If there were one guiding principle that encapsulated all pragmatic optimists, it would simply be: “judge your worth not by what you own, but by what you create”…In my travels documenting and working with a number of these individuals I’ve observed number of core principles they all seem to share, and they’re principles any of us can adopt:
- Have an unashamed optimism of ambition. (Don’t feel embarrassed to say that things can be better. Have no qualms about imagining an improved world and advocating for it, no matter how much derision you may receive at the hands of the cynical.)
- Engage in projects that are bigger than you are. (“Find something more important than you are and dedicate your life to it.”)
- Your ideas are for sharing, not protecting. (Pragmatic optimists happily let their ideas go out dating.)
- Making mistakes is OK, but not trying is irresponsible.
- You’re defined by what you do, not by what you intend to do. (Pragmatic optimists aren’t interested in what you might do if you had more time, or if your manager was more understanding, or if you were the manager, or if it was next week. You are what you do. That’s it. Get on with it.)
- Be an engineer. Engineers do not build bridges from a left-wing or right-wing perspective. They build bridges from an evidence-based perspective and over time bridge-building gets better.)
- Be prepared to lose nine battles out of ten. You cannot win them all, but you will likely win one battle out of ten. In “round two” be prepared to win one battle out of nine, and by round three one out of eight. By the time you’ve done that, you’ve created enough of a shift for the rest to follow. If you entered the fray worried about losing nine out of ten you’d never start. Concentrate on winning the one. Overnight success is for the movies.
- Kick out cynicism. Cynicism has become embedded in our society and is seen as wisdom. Yet there is nothing wise or even likeable about cynicism. Cynicism is like smoking, you may think it looks cool but it’s really bad for you – and worse than that it’s bad for everyone around you. For the cynic, everything is just a little too hard to imagine, or do. As such, cynicism is both a recipe and an excuse for laziness and you should have no time for it.
~ Mark Stevenson is the author of “An Optimist’s Tour of the Future” (Avery Books)