The words hit me like a punch straight to the gut when Dr. John Deloney said them during his address at the Dave Ramsey Influencer Event, which I was privileged to be attending.

“Pessimism and sarcasm aren’t wisdom.” Five simple words, and yet, when you take a deeper look at them, they are far from simple.

Too many of us, myself included, are too often jaded in our responses to events. We view news and change with a lens skewed from “experience” and allow ourselves to dive deep into a dark part of our psyche.

Then BOTH pessimism and sarcasm rear their ugly heads, and we respond with negativity. Often we do it as we know we will get a chuckle or laugh from our teammates and coworkers.

But, in the process, you are CREATING a more significant problem. You allow negativity to immediately creep into all future activities: initiating, planning, delivering, and (eventually) closing the project, to which you exhibited pessimism and sarcasm.

I know I’m guilty of this myself, a quick sarcastic comment when tasked with a new project. I feel it’s harmless at the time, but only when I truly reflect on Dr. Deloney’s words do I realize the harm I’m inadvertently injecting into future team activities.

In essence, my temporary lack of discipline plays a large part in blocking the success I’m in charge of helping create.

Worse, though, is when I fail to realize I must stop thinking negatively, and I fail to keep negative thoughts to myself until the situation has fully developed.

I’m not an overly optimistic person by nature. I’d argue that most military veterans, especially Special Operators, are like me. They take pride in how quickly they can whip out a negative or sarcastic comment. I even took pride in my ability to do so quicker than some of my peers.

But, and yes, there is a but. I’ve grown into an optimist. I’d even go so far as to argue that optimism is a necessary trait of entrepreneurs. 

Without it, we’d be hard-pressed to survive many of the more challenging days we face.

So here’s the takeaway: if you are a person others view as having “wisdom,” you need to do your best to harness the pessimism and sarcasm BEFORE they inject themselves into conversations. 

The why is simple: you are harming your team’s efforts. Period. 

In my project management courses, I teach that projects are undertaken to realize potential opportunities for organizations. I stress that not all projects are worthy of being initiated and that project managers must protect organizational resources: people, time, money, equipment, and more. 

Protecting these resources doesn’t only mean being fiscally responsible or ensuring project team members’ time is best spent on tasks appropriate to their skill levels. 

If the project is worthy of undertaking, set it up for success. If the project isn’t worthy, allow that to be determined through a deliberate process.

This means shelving pessimism and sarcasm. Anyone with a position of authority (executives, managers, project managers, etc.) must maintain a positive air and set events up for success. 

Optimism is scary sometimes, but it is not the devil.

Your words matter. Choose them carefully.