Five Ways Optimism Can Crush Your Launch

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Today’s guest contributor is Original Impulse founder, novelist and coach to writers, artists and entrepreneurs, Cynthia Morris.

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Entrepreneurs, by our nature, are optimists. If we didn’t embrace a sense of hope, if we didn’t believe the unimaginable was possible, we would never start any business or venture.

But sometimes optimism can work against the hopeful creator, causing problems with its sunny sense of possibility. The final push to make your web site, business, book or product real in the world demands less optimism and more, well, reality.

Entrepreneurs live or die based on their ability to know when to swap optimism for reality. I recently launched my historical novel Chasing Sylvia Beach, and I discovered that the optimism that had fueled twelve years of writing didn’t belong in the launch pad.

Learn from the five kinds of optimism I saw in my launch and try these suggested cures.

Time optimism

I coach creative people – writers, artists, healers – and time optimism is one of the biggest Achilles’ heels that can bring a person down.

Time optimism can take many forms. Failure to accurately estimate how long things will take. Thinking you can do more in one day than is possible. Failure to take others’ time frames into account.

Entrepreneurs are famous for inaccuracies with time, and this can cause a lot of stress. I thought I allotted plenty of time to publish my novel. But I wasn’t taking into account holidays and the schedules of my designers and proofreader. When a collaborator says she’s taking her long-planned vacation while your project is on her desk, there’s not much you can do but wait.

My shipment of 500 books arrived a mere three days before the launch party. That was three weeks after I wanted the books, but at least I had them for the launch.

Cure: Give yourself an extra four-six weeks beyond what you think you is necessary. Stop adding extra stress and choose deadlines that give you some cushion for unexpected delays.

Superhero optimism

We become entrepreneurs because we have a vision that we believe will change the world. But we often forget that we’re not meant to do it alone. When preparing to launch my novel, as usual I hashed out a plan and started aligning things to move forward.

It wasn’t long, however, before I knew there was no way I could pull off a limited edition and a launch party by myself. When I identified specific tasks that could be delegated, I also discovered that I had friends who were perfect for these jobs. And, luckily, they were willing and able to help.

Cure: Get help. Identify pieces of the project that can be delegated and ask who would love to help. Then call and ask for help.

Smoothly functioning optimism

I’m so guilty of this. I expect things to run smoothly. I didn’t expect my application to the iBookstore to be rejected five times because my EIN didn’t match their records. I had to get on the phone with the IRS (fun!) and request a copy of my company’s file. After scanning and sending to Apple, I got word that my business name didn’t match what they had on their file. Argh!

Expecting things to run perfectly is a sweet form of optimism that will repeatedly cause unnecessary frustration.

Cure: Expect glitches. Develop a sense of humor and lightness when things go wrong. Become optimistic about your ability to respond to any problems that arise.

Big brain optimism

When we’re planning our product or program launch, we get busy with schedules and task lists. We calendar our tasks, set our deadlines and get to work.

But we forget that we’re not just a big brain on caffeine. This optimism makes us overlook the very real contributions of our emotional and physical selves.

We forget that we need to pay extra attention to the practices that keep us running smoothly. We think we can operate on little sleep and fast food.

We don’t realize that there are tasks on our lists – asking for blurbs, getting peer feedback, going over the final versions of your work – that will inherently carry a lot of emotional drag. Much as we’re fueled by willpower, certain pieces of the project will call us forward physically, mentally and emotionally in ways we haven’t experienced.

Cure: Be holistic and honor you all of you. Maintain your exercise and good eating habits throughout the launch. In his book Uncertainty, Jonathan emphasizes this need to stay human – not a work machine – throughout the process. This reminder helped me to enjoy my launch much more.

Finish line optimism

Finally, there’s the finish line. Despite our wonderful optimism, we’ve made it to the end. Our new web site, our shiny new product, or our book has made its debut into the world.

But what happens next? We’ve trained our sights on the finish line for so long that we’ve forgotten that there’s something beyond that horizon. We forget to schedule follow up processes. We forget to schedule a break for ourselves. We get to the end and after a day or two, we’re deflated from all that effort and energy.

