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The importance of optimism in 2021

Chris Botha, Group Managing Director, Park Advertising

Firstly, to all our staff, clients and media owner partners – HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here’s hoping that 2021 will be a really special one.

One of my favourite things to do over my December break is to read. This is when I have enough time to really relax and let the magic of books carry me away. During this holiday I read the biography of Bob Iger – the CEO of the Disney Corporation. The book is entitled Ride of a Lifetime and I would highly recommend it.

The book touches on Iger’s influence in acquiring Pixar, Lucasfilm, and the Marvel Franchise. But is it something else that really grabbed my attention. One of the topics that Iger stresses is the importance of optimism in difficult circumstances.

Difficult circumstances? Boy do we all know a thing or two about this. I would imagine we all had a rough 2020. And 2021 is not kicking off much better. But how important is an optimistic attitude in getting the wheels turning again?

A psychology expert says that optimistic people are more likely to invest, act and put effort into achieving whatever it is that they want to achieve. “High optimism will predict high effort and success,” she says.

Iger talks extensively about the importance of optimism amongst leaders. I must be honest; this was something I failed at in 2020. Honestly, on numerous occasions, I did let the pressure and chaos from COVID get to me, resulting in me projecting a negative attitude both internally and externally.

If as a leader of a business you don’t lead with optimism how do you expect your team to be optimistic? By being pessimistic, you give your team licence to be down in the dumps and conservative in their approach. Your attitude rubs off on those around you.

The opposite is also true. When you are optimistic, you are more likely to invest, more likely to take a chance and to think creatively. Harvard University in the USA, has completed various studies on the impact of optimism on health, long term survival, and success. No guesses what the results are – the more optimistic you are, the better your chances of getting cured, succeeding in business and yes, surviving in the long term.

But optimism in 2021 needs perspective. What I am NOT talking about here is ignoring the realities around us. God knows that is almost impossible to do. I am not professing a “moonshine and roses approach”. It’s about keeping an optimistic attitude in spite of what is going on around us. Rolling with the punches, but having an attitude of advancement.

Every year I write a “motto” on my wall in my office. At the beginning of last year, I wrote “What’s Next” in big black bold letters. Inspiration to keep pushing, to see what’s coming and to create your own future. But without a sense of optimism – “What’s Next” is – “more trouble, more problems, and more challenges”. But with a sense of optimism “What’s Next” gains some meat. It gains some perspective about what is going on.

So in 2021 I wrote “Go do it”. Too many great ideas are buried under a sea of pessimism. In 2020 this was sooooooooo easy to do. I am hoping that with a realistic optimistic attitude – we will all “Go do it” and force the change.

So, here’s to 2021. Guaranteed it will bring challenges. But I hope you will join me in having an optimistic attitude about what we can achieve this year. As Helen Keller famously said – “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”

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