The power of optimism

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The origin of the word “optimism” is from the Latin optimum which means “the best”. By optimism I mean the tendency to positive thinking, finding the best in a situation; to look on the bright side; to regard a glass half full rather than half empty.

Researching this topic I came across a story about Andrew Carnegie, written by Alex Banayan, who posted it on Linked In.  Andrew Carnegie started his career with nothing and yet he became the richest man alive; worth more than Bill Gates and Warren Buffett combined.

According to the story, one afternoon, a young man walked into Carnegie’s office to interview him about his success. Carnegie could have talked the young man through his journey from poverty to riches, or told him about his dealings with John Rockefeller. But Carnegie talked about something else.

His optimism.

Apparently, Carnegie said the most important thing in his life was his “ability to shed trouble and to laugh through life.” He said that seeing life through a lens of positivity was worth more to him than millions of dollars.

“Young people should know that it can be cultivated,” Carnegie said. “The mind, like the body, can be moved from the shade into sunshine.”

It seems that optimism makes good business sense. By not getting weighed down by the negative, Carnegie could keep his focus on the positive, bounce back from failures faster, and see opportunities where other people didn’t know they existed.  He also seems to have discovered the fact that optimism can be cultivated…we can move our minds from the shade into the sunshine. This is something that Martin Seligman shows us how to do in his writing on Learned Optimism, which will be the subject of my next post.