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Optimists Trust Themselves More than Washington

Two recent surveys indicate that many Americans are becoming less optimistic about our government and the strength of the economic recovery. While the stock market has performed well in the last year, small businesses, the major source of U.S. job creation, remain extremely gloomy. April’s survey of the National Federation of Independent Businesses shows deep pessimism among small-business owners with the “Optimism Index” showing readings under 90 for the 18th consecutive month. The NFIB calls this trend “unprecedented in survey history” and “not the picture of an economic expansion.” They suggest that the roots of this pessimism lie in slow sales, uncertain access to credit, uncertainty about the economy and the impact of increasing government regulations, spending, and pending tax increases.

In a related surveys by the Pew Research Center, Americans are more skeptical of government than ever. Andrew Kohut, writing in the Wall Street Journal, states, “By almost every conceivable measure, Americans are less positive and more critical of their government these days. There is a perfect storm of conditions associated with distrust of government—a dismal economy, an unhappy public, and epic discontent with Congress and elected officials…. Rather than an activist government to deal with the nation’s top problems, these surveys show that the general public now wants government reformed and a growing number want its power curtailed.”

So you thought this blog was about being optimistic! It is, but optimists don’t look for Washington to provide their solutions. They know that government gives with one hand but takes with the other. Most optimists have more confidence in their own abilities to handle adversity than they do in politicians. The fairy godmother is not coming out of Washington to save their economic future. You probably don’t qualify for a “too big to fail” bailout.

Thomas Jefferson knew the limitation of government in a society dedicated to freedom and individual opportunity. He warned, “What is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”

As explored in The Optimism Advantage, true optimists have earned their optimism by a history of overcoming obstacles. The more adversity they have successfully handled, the more they expect to handle the next challenge. There is no question that this is a difficult economy, but you would be better served by reading fewer surveys and watching less television. Instead of watching the negative news, start making some of your own. How can you turn your applied skills into a service or product other people need? Many of America’s most successful businesses were started during economic downturns. Instead of just waiting for someone to hire you, why not invest some of your time considering starting at the top by forming your own company. Find a need and fill it. Find something you can do faster, better or cheaper. Go on and see if people are listing freelance projects you can do. If you don’t like the job opportunities coming your way, go out and make some of opportunities of your own.

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