The Pessimistic Optimist

Adrian S. Potter
3 min readFeb 16, 2019

Become “Colorblind” like Albert Schweitzer (The Secondhand Inspiration Project)

Photo by Harshal Desai on Unsplash

The Secondhand Inspiration Project begins with a motivational quote and ventures wherever the creative path meanders.

“An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere, while a pessimist sees only the red stoplight…the truly wise person is colorblind.” — Albert Schweitzer

Over the years, I’ve been blessed to meet many interesting people, in-person and online. Many have found success following different paths. One thing they have in common is they are all pessimists. The other thing they have in common is they are all optimists.

I understand how this might seem confusing. How can two incongruent viewpoints exist in the same individual simultaneously? Yet the equation makes complete sense when you consider time as a variable: they have made themselves short-term pessimists and long-term optimists.

What I mean is this — they expect every discrete project they take to fail because the reality is, most things never get completed. They are acknowledging reality and have zero emotional response when a book idea gloriously fizzles to nothing, a bold new business concept just doesn’t work out, or their research paper fails to ever get published.

Yet they are long-term optimists because they know if they work on enough projects, several of them will succeed, making up for the ones that failed.

The eternal optimist who thinks everything will somehow “work out in the end” is soon ground down by reality. Their beliefs don’t match up with the results, they start to question themselves, and constant disappointment hinders their ability to “shake it off” and move onto the next project. They become snakebit, downtrodden, and eventually bitter — which is never a positive trait.

The constant pessimist never takes any action because they automatically expect everything they do to fail. And because they never really act, they do fail. They stay loitering on the sidelines moping, never actually getting in the game.

In life, having the correct mindset is very important. But it must be a reality-based mindset, with hard-nosed expectations, not pie in the sky fantasies or pouty tantrums.

The more you do, the more you fail, yet paradoxically the more you succeed.

The pessimistic optimist is properly armored against constant failure and rejection, so it bothers them not. But they also expect success to periodically interrupt failure, which is why they struggle and compete in the first place. Become a pessimistic optimist, and you’ll evolve into a champion in a world full of losers who keep coming up short.

Adrian S. Potter is an author, engineer, consultant, and public speaker. He writes poetry, short fiction, and articles on a variety of subjects, including creativity and personal growth. He is the author of the poetry collection Everything Wrong Feels Right and the prose chapbook The Alter Ego Handbook. Visit him online at

Adrian S. Potter

Antisocial Extrovert · Writer and Poet, Engineer, Consultant, Public Speaker · Writing about self-improvement, gratitude, and creativity ·