Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Journey of an Afropreneur: Optimism , Pessimism and the Entrepreneur

I often ask myself whether an entrepreneur can afford to be pessimistic, the reason I ask myself is because one of the biggest assets as well as liabilities to any entrepreneur is optimism. Optimism is what makes you believe that the worst is over and that better days lie ahead, optimism is what gives you the assurance that you’re on the right track even when other people think differently, and it’s what wakes you up in the morning and gives you the strength to face the challenges of starting and running that business.

On the other hand optimism can blind you from the fact that may be just may be your dead wrong and you need to change course quickly before you and your idea are confined to the annals of history. In fact during my entrepreneurship class in university last semester, we were told that a large number of entrepreneurs suffer from too much optimism which can lead to depression especially in cases where the business does fail. So is optimism really a good thing? Well that is debatable in my view and I cannot discount the fact that in most cases optimism will open more doors then close them, but is there room for a pessimistic entrepreneur in the business world?

As a self confessed and proud pessimist (I just stumbled upon the word pragmatist in the dictionary and I think that is more fitting of who I am), I often tend to focus on pointing out the problems (translated as challenges) of any idea before I pounce on it. Al my partner is a serial optimist and as such is a complete opposite of me which is a very good thing because we almost complement each other. On one hand he sees the endless possibilities of one idea while I see the enormous challenges within the idea, this is good because as I see the problems I also attempt to visualize the possible solutions.

In my view pessimism is the little guy on your shoulder who keeps telling you to stop dreaming and get back to reality, and I don’t mind having that guy around in fact I think the role he plays cannot be overstated. The challenge comes in striking a balance between the optimism and pessimism, if one outweighs the other there is bound to be chaos.

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