Cure: Plan extra self-care for the weeks following your launch. Plan at least the first two to three months’ actions post-launch. Put vacations and celebrations into the calendar.

Keep adjusting your optimism

I’m glad my launch is over, and that nothing blew up, burned down, or broke beyond repair. The biggest thing I learned was how to consistently re-calibrate my optimism and expectations. I had to release a lot of my big, brilliant ideas.

But rather than feel disappointment, I felt relief. I knew early on that just publishing my novel marked success for me. Identifying this core satisfaction allowed me to be happy even when my optimistic dreams didn’t pan out.

I’m still an eternal optimist, believing in books and new businesses and products that can change the world. But now my optimism has taken its proper place in my launches. I can not match a little realism with my optimism so my launches – and my everyday workflow – run more smoothly.

Do you recognize any of these kinds of optimism? Or have your own?

Share them and your cures in a comment below.

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Cynthia Morris believes in the power of big dreams and works to help others launch their great work into the world. Through her company Original Impulse, she coaches writers, artists and entrepreneurs to feel satisfied and successful.

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30 responses

30 responses to “Five Ways Optimism Can Crush Your Launch”

  1. Bravo Cynthia!

    You’re so right on with the reality check. I’ve experienced so much stress related to Time Optimism. It’s insane how we think we’re doing ourselves a favor to push ourselves, when in reality we’re setting ourselves (and our support structures) up for a trial by fire… followed by the inevitable let down.

    You’re such a brilliant blend of Artiste and Coach. You honor and embrace the duties of BOTH, in not just creating gorgeous work, but in shepherding it out into the world with care & precision.

    Mad respect. Thanks for kickstarting my writing, but most importantly for being so consistent in your dual roles. It gives us artists and creators some HOPE, as well as a much-needed kick in our Reality Asses.

    kc

    • Thanks so much, KC, for your kind acknowledgements!

      Once I learned – and am still learning – to loosen my stranglehold on my timeline, I’ve been able to enjoy the launch much more. I have space to slow down and be thoughtful with my choices.

      The biggest choice I’ve made is to not make work so stressful that I lose sight of what it’s all about.

      I’m glad you’re writing! Keep going.

  2. “Entrepreneurs live or die based on their ability to know when to swap optimism for reality.” What an awesome and absolutely true point, Cynthia!

    I had a couple entrepreneurial ventures before I settled into my current biz about 9 years ago (music teaching studio). I am definitely an eternal optimist sort. I learned quickly how to balance that out with realistic views of situations.

    One type of optimism I had to curb was people optimism. Often we find friends or employees who say they’d love to help us, but either their enthusiasm fades or their skills aren’t as strong as they thought. I’ve learned to give people small assignments to prove themselves before throwing a lot of responsibility on them. It’s better for everyone, because if they’re not the right fit, we both see it sooner and with fewer hard feelings.

    Thanks for a great article!

    • PS – if the secret to eternal life lies anywhere near dark chocolate, I am SO THERE! 🙂

    • Leanne,
      I’m glad this struck a chord with you. And thanks for the additional optimism – I am with you on that! We do want to think the best of people and of their abilities. But you’re right, this one can get sticky and make a mess that can damage relationships. I’m glad you brought it up!

      Well, yes, chocolate is a part of my health and success – and a great way to make friends!

  3. Great article Cynthia! I particularly resonated with the smoothly functioning optimism. I loved this line in your cure: “Become optimistic about your ability to respond to any problems that arise.” That provided a big breakthrough for me 🙂

    Congratulations on your launch!

    • Great, Ashley! I only just learned this one recently myself. This helped me let go of a lot of frustration. Glad it can help you feel better in your work!

      Merci!

  4. Jon Chandonnet says:

    Cynthia,

    I enjoyed your post.

    I’m an eternal optimist as well. I was a project manager in the field of software development for ten years. Four years ago, I transitioned to being a full time writer. My optimism allowed me to be successful in the rational, left brained, world of software development, but I’m realizing my optimism is a trait I need to learn to temper in the more right brained world of writing to live in harmony with the muses.

    Thanks for sharing your insight.

