Optimism Redefined

Optimism Redefined

We’ve all heard of the question/expression: “Is the glass half empty or half full?” It’s an old idiom and one that I was not easily able to find the definitive origin for (in the limited time that I spent “Googling” the topic) but we all know the punch line to this question: That is, the supposed “pessimists” of the world see the glass as “half empty” and the supposed “optimists” of the world, of course, see the glass as “half full.”

In my experience true “optimists” (or what I’ve called in a previous post – “positive pessimists”) don’t give a damn how much water is in the glass! They simply look at the glass and say, “I can work with that!

When you’re the type of person who constantly focuses on making things work…making things happen…according to your plans and goals, then you don’t worry too much about whether you have…

  • …all the materials you need to complete a project OR…
  • …all the money/funding that you need to start your own company OR…
  • …the right “mentors” or contacts to get you on the fast track to becoming filthy rich OR…
  • …enough time to “get sh*t done” (to quote Box CEO – Aaron Levie), etc.

No, you don’t worry about any of that stuff because you know two things:

  1. This is an abundant world and there is (with some exceptions) plenty of “stuff” in the world for all of us…so you DON’T envy others who have what you want…you simply figure out how you can match (or perhaps surpass) the level of success that you observe in others but on your own terms. (Yes, there are a limited number of Bugatti Veyrons in the world so, no, not everyone in the world can have one but if your benchmark for the “good life” is owning a Bugatti Veyron, then I don’t know you and I don’t think that I’d want to know you.)
  2. You know that you OWN the outcomes of everything that you do…both positive and negative. Don’t get me wrong here…I’m not saying that all of the Academy Award winners should get up on stage to receive their “Oscar” and say, “yeah, my success was pretty much guaranteed because I AM AWESOME!” I am NOT advocating hubris. Quite the opposite, in fact. Someone who truly owns the outcomes of her actions (especially negative outcomes) will often accept responsibility for things that others might typically view as being completely “out of their control.” (For the record, I fall somewhere in the middle of the “personal responsibility” spectrum because if an asteroid strikes mother Earth and obliterates half the planet – including myself – I’m not sure that I can accept “personal responsibility” for that.)

I would argue that “positive pessimists” view themselves and the rest of the people in their lives much the same way.

They don’t look at their kids and say, “man, if my kids were more like Tina and Bobby’s kids, my life would be much easier!” Instead, they focus on being the best parent that they can be to their children day in and day out…even if they are not the “perfect parent” nor are their kids the “perfect kids.” (I often tell my wife that if I can limit the dollar amount that my kids have to pay on therapy when they’re adults down to five digits or less, then I’ve done my job as a father! Needless to say she doesn’t find that thought nearly as amusing as I do!)

Positive pessimists aren’t hung up over the fact that their husbands/wives/partners/significant others are imperfect because – guess what? – they know that they’re not perfect either! Instead, they focus on making their life partnership work every day knowing that on some days that they’re going to want to throttle that partner and that on other days the reverse will be true but they MAKE IT WORK!

Lastly, they look at themselves and say the same thing. That is, they don’t kick themselves over and over again about their flaws (too fat, too old, not smart, etc.)…instead, they figure out how to work on improving those flaws (if they can) all the while building on the things that they do exceedingly well.

Bottom line: The next time you see that glass of water – regardless of how much water is in there – ask yourself, “can I work with that?”


When Danny is NOT busy “watching Captain Kirk kick Klingon tail during his ‘Kobayashi Maru’ simulation on YouTube”, he’s also leading a technology consulting company. Hit him on Twitter or Facebook.

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