*The seduction of pessimism*
– in a world where optimism is the most reasonable stance.
Have you ever wondered why there are some people who are eternal optimists but on the other hand most people are perennial pessimists.
Even though optimism is about positivity and about feel good,
and pessimism is about negativity and looking at the bleaker side of things,
and even though, we all pray for, and want good things to happen to us,
and to the world around us,
the pessimists generally outnumber the optimists.
Nothing will ever remain the same,
the ups and downs will always come in a cycle,
But at every downturn, the pessimists have a ready answer, “I told you so” to prove their point.
I was motivated to write about pessimism versus optimism after listening to Patrick O’Shaughnessy interview 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.”
Nobody is all of one and none of the other.
It is all about striking the right balance between these competing mindsets.
Historian Deirdre McCloskey says, “For reasons I have never understood, people like to hear that the world is going to hell.”
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.
But pessimism about the economy takes a different level of allure.
Just say there’s going to be a recession and you will get retweeted.
Say we’ll have a big recession and newspapers will call you. Say we’re nearing the next Great Depression and you’ll get on TV.
But mention that good times are ahead, or markets have room to run, or that a company has huge potential, and a common reaction from commentators and spectators alike is that you are either a salesman or comically aloof of risks.
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 and why we should adopt it.
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 favor over time, even when there will be setbacks along the way.
The simple idea that, most people wake up in the morning trying to make things a little better and more productive than wake up looking to cause trouble is the foundation of optimism.
It’s not complicated. It’s not guaranteed, either. It’s just the most reasonable bet.
This too shall pass,
There are enough pessimists in the world,
Try and be an optimist, make the world better and stay blessed forever.