    Jon

    • You’re welcome, Jon. Glad this was useful for you! It’s odd to think that our best qualities can turn on us, but in some situations, they can.

      Writers really need a lot of optimism; but in the right places. I’m glad you’re learning how to balance yours.

      Thanks for letting me know that this was helpful for you. That makes my day.

  5. Christopher says:

    Wonderfully put!

    I thought that time was a myth and that I was a superhero!

    Boy, reality sure likes to knock you down a peg.

    Expecting it as part of the reality process is helpful. Especially knowing that everyone, including gurus such as yourself and Jonathan Fields, encounter these difficulties.

    Appreciate you!

    • Thanks, Christopher!

      I’m certainly no guru. I just have an awareness of my process (from being a coach) and the ability to write about it (from being a writer). This helps me catch detrimental patterns hopefully sooner rather than later!

      Glad you liked the post; thanks so much for commenting.

  6. Farnoosh says:

    Cynthia, thanks SO MUCH for writing this post. I am going to share it with my students – they are all on the brink of a large career transition and entrepreneurship is a bit of a mystery and this whole “optimistic” outlook is very questionable, so this post really breaks down what I couldn’t say as well as you did. Thanks Jonathan for featuring Cynthia. It was so great to see you both at WDS.

  7. I LOVED this take on the “problems” with optimism. I can’t wait to share it with my community.

    In my experience, we tend to hate on ourselves way too much. When things go “wrong”, we don’t call ourselves overly hopeful or optimistic, we say we were “lazy” or “short-sighted” or “in denial.”

    Thank you for such a beautiful lens on a common “problem” with creatives.

    Jennifer

  8. Ahhh… I can’t tell you how much relief your honest sharing of your book launch experience just gave me, Cynthia! Thank you for keepin’ it real!

    This past Saturday was the official launch day of The Little Book of Light: 111 Ways to Bring Light Into Your Life with Red Wheel/Weiser and not only was my awesome book trailer not done, but my website still had pics of the old self-published edition of the book on the website!

    I was horrified… both my website designer and my video editor were MIA — turned out my website designer who lives in Costa Rica had a monsoon and no internet for days… my video editor was partying somewhere because it was in fact a three-day holiday weekend!

    I didn’t do as you said to plan and in fact expect things ‘to go wrong,’ instead I’d thought optimistically that for SURE everything for the book would be done days in advance, after all it is the Little Book of Light, lol…. I spent most of the day feeling disappointed and a tad lame… and on a day that should have been one of the happiest of my life for completing a goal I’d had since I was a teenager.

    Fortunately, I was able to follow Jonathan’s guidance and “Uncertainty” prescription to stick with my meditation practice and exercise… did so-so on the healthy eating, lol. And now with your tips mentioned here, I will be able to navigate the rest of the book launch with much more serenity and grace. Thank you & I look forward to reading “Chasing Sylvia Beach!”

    Mikaela

    • Mikaela,

      Congratulations on your launch, imperfectly perfect as it was. I think we’ll always feel mixed emotions no matter how seamlessly it goes. It’s a big hairy deal to put something out into the world!

      Keeping your practices going and keeping your sense of humor and trust is key, and it sounds like you did that.

      What I want to know is, how did you celebrate your launch? I hope it was sweet.

      Thanks for commenting!

  9. This is spot on Cynthia. Thanks for putting it into words. As an eternal optimist…I have to say I resonated with all of these. I always expect things to go smoothly – that I can do it all myself – in super human style & record time 🙂 Realizing the flip side of optimism is so important or it can come back to bite you in the pants. Love your suggested cures & proactive approach to these tendencies. I’ve definitely learned that adding those ‘cures’ into your plans makes an amazing difference in stress, perspective, and outcomes. The tricks for me is that since i have all of these tendencies (not just one) – I have to include ALL of the cures. Not just one or two. 🙂 Thanks for the reminder.

    • Thanks, Karen! Now if I can remember my own cures! Ratcheting down our expectations isn’t always easy, but hopefully I will be able to put these cures into the mix when planning. Some are easier than others. I hope you work on the ones that feel the most challenging to you.

      Thanks for commenting!

