"A pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty” has been credited to Winston Churchill (1874-1965) in many books and websites since the 1990s, but there’s no evidence that he ever said it. “An optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty, and a pessimist sees a difficulty in every opportunity” has been cited in print since at least 1921 and is of unknown authorship.
The saying is very popular in business, where it is used to promote business optimism.
The Telegraph and Telephone Journal
Pg. 187, col. 1:
I recently heard the definition of an optimist which is so true as to be worth repeating: — “An optimist sees an opportunity in every difficulty, and a pessimist sees a difficulty in every opportunity.”
15 November 1921, The Druid (Pittsburgh, PA), pg. 4, col. 3:
“A pessimist,” says the Rev. F. W. Cole, president of the Cardiff Free Church Council, “is a man who takes every opportunity of seeing a difficulty, but the optimist is he who sees in every difficulty an opportunity.”
18 February 1922, The North-China Herald (Shanghai), pg. 444, col. 1:
A few pages further on I noted this rather neat definition, which is well worth retrieving from the semi-private circulation of a church publication,—“A pessimist is one who sees a difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist is one who sees an opportunity in every difficulty.”
17 December 1922, Grand Forks (ND) Herald, second section, pg. 9, col. 4:
A pessimist is a man who on every opportunity sees a difficulty; an optimist, one who in every difficulty sees an opportunity.
28 August 1927, San Diego (CA) Union, “Show Me a Sacrifice!” by Alfred Stahel, Jr. (Realty Analyst), pg. 5, col. 4:
The best definition I have ever heard of the words “pessimist” and “optimist”—and there have been innumerable definitions of them—is that, “The pessimist finds difficulty in every opportunity; the optimist finds opportunity in every difficulty.”
23 October 1927, San Diego (CA) Union, pg. 10, col. 2 ad:
A frown never built anything
THE world’s greatest men have all been optimists. Cheerfully have they attacked the problems of their age, and even in defeat have they smiled, knowing that they fought a good fight.
Whereas the pessimist finds difficulty in every opportunity, the optimist finds opportunity in every difficulty.
(California Land Buyers Syndicate—ed.)
American Transit Engineering Association
The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity, whereas the optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty — and we certainly need a lot of the latter spirit in our industry today.
January 1930, The Rotarian, “What Is Constructive Citizenship?” by Dr. L. P. Jacks, pg. 49, col. 1:
But what is an optimist? And what is a pessimist? An optimist, it has truly been said, is one who sees opportunity in every difficulty. A pessimist is one who sees a difficulty in every opportunity.
Google News Archive
19 January 1943, Milwaukee (WI Journal, pg. 1, cols. 6-7:
Willimore (Cyrus Willmore of St. Louis—ed.), new president of the National Association of Real Estate Boards and a pas president of Optimist International, spoke at a joint meeting of the Milwaukee Optimist club and the Milwaukee real estate board.
The speaker said the present time is opportune for optimists, describing an optimist as “one who sees opportunity in every difficulty whereas a pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity.”
Richard M. Langworth—Churchill historian, automotive and travel writer
More “Quotations” Churchill Never Said
by Richard M. Langworth on 19 June 2009
A website named “IL Conservative” posted in June 2009 eight Churchill “quotations,” six of which he never said. These quotations are all over the Internet, none of them attributed, and just seem to multiply and get passed on, like the common cold.
Anyway, and for the record, all of these are NOT CHURCHILL (and I will not dignify them with quotemarks):
1. A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
1001 Motivational Quotes for Success
By Thomas Vilord
Austin, TX: Live Oak Book Company
The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
-- Winston Churchill
New York City • Work/Businesses • (0) Comments • Monday, July 23, 2012 • Permalink