OPTIMISM vs pessimism

So I thought this really matched my philosophy to a T on optimism and pessimism. 


As Joel Rosenberg put it in his book The Ezekiel Option, “In the long run everything would turn out fine…but tomorrow could be a disaster.”


In short, this equates to:


I’m a strategic optimist, but a tactical pessimist. 


My mom used to say, “If I am pessimistic, I’ll never be disappointed.” LOL


I think though when we have faith then we know that truly, in the end everything is for the best and will be okay.


In the short term though, there are challenges to face and these can be tough indeed. 


– Strategically an optimist. 


– Tactically a pessimist. 


Plan for the worst, hope for the best. 😉


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

From Stability Comes Instability

Buddha 3

I remember hearing the phrase (not sure from where), “everything and the opposite.”


I think it refers to how within each thing in life are elements of the exact contrary and opposing force. 


Similar to the interactions of ying and yang, the world is an interplay of opposites–males and females, black and white, fire and water, ebb and flow, good and bad, optimism and pessimism, and so on. 


Everything has a point and it’s counterpoint.


It was interesting to me to see this concept expressed in terms of the financial markets (Wall Street Journal), where bull and bear contend in terms of our finances.


But what was even more fascinating was the notion from the economist, Hyman Minsky, who noted that the very dynamic between stability and instability was inherent within itself.


So for example, Minsky posits that a stable economic market leads to it’s very opposite, instability.


This happens because stability “leads to optimism, optimism leads to excessive risk-taking, and excessive risk-taking leads to instability” (and I imagine this works in reverse as well with instability-pessimism, retrenchment and limiting risk to stability once again).


Thus, success and hubris breeds failure, and similarly failure and repetitive trial and error/hard work results in success.


It is the interflow between ying and yang, the cycle of life, life and death (and rebirth), the seasons come and go, boom and bust, and ever other swinging of the pendulum being polar opposites that we experience. 


The article in the Journal is called “Don’t Fear The Bear Market,” I suppose because we can take comfort that what follows the bear is another bull. 


But the title sort of minimizes the corollary–Don’t (overly) rejoice in the bull–because you know what comes next.


Go cautiously and humbly through life’s swings.  😉


(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Superhero Socks

POW Socks
Thought these socks were pretty cool.



POW!

WHAM!

ZAAP!

KAPOW!

SPLAT!



We are living in an age with potential for great upheaval whether from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, bigotry and social inequality, national debts and unpaid social entitlements, poverty and pandemics, global warming and environmentally unsustainable practices, and the clash of Western and Eastern civilizations. 



Thank G-d for advances in technology and innovation to help address these huge challenges of our time. 



However, whoever is portraying everything as all rosy or telling you to just be optimistic and all will be well–they’re feeding you a bunch of you know what!



We need a superhero/Messiah leader to come help us save the day and these socks would be perfect for their arrival. 😉



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Status Quo, No!

The Status Quo, No!

Two more articles, this time in Fast Company (Sept 2013) are pointing to the unhappiness of people and the desire to change things.

The first “You Sign, Companies Listen,” about Change.org, “the world’s petition platform” that now has 40 million users launching as many as 1,000 petitions a day. Now the site is allowing organizations to respond to petitions publicly and also has a “Decision Maker page,” which shows organizations all the petitions against them.

Change.org focuses on “personal issues with achievable solutions,” especially personal stories of injustice. The site is about a carrot and stick approach. Organizations can choose to listen and respond positively to their constituents legitimate issues or “there is a stick” if they don’t engage with the hundreds of thousands and millions of petitioners.

A second article, “Not Kidding Around,” about DoSomething.org, which “spearheads national campaigns” for young people interested in social change. Their values are optimism for a sense of hope, rebellion meaning the rules are broken and needs to be rewritten, and empathy to feel others pain so we can change things for the better.

There is a notion here that the youngsters “have no faith that Washington politicians can solve this problem.” These kids feel that “the world is in the shitter” and they want to help create social change.

It is interesting to me that despite our immense wealth and technological advances or maybe in some cases because of it–creating a materialistic, self-based society–that people are disillusioned and looking to restore meaning, purpose, and social justice.

Things have got to mean more than just getting the latest gadget, blurbing about what you had for lunch on twitter, or accumulating material things (homes, cars, vacations, clothes, shoes, bags, and more).

People can’t live on materialism alone, but are seeking a deeper connection with G-d and the universe–to make peace with our creator and with each other and create a better world where we are elevated for helping others, rather than just taking for ourselves.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Resilient To The Core

Messed_with_wrong_dog

I circled back to an article that I saved away for the last 10 years (5 years before I started blogging and practically before it really even existed)!

It is from Harvard Business Review and it is called How Resilience Works (May 2002).

It is an incredible article about what differentiates the person that falls apart and seemingly gives up under immense stress and those that use it as a stepping stone to future success and greatness.

Resilience is “the skill and capacity to be robust under conditions of enormous stress and change.”

Literally, resilience means “bouncing back,” perhaps versus jumping throw a plate glass wall from the 50th story.

Everyone has their tests in life–whether loss, illness, accident, abuse, incarceration, poverty, divorce, loneliness, and more.