  10. A great article and so true. I believe I’ve told you before that you have a knack for “hitting the nail square on the head.” Every word resonated with me – I need to use it as required reading at the beginning of every day.

    I hope you always have that wonderful optimism – and I hope that tempering it with reality (and the dark chocolate Leanne mentioned) will keep you healthy and greatly successful.

    • Dannie,

      That’s great – a kind of daily entrepreneur’s commandments! Whatever it takes to respect ourselves, understand and feel good about our human limits, and enjoy the wild ride of the creative process. That’s what I want for all of us, and I hope this article contributes to that.

      I appreciate your comment and support of my work! It means a lot to me.

      Keep writing!

  11. Top top tips

    Something always goes wrong, and something always happens to make your plan extend a week or so.

    Loving these tips and will certainly help me in the coming months 🙂

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  12. Great topic and excellent post! I find my optimism is in the Superhero kind. I expect myself to be a well-oiled machine with no obstacles impeding me. It’s also related to the drill sergeant optimism — where I act as a drill sergeant and am too tough on myself because I feel if everything gets done perfectly, then the goal will be accomplished.

    • Beth,
      It’s weird, isn’t it, how we expect ourselves to be uber humans?! I think we just relish the planning and envisioning and we don’t want to say, oh, I’m sure I’m going to be exhausted at least one of those days, or, no, Cynthia, you cannot work every Saturday to make up for what you didn’t do during the work week. We don’t like to think of our limits.

      But it’s so much healthier! I’m going to practice and I hope you do, too! Even the drill sergeant needs a break!

      Thanks for commenting!

  13. […] Here’s a very fantastic article I read recently about balancing optimism with some healthy dose of reality; 5 ways optimism can crush your launch. […]

  14. Luna Jaffe says:

    I’m guilty of everything you mentioned. Patience is so elusive. I am so close to finishing my book and keep hearing myself say that this is the “final” edit… only to have to do another. I feel like this pregnancy will never end, yet also worry (as does a new mother) about what will happen when my baby is out in the world all new and vulnerable and precious – to me anyway. I just got word today that my book was not accepted by my publisher of choice and feel totally lost. What is plan B? It’s been daunting just to write, edit, design and illustrate this book… and now the question of publication– crap! There are so many voices, so much noise about how to do this, and I’m trying to get still and listen, instead, to myself. Damn hard sometimes! I appreciate your honesty in this post. Reminders I needed to hear, especially today.

  15. Hi Luna,

    Thanks for commenting! I’m sorry to hear about the publishing disappointment. I know very well what that’s like!

    Give yourself some time to regroup. I always say, go back to your original impulse for the book. What do you want the book to do for its readers? What do you want the book to do for you and your business? Remind yourself that that will happen, but it may not look like you imagined it would.

    From there you will have that still surety about what is right for you, whether it’s looking for another publisher or publishing it on your own.

    It will be done, and it will be out in the world. If you need to set deadlines to make sure it does – a workshop where you will sell the book or something like that, do it. It took me forever to get my book out but now it’s done. Yours will be too.

    I’m glad this post was helpful for you! And it was great to see you at WDS. Keep on keepin’ on, and don’t give up!

  16. Cynthia~Thanks for this smart article. I might make it required reading for any prospective client/aspiring author. It might save me from having to give the periodic “reality check” talk.

    I appreciated all of your points but “Big brain optimism” especially resonated with me. Speaking of which, I’ve gotten sidetracked this morning and need to go outdoors and run.

    I like what you’re doing!
    Jeffrey

  17. Thanks so much, Jeffrey! That’s high praise coming from you and I appreciate it.

    If I didn’t have my yoga practice, I’m sure I’d be a nutcase. I know you understand how valuable time on the mat is to our sanity and creative capital.

    Glad this nudged you toward the great outdoors, and I’d be honored if you shared this with your tribe.

    Thanks for stopping by and for commenting.

  18. Today, my pessimism was validated. How often can you say that?

    Pessimists get a bad rap. Truth can be ugly. But as you point out, when everything needs to be right it’s no time to play Pollyanna.

    People bail, bureaucracies balk, limitations are…well, limiting.

    Good article. Thanks.