Personally Speaking: Why Optimism

Our mothers: “You’re just so optimistic. I guess you have to be.”
Our selling clients: “Will painting and staging and new fixtures help?”
Our buyers: “So you’re optimistic about our chances of this offer going through?”

Life’s choices create an odyssey. Choose to listen to the little voices and allow fear to set in and dominate. Or choose to emotionally re-arrange the landscape, create, reinvent and break rules, and silence those voices.

There’s a reason to our optimism, this prevailing mood that many others at first-blush associate with madness. The reason is this: we can’t help ourselves. It’s what we do. We work from a place of optimism and that optimism becomes manifest in our work. We don’t dip into the tool bag and unearth the Optimisticator 3.1 with Malware-override. We don’t don optimist’s cloaks. We are believers in good futures. That defines optimists.

Without optimism, entrepreneurship is a dead-end. In today’s real estate market, entrepreneurship is required to get successfully from point A to point B. The key word there is: successfully. Anyone can get you there, consequences be damned.

Hannah and I are huge Seth Fan’s, and this is from his seminal opus on work: Linchpin. We are both re-reading it now. Of course it’s not used with permission. Seth would never require permission to explain something as critical and salient as optimism. It provides a convenient description of why we do what we do.

The reason is simple: artists have the chance to make things better.
Other people often make the choice to be victims. They can be the flotsam and jetsam tossed by the waves of circumstance. Until they make the choice to be artists, they sadly float along.
Artists understand that they have the power, through gifts, innovation, and love, to create a new story, one that’s better than the old one.
Optimism is the most important human trait, because it allows us to evolve our ideas, to improve our situation, and to hope for a better tomorrow. And all artists have this optimism, because artists can honestly say that they are working to make things better.
This is why organizations under pressure often crack. All parties can see that their current system isn’t working, but they’re unable to embrace a new one because they’re certain that it won’t turn out perfectly, that it can’t be as good as what they have now. Organizations under pressure are stuck because their pain makes it hard for them to believe in the future.
Optimism is for artists, change agents, linchpins, and winners. Whining and fear, on the other hand, are largely self-fulfilling prophecies in organizations under stress. (Linchpin, p. 98)

Neither Hannah nor I would characterize our business or personal lives as fitting a real estate-theme. Before real estate, it fits into an entrepreneur’s-theme first, but beyond that, the prevailing theme is optimism. It is art. It is kids. It is gardens. It is new development. It is making do with less to go further. We believe that we are what we program, that what we create is more important than what we produce. We can only work with a finite percentage of the marketplace for this reason; and for that percentage, that’s just fine.

Two pages before this riff, Seth let slip some grand heresy: “the easier it is to quantify, the less it’s worth.” The mantra of the last three decades of business, from E-Myth to MaxAvenue has been “if you can’t measure it, it’s worthless”. This is changing profoundly. Lizard Brain thinking that embraces being a cog in a machine embraces expandability and finite life cycles. The most devastatingly accurate point Seth makes in Linchpin is that all a modern resume does is show what’s missing. The employer has their keyword search filter on high not to look for what’s there, but the absence of what’s there.

Optimism doesn’t translate to resumes.

Optimism does translate to change, improvement, future-tense and you get the picture.

I (Ben) can’t measure why my Thomas and Thomas 3-weight rod is my most delightful rod in the quiver. It’s 14 years old and unless smashed or destroyed has an infinite life ahead of it. I can’t say the same for my 7 or 8 weight rods. Hannah can’t measure the satisfaction she gets from unearthing mounds of soil (it certainly has nothing to do with the ridiculous amount of zucchini in her freezer). Are either of these worthless? In fact, the reverse is true.

The easy route is to go the route of quantifiable. The hard route is the one of enduring quality.

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