Optimism is sometimes misunderstood.

The optimist is often lumped into being overly hopeful or naïve. 

In comparison, I’ve even noticed that criticism, or certain forms of pessimism, are fashionable – almost like it’s and indication of strong intellect.  Usually under the guise of “rational” or “realist”.

While it might sound like semantics, I think there’s a critical distinction from wishful thinking and genuine optimism. 

True optimism doesn’t believe things will always go well.  More importantly, optimism knows things won’t go well.  But, true optimism knows growth and progress lurk.  Because the horizon is bright, optimists don’t dwell in the unpleasant times.

Many have said that wealthy people – really successful entrepreneurs, especially – have a healthy dose of paranoia.  Again, I’d distinguish, that we don’t need to be paranoid at all.  We just need to know that out of bad comes good and we need to be able to weather the storm when the bad does arrive.

An optimist, in an interesting way, almost relishes the bad because he/she knows good is about to yield.  And, when things are good, the optimist is keenly aware that this, too, shall pass, and getting overly excited is wasteful.  But, the optimist is not paranoid.

Counter-intuitively, the optimist has less to do with seeing everything as good, and more to do with being patient with the unpleasant. 

Big and small picture examples:

On a very macro perspective, given the universe’s existence of (let’s just agree here) 14 billion years since the Big Bang, it seems plenty plausible that multiple generations could go by that are actually more regressive in nature.  If we accept the premise of 3 steps forward and 2 steps backward, then several generations could go by witnessing a downward trajectory (maybe not even totally realizing it).

This sounds depressing, but it’s strikingly hopeful.  We’re all playing useful roles in this cycle of good then bad then good again.

More micro, there’s our own lives, where we witness our own cycles of 3 forward / 2 back. 

Trees fall down in a storm, they die, rot, become part of the soil, and create space and become food for even more life – a wide variety of life even!

The stock market will, of course, rise and fall many times over. 

My answer to the common question “Is the market overvalued?”

Maybe.  But, I’m an optimist.  Which means for investors, things seem good right now.  I know they won’t be at some point, and I also know that no one knows the tipping point.  And when things aren’t good, I’ll be patiently waiting for the 3 steps forward.

Pessimism often masks itself under the veil of practicality and rationality, often revealing itself in cynicism and doubt.  If only pessimists knew that this was the least practical and least rational – he/she nearly never outsmarts Mr. Market.

Again, optimism sometimes gets lumped into words like naïve, innocent, irrational, unrealistic.  Strangely, though, it best deals with reality: bad things will happen and we don’t know when and how long.  But, we do know it’s not forever and that good exceeds bad.

Thanks for reading,

Mitch

See disclosures.

Leave a Reply