About delusional optimism

Great products that change the world are born out of it

Photo by NASA on Unsplash

By now, you’ve probably read , heard or watched Elon Musk’s proposition about using rocket ships for commercial aviation.

The idea at first seems crazy, but as soon as Elon says something, its not crazy anymore. It becomes a vision for the future, and we start dreaming about it. Such is the power of delusional optimists.

We start thinking about how might such a future look like. We start debating the tradeoffs of perhaps sitting in a weird position on a vertical spaceship, giving up legroom, the G-forces on the body or even dying — versus — what an amazing experience flying on a rocket ship would be.

It sounds like science fiction, except not anymore. Delusional optimists like Elon Musk make you think out of your bubble. And THAT is how the world takes step function leaps. The commercial rocket ship aviation thing is akin to the time when the Wright brothers dreamt about air travel for humans. There was understandably a lot of skepticism & hullabaloo at the time about the craziness of the idea, but here we are.

“The Wrights have flown or they have not flown. They possess a machine or they do not possess one. They are in fact either fliers or liars. It is difficult to fly. It is easy to say, ‘We have flown.’”
— from the New York Herald Commentary ,1906

Elon is certainly the epitome of delusional optimism. To people like him, dreams matter way more than reality. They live in a parallel universe, thinking about things that perhaps no one else is thinking about, far out in the future , sometimes even in the unknown.

In this podcast for example, Elon talks about how we could very well be living in a simulation, a game that somebody else controls. Its crazy I know, but again it probably triggered a lot of thoughts in a lot of people, myself included.

To delusional optimists, details of how to build the future do not matter, atleast in the beginning. They strongly believe that Step#1 is dreaming about the future, and Step#2 is getting people excited about it. But here’s what separates them from just talkers — They always have a plan , or several plans.

Sure, they deal in vision but delusional optimists are convinced they will figure it out as the realities of building the vision start setting in. They create a mental distortion field, and use the power of that field to make their vision a reality, as in Steve Job’s and Jeff Bezos’ s case. That sometimes means making last minute changes to plans that are already laid out.

“We’re stubborn about the vision, ..but flexible on the details “ — Jeff Bezos

Great products that change the world are born out of 3 things — delusional optimism, a tentative plan & LOTS of grit. The delusional optimism piece is especially important, since on the days and years that your plans are not working and your vision seems to be dwindling a little, it will keep you on course.

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More by Abhishek Chakravarty

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