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25 August 2016

Are You an Optimist or a Pessimist? Both

I received today one of many e-messages from Deloitte (a public accounting firm, now branched out to be your and everyone's business and economic consultant) which highlights latest publications from its various research centers, committees, audit groups, think tanks, et al.: whitepapers, keynote addresses, blogposts and the like, and just happened again to see the name "John Hagel."  I knew and worked with a John Hagel once and this is not he, as I discovered when clicking through the link and reading about John Hagel, III, the Director of Deloitte Center for the Edge.  (Don't ask me which "Edge," maybe all of them.)  I started reading today's post by Mr Hagel, though, and discovered that I identified highly with it, enough to write a comment (and thankfully, the comment could be posted without having to log into something -- fb, google+, Deloitte Center for the Edge, ... which often results in my abandoning my comment).

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.

This is exactly me; I had always characterized myself as an optimist -- everything works out in the end, but everyone around me tells me I am the opposite, such a downer about what can go wrong, how much more we've yet to do, not everyone can be (or should be) a winner or even a runner-up but we can all be players & learners!  Why do you always have a "but," Carolyn?

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.

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