carefully to people who are negative towards your idea. Look for negative thinkers, because their viewpoints can be invaluable and save you a fortune in time and money. I have a friend who is a lawyer. And he recommends and gives advice to many people on investments. And what he does is this. When someone comes and they want to make an investment that he’s unsure about, he says, all right, I want you to come to my office and I want you to sit behind my desk. And then I’m going to come in and I’m going to present this investment to you and I want you to critique this investment as if you were me.
Help Others to Evaluate Honestly
And he says that when his clients begin critiquing the investments they’re thinking about going into, when they begin becoming negative thinkers about the investments, he says they are astonished at how bad the investments really are. He said he has saved his clients millions of dollars by forcing them to be negative thinkers about their own ideas, simply by switching roles and sitting in front of the desk while they sit behind the desk.
Keep Your Mind Open
But don’t be overly influenced by negative thinkers. Just take their viewpoints into consideration. There’s a famous story of Mary Hudson, who started off with 200 dollars in the middle of the Depression and leased a gas station that two men had gone broke running at two different occasions. And from that she built a company called Hudson Oil, which is now the biggest independent distributor of gas and oil in the United States. From a 200 dollar investment, even though everybody told her she would fail. So remember, listen to negative thinkers, but don’t necessarily accept their advice.
Here are two things you can do immediately to get these ideas into action.
- First, view your idea as if you were an outside consultant. Ask, “What are all of the possible risks or flaws in this cause of action?”
- Second, seek out the opinions of others. Listen without responding or defending. Thank them for their input. They may save you a lot of money.