Why I’m an Optimist

As I write this, the Dow is down to its lowest point in about 5 yearsInternational markets seem to be in freefall.  Unemployment is rising, rapidly.  People are getting evicted, and those who aren’t are finding their home values “underwater”.  The glaciers are all meltingCommonly used plastic products are causing genetic mutations in humans.  A hateful, power-mad woman might just become the 2nd most powerful person on the planet. And tomorrow I won’t even get to eat a decent meal (or any meal really).

And tonight I will sleep soundly knowing all this.  I’m an Optimist, with a capital O.  I can’t say I was born this way, but I can distinctly recall the moment when I shed my life of worry and negative outlooks.

It was my 2nd year at CMU, and I was busy failing my way out of school as a member of the “square-root club” (I’ll let you figure it out).  I had just utterly bombed a final exam (I think it was for “Calculus in 3D” – holy crap), and walked out of the room wondering what the heck was going on in my life (not that I was ever a straight-A student).  I was wandering the hall heading back to my dorm pondering how I could “fix” the situation, recover my lousy grades, not get booted out of school, etc.  And I realized in that moment that anything and everything I had done until that moment was in the past, the only events which were left to deal with were in my future.

It was then that I truly took control over my life.  I never even bothered looking at the grade on the exam, because I knew it didn’t matter – my mistakes were made, I could either choose to learn from them and grow, or wallow in them in fear.  Ever since I’ve taken a positive look on all things that are in my future.  Every time.

Am I fearful? Sure.  Do things go wrong? Of course. Do I have bad days? Yes.  But do I recover? Yes, and quickly.

Robert Scoble and I had a bit of a debate on FriendFeed last night on the topic of the “death spiral” he recently blogged about.  In a nutshell (paraphrasing), Robert felt he was expressing the truth (death spiral) and I felt that by making statements of that nature he (and others) are adding fuel to the fire.  I think the comment that I’d like to summarize with was this:

“just as success breeds success, panic causes MORE panic. choose what role *you* want to play in this mess”

I’m not delusional, I most certainly “get” that there’s a lot of bad times ahead.  But there’ve always been bad times ahead, and these cycles simply aren’t new.  Things will get bad.  And then, one day, things will get good.  It’s all about how you choose to spend that time, and yes, it is a choice.

I will choose to find the signs of hope.

I’ll read more news from GoodNewsNetwork (and ignore the stuff on televised news – it’s fearmongering and designed to control you, not liberate your mind).

I’ll keep playing Xbox (NHL 09, COD4 – gamertag: bigtoesf).

I’ll root for the Habs (Happy 100th! Now it’s time for 25, boys!).

I’ll cast my vote for the guy who promises hope (the other guy is fostering hate, and is unelectable on that grounds alone).

I’ll spend more time with my family (we’re in a growth year!).

I’ll enjoy drinking scotch with my friends (should you feel the need to contribute, I’m open to Oban 14, Macallan 18, Auchentoshen 10).

By the way, for those of you wondering, I did graduate from CMU, and the very next semester ended up on the Dean’s List.  Funny how much the attitude shift changed the results, ain’t it?  The best part about it is the amazing feelings of empowerment.  Try it, you’ll like it.

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10 Responses to “Why I’m an Optimist”

  1. Mark Evans Says:

    Jeremy,

    One key point I’d like to make: rooting for the Maple Leafs would really make you an Optimist (with a capital “O”) given how lousy they are going to be this year. 🙂

    I like your glass half full approach!

    Mark

  2. The Tech Party May be Over But…. | Mark Evans Says:

    […] more, check out Dan Kimerling’s pep talk in TechCrunch. As well, Jeremy Toeman has a good post on staying […]

  3. Arjun Says:

    That was a very uplifting post. You brought back a lot of memories from my college days too. I went to school at Georgia Tech and I too remember a specific moment in my life where I decided to take control. It was the most powerful feeling I’ve ever had seeing myself succeed.

  4. Prolific Programmer Says:

    Mr Evans, Mr Toeman:
    A true optimist is a season ticket holder for Newcastle United. Currently in the relegation places, St James’ Park still sells out, week in week out.

  5. Louis Gray Says:

    I’ve been at the same company since 2001, so assuming this is the real deal, it will have been the second Bush recession I’ve had the opportunity to endure while at the same place. That I made it through the first and that the economy didn’t flat-out disappear when all seemed so dire last time were both miracles, but we can expect the same this go-around as well. What we always need to remember in times of both boom and bust is that we are almost always focused on the “right now”. At this point in time, things are ugly. But unless you’re in debt, or lose your job, or need to sell low, you’re not exactly impacted. There will be some belt-tightening for sure. Even my “buy low” ideas on the market are down big in the last few weeks. What we’re doing is preparing for this to be very real and hoping we were wrong. I wouldn’t call that optimism, but just playing it safe.

  6. Hunter Says:

    Great attitude and great approach to life. Thanks for the words. I make films and as a common practice aim to make sure each has an optimistic message. Too much negative stuff out there.

  7. Dave Zatz Says:

    I’m more of a realist… It is what it is, and there’s little I can do impact the fortunes of banks, fluctuations of Wall Street, or decisions of politicians. So I’ll just continue to sail the seas of cheese and what will be, will be.

  8. SK Lee Says:

    You reiterated what I recently read about optimists, who see the world more realistically than pessimists and that is what makes them better equipped to deal with obstacles. Rather than be overwhelmed by a sense of helplessness, which pessimists are prone to do, optimists will acknowledge the obstacle and then figure ways to overcome it.

    Optimists also live 10 years longer.

  9. LIVEdigitally » Blog Archive » Sorry (where’s JT??) Says:

    […] any kind of judgment call regarding “another Great Depression”. Granted I’m an optimist, but I have yet to see a single financial expert who’s actually been correct through this […]

  10. Mike McNamara Says:

    A glass that is half-way filled of Laphroaig (15 year) is neither half-full nor half-empty. It’s just delicious.

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