It’s good to be optimistic. And I love people with great drive and belief. But there is, unfortunately, a limit on how far a wave of optimism can take you up the beach before sucking you back into the shark-infested depths.

My problem, as has often been pointed out, is that I see reasons why things might be difficult far brighter than why they might work. That’s not to say I can’t be optimistic, positive even, but I tend not to get carried into shore by the wave alone. I prefer a Mulberry.

I’ve seen a number of situations where optimism has got the better of people.

It’s tricky, but there is a balance. Yes, of course, be optimistic, believe. But plan on the basis that things won’t go quite as well as you’d hoped. It is catastrophically easy to move forward on the basis of assumed success. I’ve been playing chess like that for years. Attack, attack, oops*. This is not, I stress not, negative. “What ifs” are a great exercise to go through. If you need to have multiple plans, then do that. Don’t have a single plan that goes a bit Arnhem at the end if you don’t get your way. Planning for worst cases is not negative or any admission of presumed defeat. It just makes sense. At no point during the war (or since) did anyone accuse Churchill of negativity despite extensive plans being drawn up on what would be done in the event of a German invasion. It’s just common sense/realism/preparedness. Not negativity.

Those who cry “negativity” are generally objecting to their bubble of Walter Mitty-esque optimism being burst. Hands off ears. Listen. There will be a way.

There is always a way.

This post has been brought to you by Wikipedia and World War Two.

* – those interested in miltary history may also like to read the story of the Battle of Midway, a more finely balanced positive versus negative strategy you won’t see… a great lesson in the role of luck too. I’ll try not to mention Apollo 8 again.