Being a pessimist has a negative connotation; few call themselves pessimists or admit they are if someone claims it. Being pessimistic is often perceived as intelligent and clever while being a pronounced pessimist is rarely well-received. That is why they have come to call themselves realists.
The "realist" often appears when the future is discussed. Especially if grand plans are involved, they are quick to point out that we have to wait and see. "I'm not ruling it out, but I do see several major obstacles."
"Realists" questioned Northvolt
When Peter Carlsson returned home to Sweden from the United States after working as a high-ranking manager at Tesla and presented his plans for the battery company Northvolt, the pessimist… sorry realists, let themselves be known. His vision was to build his generation's most significant Swedish industrial project. I heard and took part in several discussions that went something like this:
– Awesome ambition, but it will take a lot of capital to succeed. That's a big obstacle. We'll see how it goes.
Northvolt first raised about $10.5 million and a while later $100 million. $6.5 billion has now been invested in the company.
Once the money started to roll in and Northvolt chose to establish its first factory in Skellefteå, in the north of Sweden, the following "realistic" argument came to light.
– There are several challenges with establishing a factory in Skellefteå and just finding staff, to begin with! And many new homes will be needed. That's nothing done in the flick of a switch. We'll see how it goes.
The factory in Skellefteå was built, and in December last year, the first battery cell was produced there.
Now the "realists" are starting to talk about competition instead…
They only managed to see problems, not the solutions.
Of course, they were right in the difficulties they pointed out. Many billions in funding would be required, which is very difficult to raise. Building a factory in Skellefteå is not easy. But what the "realists" missed and what makes them pessimists is that Peter Carlsson belonged to a small group of people in the world who had the best chances of succeeding with this giant project.
- The world is moving fast towards electric vehicles, creating a massive battery market.
- This means that there is willing capital.
- To invest, they need a credible entrepreneur.
- Carlsson had decades of experience with batteries from Sony Ericsson and Tesla; he understood complicated industry logistics and helped build the world's largest battery factory.
- For four years, he had worked closely with the world's foremost entrepreneur, Elon Musk.
For these reasons, Peter Carsslon raised billions and built his factory. This is not to say that it was easy or that a failure was not possible, but Carlsson was one of the few people who had the best conditions to overcome the hurdles.
All this was not understood or ignored by the "realists." The only thing they managed to accomplish was ordinary pessimism. They saw apparent obstacles but not the conditions to overcome them.
Turn on your pessimist radar
The next time you hear someone say, “I'm neither a pessimist nor an optimist…” you should turn on your pessimist radar and prepare for it to beep.