Always the optimist

At times being an optimist can be a costly exercise. Is optimism a high risk / high reward lifestyle compared to playing safe? Or does playing safe carry greater risks with fewer rewards? Unfortunately the way many organisations are structured rewards the latter rather than the former.

Surely optimism is the only way we can truly hope to move forward. If we cannot imagine a brighter future surely we can’t attain one? And if we are not in pursuit of a brighter future, then?

The alternative to promoting a brighter future: To not see a future, or to promote a worse one? By my book that leads to followers who will either be inert or doomsayers, and an outcome I don’t wish to be part of.

Must Leaders actively promote a better future? I contend this is one of the most valued, but unrecognized, parts of the role.

Leaders must be optimists and must share the optimism with their followers.

In researching this post I came across strategic philosopher Max More who kindly gave me permission to reference one of his essays from 1991.

I have redrafted his list of characteristics of a ‘Dynamic optimist’ as follows (download Max More’s actual list here)


  • Selective Positive Focus
  • Refraining from Complaining
  • A fundamental creative openness to possibilities.
    [pullquote]Merely believing that everything will work out fine without taking action makes one a foolish optimist, not a dynamic optimist.

    For optimism to give us the power to overcome the limits in our lives it needs to fully recognize reality, not hide from it. Max More[/pullquote]

  • A Sense of Abundance
  • Constructive Humor


  • Reason, not fear or desire
  • Seeking continual self-improvement
  • Experimental and fresh
  • Self-Confident.
  • Self-Worth
  • Personal integrity and responsibility.
  • Creating positive environments

I think this is a timeless and tremendously inspiring list and recommend placing it prominently in ‘your head’ or in your office. It also measures well against those leaders (in all walks of life) I most admire.

Its relevance for the current times is absolute. We need optimism desperately (is that oxymoronic?). True leaders must step up and lead the ‘dynamic optimists’ charge, with a keen eye for the others in their midst/teams.

Nothing in Max More’s list is kooky or too new-age, it is concrete and actionable. Anyone can do this, in any occupation or lifestyle.

The worst part is it’s harder than it looks.

In the mode of dynamic optimist it is however easier than what the alternative will create. I’m an optimist but now I’m going to be more actively so.

Are you willing to give it a whirl? My prediction is this will improve your future as a leader and as a human being.

I’m printing this out now, by the time this post is launched (one week hence) I’ll give you an update of the impact.

Note: I also urge you once more to visit Max More’s site for a great mind workout.

6 Replies to “Always the optimist”

  1. Richard,
    Thanks for your post
    Exactly in the vein of my reply to Dan Leadershipfreak’s post

    What about GENEROSITY ? I believe this is the key to ity all. A leader who is not generous is NOT a leader

    1. Hi Anne, I agree about generosity. I wonder if generosity flows in it’s most authentic form if all of these other aspects are in place firstly? Warm regards Richard

  2. Hi Richard,
    Great post. Agree we need more “dynamic optimists”. Have just printed off to hang in prominent place also. I am willing to “give it a whirl”. Life is too short to be anything but optimistic.
    Enjoying your posts and comments, pleased i subscribed. Well done.

    1. Hi Kris and welcome. Thanks for your positive support and I’m very pleased it is of value to you. the list has lifted my game in the last week, just little things – but hey that is what life is – lot’s of little things all stuck together with an infinitely flexible paste. Go well, Richard

  3. Optimism is making trade off your potential with current situation, people, opportunity etc.It is the first step where you see your future with current growth and reality.The second step and often the difficult step is to take action. So between idea and action there are lot of priorities. You need to weigh the magnitude of priority and type of urgency. You also need to see whether it is avoidable or unavoidable and also whether it is created one or only perception. Being optimist without taking these factors into account is being blind optimist, so one need to address the priority first and when you take action, only focus on making full effort. But when you focus on getting result, then even if you take action, you incline to become pessimistic. There your motive determines your growth, happiness, opportunity.

    1. Thankyou Ajay. i attended a Seth Godin Linchpin meetup last night – and very much the focus was action – Ship – in Seht’s terms. having a strong purpose/ focus in mind is undoubtedly a key component. Regards Richard

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