But resilience is how we meet head-on these challenges, and it “can be learned.”

The article looks at individual and organizational “survivors” of horrible things like the Holocaust, being a prisoner of war (POW), and terrorist attacks such as 9/11, and basically attributes resilience to three main things:

1) Acceptance–rather than slip into denial, dispair, or wishful-thinking, resilience means we see the situation exactly for what it is and make the most of it–or as they say, “make lemonade out of lemons.”

2) Meaning–utilizing a strong system of values, we find meaning and purpose even in the darkest of situations–even if it is simply to learn and grow from it!

3) Ingenuity–this is capacity to invent, improvise, imagine possibilities, make do with what you have, and generally solve-problems at hand.

Those who accept, find meaning, and improvise can succeed, where others fail.

Now come forward a decade in time, and another article at CNN (9 July 2012) called Is Optimism Really Good For You? comes to similar conclusions.

The article describes how optimism works for an individual or an organization only when it is based on “action, common sense, resourcefulness, and considered risk-taking.”

“It’s the opposite of defeatism”–we recognize that there are things not in our control and that don’t always turn out well, but we use that as an opportunity to come back and find a “different approach” and solve the problem.

The article calls this “action-oriented optimists” and I like this concept–it is not blind hope nor is it giving-up, but rather it is a solid recognition that we can do and must do our part in this world.

Fortune Magazine summed this up well in an article a few months back as follows–There are three kinds of people: “those who make it happen, those who watch it happen, and those wonder how the heck it happened.”

When things happen in your life–to you–which of these types of people will you be?

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

The Elevator and The Bigger Picture

 Some of you may have watched the HBO series called Six Feet Under that ran from about 2000-2005 about a family that owned a funeral home, and every episode opened with a freakish death scene.

In fact, the father who was the funeral director dies an untimely death himself and bequeaths the funeral home to his two sons.

The series, which ran for 63 episodes, evoked a recognition that life is most precious, too short, and can end in both horrible and unpredictable ways.

This week, I was reminded of this in all too many ways:

First, Brett Stephens wrote a beautiful piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about the graceful death of his father from a horrible brain tumor. Brett describes in vivid terms the operations, loss of sight, debilitating bouts of chemo and radiation, agonizing shingles, loss of memory, mobility, sight, ability to eat, and more. Brett writes: “cancer is a heist culminating in murder.”

Then today, all over the news were reports of of a horrible accident in New York, where a woman was killed in an elevator accident when it shot up while she was still only about half way on and she was crushed between the elevator and the shaft in a 25 story office building on Madison Avenue.

Third, I learned from a colleague about a wonderful gentlemen, who served his country in the armed forces and was an athlete in incredible shape, when one day in the gym, he suffered a massive heart, which deprived of oxygen for too long, and he was left horribly crippled for life.

Unfortunately, similar to Six feet Under, in real life, there are countless of stories of life’s fortunes and misfortunes, death and the aftermath (adapted from the show’s synopsis–I really liked how this was said). Yet, in the end, we are left with the completely heart wrenching feeling of how it is to be without and sorely miss the people we love so dearly.

In the Talmud, I remember learning this saying that to the Angel of Death it does not whether his intended is here or there–when a person’s time is up, death shows up and no matter how peaceful or painful, it is never convenient and always deeply traumatic in so many ways.

For one the elevator opens and closes normally and brings a person to their destination floor, and to another the door may close on them, never at all, or the elevator may shift right beneath their feet.

We can never really be prepared emotionally or otherwise for the devastation brought by accident, illness, and death–and while it is hard to be optimistic sometimes, we can try to maintain faith that The Almighty is guiding the events of our lives, and that he knows what he is doing, even if we cannot always understand the bigger picture.

May G-d have mercy.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Chris McKenna)

Future Of Space Travel

For those of you who are upset to the see the final Space Shuttle mission this week, we definitely have something to look forward to with the new Orion, Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) for manned space flight.

The main saucer-shaped “Crew Module” can separate from the “Service Module” that contains the propulsion, water and oxygen for sustaining life, and cargo transport (this is similar to the flying “saucer” that could separate from the main body of the Star Trek Enterprise in later episodes).  

Orion will supposedly be the most advanced space vehicle out there to support missions from 4 to 900 days (virtually a full blown Star Trek voyage).

It is being built by Lockheed Martin (an early supporter of the United Federation of Planets?) and will have advanced life support, propulsion, avionics, and thermal protection for reentry (and hopefully in development are the phasers, photon torpedos, phase modulating shields, warp core, and transporter).
The Orion will be able to transport 4 crew and may be augmented by Robonauts (sort of like Data the android, but with no personality yet). 
Robonauts are engineered by a collaboration of NASA and General Motors, and according to GM, they will help automate “dull, repetitive, and ergonomically challenging tasks” and make us more efficient in both the aerospace and automative industries.  Note: A robonaut is currently up on the International Space Station for testing (a precursor to Deep Space Nine).
Progress is being made, cool things are coming, and we will hopefully all be fortunate to see it unfold.
Gene Roddenberry was right about our future all along. 🙂
(Source Photos: Orion from Wikipedia and Star Trek Enterprise from here)