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Delicious optimism

Some months ago, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine who happens to be an attorney. I used the term “entrepreneurial spirit” when describing my advised solution to a business problem at the center of our discussion.

He started to laugh and replied, “I don’t have that gene.” I will never forget what he said next. He said, “you entrepreneurs have this ‘Delicious Optimism’ — this knowing beyond knowledge that every problem is solvable if you just ‘spray on’ a little entrepreneurial thinking.” I remember this vividly because it stopped me in my tracks.

He was right. I have always been a glass-half-full kind of person and I generally believe that there is a winning outcome to virtually any scenario as long as you are creative, have a vision, and you execute on that vision.

But here I was talking to a major litigator — a man with an almost encyclopedic knowledge of everything that can and probably will go wrong. He gets a daily exposure to humanity at its worst; stealing, lying, being greedy, taking the easy way out, cheating on their partners, hiding their mistakes, etc.

He reframed again, admitting candidly that he actually admired “Delicious Optimism” and wished he had it. Just as I was starting to feel self conscious and even a little bit foolish, he clarified and asserted, “No, the world needs folks like you…society wouldn’t advance without people who take on risk fully expecting the best possible outcome.” I joked by saying, “Of course you like that mindset. It’s the source of your bread and butter.” On that, we shared a good laugh.

But it was the first time someone really pointed out to me that there was something intrinsically different about how entrepreneurs think. He referred to it as a gene which works for me because, while I am certain it can be developed and refined, I think it is something you’re either born with or you’re not. Some people simply aren’t built to be entrepreneurs and this attribute is the key identifier.

I don’t want to live in a world where everyone assumes the worst and trust is a fantasy. Even if it is borderline delusional, I enjoy living in the worldview that we are always evolving and improving — that our finest days are still ahead.

Outside of that view, I think I would find it hard to get up in the morning much less accomplish anything worth noting. I prefer being one of those folks, like Warren Buffett, when he famously wrote that everyday he “tap dances to work.” That’s “Delicious Optimism” for you right there.