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.