Some days it’s difficult not to conclude that the default setting for the human race is “brain damaged”. Yesterday, my meetings to work done ratio hovered around 5:1+ by the time I left the office. The part that baffles me is that despite the hefty weight of precedent, people still go into meetings expecting to achieve something useful. Perhaps “brain damaged” is too harsh a description and “inexplicably optimistic” would be more accurate.

I was idly ruminating on this during one of yesterday’s epic get-togethers. I can’t quite recall which meeting it was, but I do remember that I’d been busy with a rather intricate doodle featuring Giger’s Alien eating the project manager’s brain++. Anyway, it occurred to me that you can pretty much herd everyone in the entire world into either the optimist or pessimist corral, but the really weird thing is that people usually think they’re in the other camp.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but optimism or pessimism isn’t something that truly happens on a conscious level. For example, consider someone who has had to wait for over half an hour at the bank because there’s (of course) only one teller on duty at lunch time. If this person responds to the experience with ” well, that wasn’t too bad”, then he or she is at heart a pessimist, because they were honestly expecting things to be worse. Conversely, it is often the individual who bitches and whines bitterly about the crap service who harbours the optimistic hope that the line would move more quickly.

So remember – just because you’re cynical doesn’t mean that you aren’t an unwitting optimist.

+ and that excludes all the time I spent screwing around online.

++ it was a very small and unsatisfying snack.


17 thoughts on “Optimystic

  1. Meetings, yesssssss (snakey hiss)… I decided about a year ago to miss every possible meeting I can. I am now getting sarcastic e-mails from my boss, basically saying be there next time Buster, or else!

    To optimism and pessimism. Love the reverse psychology. I agree totally, being the guy who always bitches.

    I cover it every which way by being an optimistic pessimist on Mondays, a pessimistic optimist on Fridays and cynical all week long.

    Works for me!


  2. Unwitting seems to cover it.
    When I am witting, rare though that may be, I’m a bit like Inyoka, trying all angles – more fun, less routine…


  3. Sometimes I wonder if an optimist isn’t just a person who has no clue what is going on. Does that make me cynical?

    I am also wondering if it is at all possible to arrange a meeting which both you and Chitty would have to attend. Can you imagine the chaos? What fun!


  4. So if I’m one of those folks who thinks the glass is half-full I’m subconsciously doing this because I actually expect it to be half-empty. Actually it is half-empty. No actually it’s half-full. O f#k it just buy me another beer so I can fill up the glass will you. I’ll down it one gulp to avoid being stuck in the quandary again. Then it’s my round and we’ll repeat the process. And again.

    But seriously you actually do make a good and interesting point here. I’ve decided that that is exactly what meetings were made for – to provide the silent forum for inspiration to doodle and solve life’s trivial inconsistencies while pretending that the meeting is serving some more mundane productive end.


  5. Dont you hate people who say “I/m not an optimist or pessimist, I’m a realist” ?!

    And before, anyone throws virtual-stuff at me, I’ve said that before, back when I thought it was a new angle on things (ie ten years ago), and even then it wasnt!

    Kyk: what am I if I am constantly disappointed when I watch the news at how horrible and destructive a species we are? Am I an optimist because I expect better? or a pessimist because I think people are plumbing new depths of horror?


  6. angel: Excellent. It’ll be really fun if your mom turns out to be a pessimist.

    inyoka: I like to pretend to cheer people up by telling them it could be worse. It can always be worse.

    iitq: Cynicism is almost too easy.

    anne: I’m rather fond of some of my routines: breathe in, breathe out, breathe in…

    katt: Fun in a meeting? Sorry, but I can’t quite bend my mind around the concept.

    atw: I’ve never really subscribed to the idea that meetings are actually for anything. They just seem to be temporal black holes into which productive hours are lost, never to be seen again.

    katie possum: I’m not fond of self-proclaimed “realists”. In reality (hah!), most of them are just disappointed optimists.


  7. Most people tend to think that I am studiously taking notes on my PDA during these brain dead meeting/presentation sessions, when I am in fact concentrating really hard on topping my previous solitaire highest score.


  8. Having just got out of a 20 minute meeting which lasted 2.5 hours and involved a lot of heated debate, I don’t really care whether I’m an optimist or a pessimist, just get me pissed!


  9. My colleagues and I had a biiiiig discussion (argument) about your optimism/pessimism definition. Personally, I like it – it makes my whining all seem downright positive.

    It makes apathy closer to pessimism then, doesn’t it?


  10. peas: From a philosophical point of view, I would argue that cynicism is indistinguishable from realism.

    rev: My boss has PDA too, so I can’t fool him with that trick.

    geena: No.

    cherrypie: It seems to me that you’ve got the “realism” thing sorted.

    ant: I’ll have to give that some thought, but fortunately I just happen to have another meeting coming up 🙂

    the goddamn fucking chicken wrangler: Kind of overkill, don’t you think?


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