Pessimism: The Great Excuse

I saw a quote from Bill Clinton the other day that I really like. “Pessimism is an excuse for not trying, and a guarantee to personal failure.” This is some great career success advice. As I point out in my career mentor book Success Tweets, you have to be an optimist to create the life and career success you deserve.

Tweet 44 says, “Be an optimist. Believe that things will turn out well. Don’t sulk when they don’t. Learn what you can and use it next time.” In other words, don’t let yourself off the hook by becoming a pessimist. As President Clinton points out pessimism can be a great excuse for not trying, or for giving up when things get tough.

Did you see the movie, Remember the Titans? It’s a sports movie about an improbable situation based on a true story. Denzel Washington stars as the coach of the T. C. Williams High School Titans. It’s 1971 and Williams is a newly integrated high school in Alexandria, VA. Denzel’s character, Coach Herman Boone, was a black man chosen to be the head coach over a very popular white coach who had been the head coach at the high school prior to it being integrated.

The team had a lot of good athletes. They were undefeated as they entered the State Championship game. Things didn’t go well in the first half. In the locker room at half time, Denzel makes a speech in which he congratulates the team on coming so far in such a short period of time. He tells them that win or lose he is proud of them. It seems as if he has given up. It sounds like a speech losing coaches give to teams after a game – not at half time. After all he and the team have accomplished, he’s become a pessimist.

One of the players speaks up. He challenges the coach. He says something like, “We were perfect when this game started. We’re still perfect until it’s over. I, for one, want to finish this game like we started it – perfect.” This impassioned speech rallies the team, and they win the game. It’s a feel-good movie about a group of young men who learned how to pull together regardless of their differences.

And it makes the first point about optimism and pessimism. Even when the coach turned pessimistic and seemed ready to give up, one player wouldn’t. He was an optimist. He believed they would win. His optimism was contagious. The team rallied and won. I don’t know if things went down exactly that way in the real locker room, but that scene reinforces the power of believing things will turn out well – not in letting yourself off the hook with excuses.

If you don’t believe you can win, if you don’t believe you can create the life and career success you deserve, you won’t. If you do believe, if you’re an optimist, you’re on the right path to winning the life and career success sweepstakes.

But believing is not enough. It will set you up for success, but you will still find times when you fail. That’s where the second piece of career advice in Tweet 44 comes in. Don’t sulk when you fail or lose. Don’t become a pessimist. Treat every failure and loss as a learning experience. Use failures and losses as stepping stones to creating the life and career success you want and deserve.

These are the ideas on which I built my career success, and the heart of the career advice I provide in my books like Success Tweets, my career mentor blog posts, my coaching and my talks.

The career mentor point here is simple common sense. Successful people are self-confident and optimistic. As Bill Clinton points out – they don’t use pessimism as an excuse for not trying. Optimists are not afraid to try. They believe that things will turn out well, and more important, when they don’t, they use their experiences to learn and grow and do better next time. Follow the career advice in Tweet 44 in Success Tweets. “Be an optimist. Believe that things will turn out well. Don’t sulk when they don’t. Learn what you can, use it next time.” I’m big on optimism. My optimism has helped me create the life and career success I wanted. Your optimism can do the same for you.

That’s my career advice prompted by President Clinton’s quote on pessimism. What do you think? Please take a minute to share your thoughts with us in a comment. As always, thanks for reading my musings on life and career success. I value you and I appreciate you.

Your career mentor,


PS: If you haven’t already done so, please download a free copy of my popular career advice book Success Tweets and its companion piece Success Tweets Explained. One is 140 bits of career advice, all in 140 characters or less. The other is a whopping 390 + pages of career advice explaining each of the common sense tweets in Success Tweets in detail. Go to to download your free copies. You’ll also start receiving my daily success quotes.

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