optimistic delusions

I was in a local coffee shop the other day and I overheard this guy with a British accent talking to his girlfriend.  He was talking about his experience in California and with Americans in general.  If I didn’t have to leave at the moment I probably would have nosed my way into their fascinating conversation.  He was saying that he noticed people in America were generally very optimistic and happy, the word he used was, “jolly”.  I thought it was a great observation.  Then I started thinking about the context and history of optimism.  I began wondering, if we are overly optimistic do we run the risk of becoming delusional?

There is a story about an ancient royal worker who is distressed over bad news of his homeland. There is a big deal made about this worker, Nehemiah never appearing sad in the presence of the king, but one day he did. The miracle was the king allowed his sad servant to share his heart, and then he gave Nehemiah safe passage back to his homeland to rebuild a wall.  Most kings were not so nice.  Most kings wanted to hear a good report, because the status of their kingdom reflects the king’s leadership. Most kings practiced a willful ignorance of the bad parts of their kingdom.

Have you ever been asked to give a report on how your area of responsibility is going? I think most everyone wants to paint a great picture during this report even if it’s bad news.  However, if we make the bad sound good, and we use words like,  “this could be a blessing, the opportunity we’ve been waiting for, chance for success, huge potential,”  then you run the risk of falling into the same pattern that kings advisors have been falling into for centuries.  When we give knowingly over-optimistic reports of a bad situation, isn’t that delusional?  I think of the child’s story of the emperor’s new clothes.  No one had the courage to show any negativity, much less realism toward the king.

I tend to be the guy who is realistic in these types of situations.  It makes me look like pessimistic person.  I do not desire to be pessimistic or divisive, just realistic.  In the same sense, I don’t want to blow smoke at people when there is really a tough situation happening.

I think the tough question is whom do we put around us?  Do we surround ourselves with optimists?   Do we disregard the people with bad news as pessimistic?  If that is you I’d suggest you might have a slightly skewed view of reality, it may even boarder on delusion!  Sometimes we surround ourselves with pessimist and our fate is the same, delusion!  I’d suggest the powerful middle ground of reality.  Sometimes to get a firm dose of reality we need to surround ourselves with both pessimists and optimists who can see reality for what it is.

What do you think?  At what point does optimism or even pessimism boarder on delusion?  Are you afraid of giving a realistic report to your superiors?  Do you live in the firm grasp of reality?  We might even ask the question, what is reality?


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rooting hard

When I look at nations in respect to their economies I get the real sense that some nations win economically while others lose.  If you look through the world economic map, it graphically depicts what I am talking about.  If you look at the map through the lenses of the exploitations of colonialism, it may help you under stand why some nations are rich and others are poor.  To be clear there are many other reasons and this is just one way of looking at the map.  But when you look at the map you will begin to get a real sense that there is a predominant mentality behind the map.

I think that somewhere down the line we got to thinking that If we win then someone has to lose, and if someone loses, that gives us a better chance at winning.  That is true in sports and board games, but it isn’t necessary true in every day life.  In America especially our economy is based on competition.  While competition is a great thing there is still an element win lose in the business world.  I guess my point is that we are conditioned in our world, in our country and our society to desire for others to lose, so that we can win more.  Again I can understand this mentality in sports, but what happens when this mentality begins to infiltrate our every day lives?  If everyone wanted everyone else to lose, then no one would really win

I was listening to NPR the other day and the novelist Brad Meltzer was on talking about the letters that the Presidents of the United States leave to their successors.  The last line of a letter written to Bill Clinton from George Bush was, “Your success is now our countries success, I am rooting hard for you.” He knew that putting his efforts toward rooting for his successor would be best for the country.  The last thing the country needed was a bitter president causing trouble on his way out.  So he started rooting for the man who was previously his political enemy.

Who are you not rooting for now, that if you did would make a tremendous impact in your life?  What nations should our county begin rooting for rather than against?  What if your attitude changed and you made it your mission to cheer on the success for others; do you see the triumphs of others as a personal victory?  Do you have people who you actively root against?  Why?  Is it really working for you?

Changing the world starts with a change in mentality.  May you cheer on the success of others every day.  May you see the success of others as your own personal victory.


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