Do you know one of those super-positive, happy, outgoing persons who always "looks at the bright side" and "finds a silver lining" no matter how bad things are? Annoying aren't they?

But admit it: if you're like me, you're probably envious of those personality traits. Who wouldn't be? In this world of partisan politics, social media trolls, economic uncertainties and senseless acts of violence it's pretty easy to be negative. So when I meet someone that's positive and optimistic I always think to myself "why can't I be more like that guy?"

Well it turns out that those optimistic people do have a flaw. A big one actually.

According to a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Bath, Cardiff University and the London School of Economics and Political Science positive people - particularly startup business owners -  tend to make...well...lousier decisions.

The aptly named "Curb Your Enthusiasm: Optimistic Entrepreneurs Earn Less"  study - which used eighteen years of data - followed a bunch of individuals from the time that they left their full time jobs to start their own businesses and the results were eye-opening. Business owners with "above average optimism" earned thirty percent less than those with below average optimism and substantially less than what they would've earned if they remained a corporate employee.

So take that you happy-go-lucky, bright-eyed-and-bushy-tailed person. Your good mood could be contributing to your failure as an entrepreneur!  The study also confirmed another one of my suspicions: optimists who go into business with a "great idea" are more likely than pessimists to fail because that "great idea" is usually more of a product of their optimism rather than real marketplace facts.  Realists and pessimists, according to the research, are less likely to make that mistake.

"Our results suggest that too many people are starting business ventures, at least as far as personal returns are concerned," Dr. Chris Dawson, Associate Professor in Business Economics at the University of Bath's School of Management said in a university press release. "Pessimism may not generally be seen as a desirable trait but it does protect people from taking on poor entrepreneurial projects."

OK, I'm not saying that you should turn into Larry David or April Ludgate. But just know that when you start up a business, being overly optimistic can be harmful to your success. I'm not asking you to change your personality. In fact, go ahead and embrace it. We need more optimists in this world. I'm sure that your sunny outlook provides your employees and friends with inspiration, motivation, energy and purpose in their lives. At the very least, they're definitely cheered up when you're not around and they can mock your maddening cheerfulness behind your back.

Just know thyself. If you're one of those always-glass-is-half-full persons then you need to recognize that as a potential weakness. It's your responsibility to surround yourself with boring, negative, pessimistic haters like me, or more realistic advisors like your certified public accountant or an attorney or your mother-in-law, who criticizes everything you do when you're not there.

Smart business leaders don't live in a Teletubbies bubble of happiness.  They live in reality - and they make business judgments based on facts, not feeling.

Published on: Oct 10, 2018