I’m an optimist, how about you?
My name is Dave…and I am an optimist.
Yes, I am an optimist. And proud of it. I’m surprised at how often people ask me how I remain so enthusiastic and optimistic on everything I’m involved in – on both the work and the home front. It’s a good question. Well, looking back, I think it has to do with growing up and working on a farm. How so? Every day, we would rise at the crack of dawn to tackle an array of farm chores that would make today’s generation cringe. I’m not talking about picking up your socks off the floor; I mean REAL chores, such as picking rock, de-horning cattle, shoveling manure, butchering chickens, fencing and the list goes on and on. Sometimes I want to pinch myself that these days all I have to do is sit at my desk for work!
Fast forward to today. I believe one trait that my brothers and I shared is that we were, and still are, optimists. I’m not sure if that came from working together closely on the farm during our childhood, or from our supportive parents insisting that we don’t quit until the chores were completed. Not quitting, and sticking with something gives a person self-confidence, which in turn, equates into optimism.
I have noticed during my twenty-four-year tenure as President of Wealth Management Midwest, that our most successful clients are also optimists…even when it’s not so “hip” to think that way.
Consider what author Matt Ridley explained in his 17 Reasons To Be Cheerful article. There’s a widespread perception that congenital pessimists — we all know a few — are realists, imbued with superior intellect, historical insight and prescience. Conversely, optimists are often perceived as Pollyannaish, naïve, ignorant of the facts, indulging in wishful thinking, or trying to sell you something. What is up with that?
I agree with Ridley’s beliefs that the world has never been better, and will get even better. Not so? Let’s look at some optimistic facts for a moment. Poverty is nose-diving. Yes, the rich get richer, but the poor do even better. Between 1980 and 2000, the poor doubled their consumption. The Chinese are 10 times richer and live about 25 years longer than they did 50 years ago. The percentage of the world’s people living in absolute poverty has dropped by over half. The United Nations estimates poverty was reduced more in the past 50 years than in the previous 500 years.
How about the environment? Pessimistic about global warming? Mix in some positive food for thought: In the United States, rivers, lakes, seas and air are getting cleaner all the time. A car today emits less pollution traveling at full speed than a parked car did from leaks in 1970.
Let’s think even broader. How about all the global trade that’s enriching our lives? By 9 a.m., most of us have shaved with an American razor, eaten bread made with French wheat and spread with New Zealand butter and Spanish marmalade, brewed tea from Sri Lanka, dressed in clothes made from Indian cotton and Australian wool, put on shoes of Chinese leather, and read a newspaper printed on Finnish paper with Chinese ink. We are consuming miniscule fractions of the labor of hundreds of people. This is the magic of trade and specialization.
And thinking even bigger…let’s keep the great ideas coming. The more we prosper, the more we CAN prosper. The more we invent, the more inventions become possible. The world of things is often subject to diminishing returns. But the world of ideas is not. The ever-changing exchange of ideas causes the ever-increasing rate of innovation in the modern world. There isn’t even a theoretical possibility of exhausting our supplies of ideas, discoveries, and inventions.
And lastly…hey, the optimists are right. For 200 years, pessimists have had all the headlines even though optimists have been right far more often. There is immense vested interest in pessimism. No charity ever raised money by saying things are getting better. No journalist ever gets the front page writing a story about how disaster was now less likely. Pressure groups and their customers in the media search even the most cheerful statistics for glimmers of doom. Don’t be browbeaten — dare to be an optimist!
I always have dared to be an optimist, and I always will…especially in my business. You will have your own perceptions as to whether it is the market pessimists or optimists who have been more right than wrong. If you look back at the stock market over the last 50 years, the optimists win hands-down.
So again…my name is Dave, and I am an optimist! How about you?