Optimism is a resource

At Yahoo I worked for Ian Rogers. A valuable thing I learned from him is that informed optimism is empowerment.

If you feel despair, you’ll give up. If you feel confident that a solution exists, you’ll keep working until you find it. Optimism is the difference. If you can find optimism in a difficult situation, you have a chance of finding a path.

Sometimes things are really hopeless and you can’t find optimism. If you can’t find optimism it’s time to leave.

Yahoo was a sinking ship. Every day there was more bad news. While I was struggling to keep Webjay alive inside of Yahoo I had few reasons for hope, and it was often hard to find optimism. The next generation product vision for Webjay was the nugget that eventually grew into Yahoo Web Player. That next generation vision had great support and ultimately consensus. So I was able to find optimism by choosing to let the old vision die in order to turn the new vision into a reality. Webjay couldn’t have lasted, because it was a silo. Yahoo Web Player had real durability because it looked outward onto the whole web. Getting Yahoo Web Player built was a bigger and better mission. My optimism wasn’t just the best I could come away with, it was for a genuine advancement.

I am applying this method to my work related to the DMCA. Where many people on the left wing of digital politics feel things are hopeless, I feel things are just not easy. When I posted that copyright is not broken, it was because I have been able to find optimism.

2 thoughts on “Optimism is a resource

  1. At the beginning of a venture it is required that the idea generator person is optimistic, dreamy, romantic and visionary (overlapping definitions here). Also required is a healthy dose of denial – healthy in terms of “a lot” but also “useful” because the vision holds up fine even when you don’t know the solution to every issue. We admire Jobs precisely because he was told “it couldn’t be done” at every turn of every undertaking.

    Later, you need realism, science and exact engineering because no problem is too small because the hardware will NOT overlook the unsolved issues. The hardware is uniformly unforgiving and painfully objective. Even the tiniest typo bug can be elevated to show-stopper if it brings the whole system to its knees.

    Copyright, the law, may or may not be broken but it’s definitely buggy and the way it’s handled on the ‘Net is way broken which in turn elevates even the smallest problems into show-stoppers. It’s quite possible that if we just fix the show-stoppers the system will work as intended again.

    If so, we’ll need some romantic, visionary optimism to identify the fixes.

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