Subscribe to Entrepreneur for $5
Subscribe

Be a Negative Optimist

Find out how to constructively use negative thinking to make better decisions and achieve greater success.

By
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

The most important quality for success in entrepreneurship andin life is the quality of optimism. Optimists have an unrealisticexpectation of success. As a result, they're willing to try farmore things without becoming discouraged. In addition, because oftheir unrealistically positive attitude, they're willing topersist much longer than the average person. Optimism is awonderful quality-as long as you have it under control.

In order to be successful in business, and in any activity whereyour money's involved, you must temper your optimism withnegativism. You must be enthusiastic about the possible upside ofthe investment, but you must be skeptical, critical, suspicious anddemanding about all the different ways that your money can belost.

Seek out and listen carefully to people who are negative towardsyour idea. Look for negative thinkers, because their viewpoints canbe invaluable and save you a fortune in time and money. I have afriend who's a lawyer, and he gives advice to many people oninvestments. When someone comes to him and asks him about making aninvestment he's unsure about, what he does is this: He says,"All right, I want you to come to my office and I want you tosit behind my desk. Then I'm going to come in and present thisinvestment to you, and I want you to critique this investment as ifyou were me."

And he says that when his clients begin critiquing theinvestments they're thinking about going into, when they startto become negative thinkers about the investments, he saysthey're astonished at how bad the investments really are. Hesaid he's saved his clients millions of dollars by forcing themto be negative thinkers about their own ideas, simply by switchingroles and sitting in front of the desk while they sit behind it. Itpays to act as your own negative thinker.

Conversely, don't be overly influenced by negative thinkers.Just take their viewpoints into consideration. There's a famousstory of Mary Hudson, who started off with $200 in the middle ofthe Depression and leased a gas station that two men had gone brokerunning at two different occasions. And from that location, shebuilt a company called Hudson Oil, which is now the biggestindependent distributor of gas and oil in the United States. From a$200 investment, even though everybody told her she'd fail. Soremember, listen to negative thinkers, seriously consider what theyhave to say, but don't necessarily accept their advice.


Brian Tracy is the founder and chair of Brian TracyInternational, a human resource company based in San Diego, andone of America's leading authorities on entrepreneurialdevelopment.

Entrepreneur Editors' Picks