For someone who has always been a less than secure individual (all the bravado on the outside notwithstanding), I've always been terrified of failure. As an example, when in class 11, I once thought I'd give the esteemed IIT JEE exam a shot. I brought home a bunch of books to start prepping if possible, but more than anything to get a feel of the JEE "vibe".
If you're from India, you already know the enigma that the IITs are. They're famed for being incredibly tough to enter and tougher still to survive. Even as I picked up my first book and flipped the first page, my terror of not making it took over. In less than 5 minutes with the book, I'd decided I wasn't smart enough to make it and shut it. I returned all of the material the very next day and decided to focus on the infamous, but not as tough, 12th standard board exams instead.
Ever since and until I started working with my present company in 2005, I've been very influenced by what others said was tough to crack, sometimes giving up on it even before i could start.
But my 1st boss changed all that. He's the guy who for better or for worse, believed that in the not so critical realm of life that we operated in (skin creams, laundry products and such - not human hearts or national defense) nothing could NOT be solved.
His firm belief at first scared the hell out of me but since I reported to him and I desperately wanted to not fail him (he was (is) one hell of an inspiring manager) I did everything I could to learn from him and soaked up everything he taught me.
By the end of my 1st year working with him, I realized something magical had happened. I was still afraid of failure, but it no longer took over me or proved an impediment to finding solutions. To this very day I continue to believe no problem is without an answer. No matter how daunting it looks, no matter how tight a deadline seems, I know I will make it past it. It may not come easy and I may whine more than fair share in the interim, but eventually I'll get it
Funnily enough, this perseverance (you may choose to call it naivete) also flows into my personal life. I don't give up on something until I have absolutely emptied my brain thinking of solutions, and eventually finding one.
Alas, this never say die attitude can only apply to things that are in my control. And ambitious as I may be, even I know the limits to my control.
Which is when I enroll for a crash course in optimism.