Buffett and many other successful leaders are known for possessing a tremendous amount of this trait.
By Marcel Schwantes
But more to the point, one of the big reasons I love to write about Buffett is that he possesses a tremendous amount of optimism, a quality that science finds shared by many entrepreneurs.
Successful entrepreneurs embrace the belief that no matter what, choosing to be in a mindset of positivity and pushing aside self-doubts will eventually yield results.
Buffett’s optimism put to the test
This is one trait Buffett has possessed over the decades that most of us probably haven’t exercised in our work lives, which is such an integral part of Buffett’s enormous success — he is relentlessly optimistic. Just how optimistic is he?
Writer and data science consultant Michael Toth decided to put Buffett’s optimism to the test by performing a “sentiment analysis of the text of Warren Buffett’s letters to shareholders from 1977 to 2016.” In a nutshell, Toth set out to determine how positive or negative Buffett’s letters have been by comparing the number of negative words with the number of positive words.
Toth’s analysis discovered that overall, Buffett’s letters have been largely optimistic, with positive words far outnumbering negative words. Only five letters show negative net sentiment scores, due to major negative economic events such as the 1987 Black Monday market crash and the Great Recession of 2008.
Buffett is currently ranked among the top 10 richest billionaires in the world, which begs the question: Is his optimism linked to being filthy rich? Hardly. His positive outlook on life comes by choice, regardless of his stunning wealth. Speaking to PBS’s Judy Woodruff about his net worth from Berkshire Hathaway stock, Buffett said, “They have no utility to me. They can’t do anything to make me happier. I’m already happy.” He added that he “could be very happy” with $100,000 a year and that his billions “can’t buy anything for me that I want. If they did, I would buy it.”
Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, praised Buffett directly in the foundation’s 2017 Annual Letter: “Your success didn’t create your optimism; your optimism led to your success.”
How to become more optimistic
As you carve your own path to personal mastery and self-improvement, I want to offer you a few daily or weekly strategies to help you become more optimistic. Some will benefit you but also the people around you.
As you practice these habits to become more positive and optimistic, you’ll start to see immediate benefits: more inner peace, lasting joy, and, ultimately, greater success, as people will be drawn to your optimism.
1. Improve people’s lives (as well as your own)
In another previous Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation annual letter, Bill Gates states, “B]eing an optimist isn’t about knowing that life used to be worse. It’s about knowing how life can get better. And that’s what really fuels our optimism.”
In their example of optimism in the battle to cure diseases and end hunger, they have learned a lot and met a lot of people to make the world a better place. The lesson to activate our own optimism is similar: Keep learning and growing, get exposure to new things, become aware of social issues locally, fight the injustices inside your own corporate walls, and partner with like-minded people to develop strategies and solutions to the problems we face.
2. Journal about your positive experiences
Psychologist and best-selling author Shawn Achor told Oprah that you can literally train your brain to be happy and optimistic if you journal three things you are grateful for every day for 21 days in a row. And while you’re at it, Achor also told Oprah that if you spend two minutes daily journaling about one positive experience in the past 24 hours, it allows your brain to relive it, and teaches your brain that the behavior matters.
3. Learn to be grateful
Science says you can literally train your brain to be happy and optimistic if you journal three things daily for which you are grateful, and you do it for 21 days in a row. According to the research, when you raise your level of positivity your brain performs significantly better than at negative, neutral, or stressed. In studies, it’s been found that:
Productivity rose by 31 percent
Sales increased by 37 percent
The likelihood of a promotion rose by 40 percent
4. Choose to be happy
Happiness comes down to choice, and making that choice has long-term psychological benefits. Brain research by Dr. Wataru Sato of Kyoto University found that when you choose positive behaviors (like forgiveness), you hold the key to rewiring your brain.
By changing your daily habits, you’ll be able to control your sense of well-being, purpose, and happiness. If you’re caught in a vicious circle of negative emotions like doubt, fear, and uncertainty, replace those emotions by consciously and intentionally choosing optimism, like joy, faith, and hope.
Use the tools of meditation, prayer, journaling, and mindfulness to aid you in the process. Check in with close friends and family after two weeks and ask if they have noticed a difference. I would wager a small bet that they have.