One Old Sage

Thoughts, Stories, and Bits of Wisdom

I admire people who live in a “glass is half full” world.

I admire people who live in a “glass is half full” world. But, that’s not me.

Optimism/Pessimism: Half Full Or Half Empty ?!

Optimism/Pessimism: Half Full Or Half Empty ?! (Photo credit: AhmadHammoud)

I’ve discovered there two indisputable truths:

  1. “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong” – Murphy’s Law
  2. “No good deed goes unpunished.” – Author in Dispute

You may think this is a very cynical view and it probably is. I’ve been referred to as a realist with pessimistic tendencies. This is probably an accurate description but please don’t confuse this with being a fatalist.

In business, I worked with some great people and organizations. Most of my roles were in small to mid-size companies led by entrepreneurs of varying abilities.

Two things about entrepreneurs. First, they seldom see the down side of any situation and second, they have an insurmountable degree of optimism. This is good if you want to build a company. You have to be able to face adversity and come back swinging. Optimism plays a big role in this endeavor. However, when you are busy being happy and challenged, sometimes you forget there are forks in the road, speed bumps, and even major avoidable crashes. I think in some cases it is willful blindness.

The challenge became convincing all these “my glass is half full” folks there was a problem coming. Afterwards, I’d hear them saw, “well I didn’t see that coming!”

Of course you didn’t. You forgot to take off your rose colored glasses or listen to the lyrics being emitted from your headphones where a version of “Detour, there’s a muddy road ahead” was playing loudly. As scary as it seems, it was my voice you should have been hearing. On the occasions where my counsel was heeded, we were usually able to make plans to avoid the pitfall or at least mitigate its damage.

I’ve seen entrepreneurs go into a deep funk because something they didn’t foresee caused a problem. While they recover and try again, they couldn’t cope well with the failure and valuable time was lost. Being a realist, one recognizes that failure is inevitable and it isn’t a great shock when it happens.

I know there is a risk of being viewed as a party pooper, wet blanket, or any other negatives you want to attach to this trait but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’m not one of those people who wakes up every day with a smile on my face and says, “Yahoo, look out world here I come!” To those of you who can do this, I take my hat off to you.

I don’t wake up with an attitude of “Oh woe is me.” either. I wake up, let the day unfold, take what the world throws at me and adapt as appropriate. (Sometimes I’m more adaptable than others.)  I’m certainly not a Joe Btfsplk of L’il Abner fame.

I know there is a fine line between being a pessimist who can’t see any good in the world and being a realist. We realists are capable of smiling, enjoying a good day, having good friends, and generally living our lives as it happens. However, please don’t ask us to always have a smile on our face or look at each challenge we face as “a new learning opportunity”. Sorry, not going to happen.

I love reading some of the positive messages on Facebook. I even try to ascribe to some of them but please don’t ask me to live by them.

So to all the optimists I say, “Keep up the good work!” and to my fellow realists I say, “Let’s help keep the optimists from stepping in the horse manure”. We all play a part in this world and goodness knows it needs balance.

As the great cartoonist and creator of Peanuts, Charles M Schulz once said, “I have a new philosophy. I’m only going to dread one day at a time.”

Yeah, that works!  :) (Kidding, just kidding!)

17 comments on “I admire people who live in a “glass is half full” world.

  1. Lynette d'Arty-Cross
    September 15, 2013

    I am an optimistic introvert – an odd combination, perhaps. Crowds wear me out, but I will endure them to enjoy whatever it is I want to do!

  2. Janice gail
    September 3, 2013

    I’m go with the flow, happy something in glass,,,if we stay alert it always works out in the end or its not the end yet, be pro active and it’ll be ok
    Hugs mr Armstrong

  3. randillusion
    September 3, 2013

    I’m a believer in Serendipity…fortuitous connection…when things just come together beautifully…and by accident…very feng shui?

    • Nelson - One Old Sage
      September 3, 2013

      Hi Rand. Good to see you. Serendipity also makes sense. Yes it is very Feng Shui. I wonder what a master would think?

      • randillusion
        September 4, 2013

        Are we not the “master” of our own destiny? I like the heavy-lifting of light objects…there is a time to stress and a time to de-stress. A good piece, Nelson…ya old Sage, ya.

        • Nelson - One Old Sage
          September 4, 2013


        • Nelson - One Old Sage
          September 4, 2013

          You should read my book. :) I finished the first draft but due to various and sundry reasons, the edits are taking forever. It’s the continuation of the story I started in the class.

  4. ramblingsfromamum
    September 3, 2013

    Nelson I fit into the same category as you and as I read your last reply to dglass – “with age comes wisdom” has hit the spot. I have never walked around when I was younger with rose coloured glasses, be it in relationships, business, family issues – everything in life has the propensity to fall into a heap. I think the word ‘cautious’ can also be linked here. Through *age* and growing I saw bumpy roads, I knew that most things don’t sail smoothly, but at the age of 58 – I *try* to look at things in a more positive way – maybe my glasses are now pale pink. Excellent read as usual (I hope this made sense – I have only woke up & if not so, I apologise profusely)

    • Nelson - One Old Sage
      September 3, 2013

      It makes perfect sense. I’m seeing more shades of pink too. Good response. Thank you.

      • ramblingsfromamum
        September 3, 2013

        *smiles* I am glad, I really should waken properly before I start reading – thank you Nelson. :-)

  5. Diane Henders
    September 3, 2013

    As long as there’s something in the glass, I’m happy. I prefer to plan for the worst and hope for the best. I’m never shocked if the worst happens, but I expect things to go better than planned, and they usually do. So does that make me an optimistic pessimist? :-)

  6. dglassme
    September 3, 2013

    Saw this the other day on Facebook, thought you might enjoy it: “A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”

    Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

    She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”

    It’s important to remember to let go of your stresses. As early in the evening as you can, put all your burdens down. Don’t carry them through the evening and into the night.

    Remember to put the glass down!”

    • Nelson - One Old Sage
      September 3, 2013

      Well said and thank you for sharing this. I agree and try to do my best to put the burden down. I’m getting much better at it. Perhaps the old adage of “with age comes wisdom” is true. Thanks again. It’s great to hear from you and I hope you are doing well these days.

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