Pessimists sound smart, optimists make money.

Nat Friedman, CEO of GitHub

I was born and raised in Sweden, a country that favors consensus and realistic planning. We’ve survived all sorts of hardships by working together. At the same time, we’re an increasingly individualistic society that promotes successful people as role models. This creates an interesting tension between success and realism. While we increasingly celebrate success, we still have a certain lack of imagination in execution.

If someone suggested in 2003 that they would revolutionize the automotive industry by creating their own car brand that has all the things incumbents do not have, most people in Europe would shrug and say “no fucking way that will work”. In fact, they did. Despite that, Elon Musk started Tesla and changed the world. I’ve long thought he was crazy to try, and I lacked the imagination to see a possible execution plan. On the other hand, now that I’ve gotten to know legacy automotive companies and their way of working, it makes sense. The stagnation and lack of innovation they suffer from make me certain change was necessary. And that huge improvements were, and still are, possible. Today, I’m bullish that Tesla is in fact better at most things already. Except for safety... Apparently I can love and hate a company at the same time…

If the situation is unsustainable, and the options are impossible, the situation wins.

Some things are inevitable. I may not be clear how, when or at what cost - but it is clear it will happen eventually. We will have to adapt to limit climate change. We will have to find new ways to grow food. We will have to find ways to build more efficient housing. We will have to find new sources of raw materials in space. We will have to find even better sources of renewable energy. I’m confident we will, even if I do not know how yet. I have a firm belief in human ingenuity, and our ability to create a better world for ourselves.

Why am I writing this? Well, I look at things around me and try and determine: can this be done? What I’m realizing now is that this is the wrong question. The question should not be “can this be done?”, it should be “must this be done?”. If the answer is yes, then you should not let the how stop you. If something really must be done, others will believe in it too. That means you will have friends fighting for your cause. You will find money that otherwise wasn’t available. And all of a sudden that which at some point was impossible suddenly becomes possible.

Either way, you will make a positive impact in pushing for necessary change. Failure is fine if the cause is good. I’m still learning to be a true optimist and to focus on what must be done.