LESSON 3Be Wildly Optimistic—Delusional, Even

In 1986, Will Ade was enjoying his dream job as an explorations manager for a Texas-based oil company. Over the previous three years, he had identified a number of prospects—potential oil reservoirs—in Brunei that turned into major discoveries, and then more in Colombia that were drilled by Sun, BP, and Exxon. He was following this up by scouting in Indonesia. Will had proven his knack for finding oil and gas during an eight-year stint at Phillips Petroleum. He had worked his way through grad school as a field geologist in California and other western states and then became a full-time petroleum geophysicist involved in major ventures in the Philippines and Singapore. “My wells got drilled,” he recalls.1

But big corporations move slowly. Eager to get his prospects drilled faster, Will had jumped to that smaller Texas firm. After enjoying those three years of success, he learned the downside of working for a small, undercapitalized company. Oil prices plunged 67 percent. Suddenly, Will was stuck in Indonesia without a job—and no severance. He and his wife had three kids in diapers and not much of a plan. “All we had were return tickets to the U.S., worth about $3,000.”

But Will had one other crucial possession: unbridled optimism. Among the many things Will had learned in Asia was that “the Chinese pictogram for ‘crisis’ is the same as the one for ‘opportunity.’” Yes, he had lost his job, but he still had his knack for finding oil ...

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