Historian Deirdre McCloskey says, “For reasons I have never understood, people like to hear that the world is going to hell”. He called it the seduction of pessimism in a world where optimism is the most reasonable stance”.
Patrick O’Shaughnessy once interviewed Rory Sutherland, who said: “If you want to get a rational bastard going around killing beautiful ideas, it’s the easiest job in the world”.
Pessimism always sounds smarter than optimism because when we’re dealing with groups of people whose behaviours and incentives we’re not crystal clear about, avoiding threats should be taken more seriously than achieving gains.
Pessimism also sounds like someone trying to help you, while optimism, when describing unknown groups of outsiders, tends to be interpreted as a sales pitch.
This isn’t new. John Stuart Mill wrote in the 1840s: “I have observed that not the man who hopes when others despair, but the man who despairs when others hope, is admired by a large class of persons as a sage”.
Part of this is natural. We’ve evolved to treat threats as more urgent than opportunities.
Pessimism requires action – Move! Get out! Run! Sell! Hide!
Optimism is mostly a call to stay the course and enjoy the ride. So it’s not nearly as urgent. But we need to understand what optimism is.
Real optimists don’t believe that everything will be great.
That’s complacency. Optimism is a belief that the odds of a good outcome are in your favour over time, even when there will be setbacks along the way.
This too shall pass,
Let’s be optimists, Let’s spread positivity and good cheer and let me assure you our blessings still out number our problems, whatever may be the situation.
Keep the faith and Stay Blessed Forever!