People often ask me whether I am an optimist or a pessimist. I have real trouble with that question because it implies that I should be one or the other. As with many things in my life, I challenge the conventional wisdom by responding that I am both. In truth, I'm a long run optimist and a short run pessimist. I have a strong sense that growing opportunity is ahead but from day to day I can tell you all the things that are likely to go wrong as I deal with the simplest of tasks like participating in a meeting or even getting from my home to the office. While certainly difficult in the near-term, experience leads me to believe that this can be a really powerful combination to achieve longer-term impact.
I’ve been this way since I was a young child when I experienced very challenging day to day situations but never lost my optimism that somehow things would turn out OK.
Thank you, Mr Hagel, for articulating this for all of us omnimists.
I agree that there's a lot of non-accountability ("lack of agency"), but the reason is more than short-term pessimism or complacency. There is a laziness involved. There is a lack of self-incentive for learning more, accepting the challenge and overcoming the obstacles. And, it must be self-incentive, an epiphany moment, perhaps. Certainly, encouragement and motivating words may prompt that moment. That encouragement should start with parents, then, teachers and coaches and strangers and shop owners. It is not helped by an urgency to buoy and praise any piece of action however small and unhelpful (e.g., every player is a winner). Surely, we must be able to encourage people to get motivated continually to rise and scale the rainbow for the blue skies without having to give out an award to nearly everyone who shows up. There's only one Miss Congeniality, thank goodness.
And isn't that what books can be, also, the source of motivating words? Even JK Rowling's books about Harry Potter, as poorly written as one parent complained or full of hackneyed concepts like good versus evil or nerds, bullies and kids that don't fit, can be an epiphany for an eight-year-old or a thirty-eight year old. It just takes a little optimism to overcome those pessimists.