Friday, August 28, 2009

How to Think Like a Fool #58: Find the Best in the Worst

OBSERVE: Find the Best in the Worst
"Optimism - the doctrine or belief that everything is beautiful, including what is ugly."
—Ambrose Bierce
"Comedy is acting out optimism."
—Robin Williams
"Between the optimist and the pessimist, the difference is droll. The optimist sees the doughnut; the pessimist sees the hole."
—Oscar Wilde
"Donuts. Is there anything they can't do?"
—Homer Simpson

In today's world (and yesterday's and tomorrow's), things can be so horrible and depressing, that it seems foolish (ding!) to be an optimist. Yet optimists live longer, are more successful, and happier than pessimists. They also get more done, because they aren't stuck wallowing in despair.

Pessimists may see the world more realistically, but fools think realism's overrated (and just as selective as optimism). Fools don't just look for the pony in the proverbial pile of poop, they wrap the manure and sell it as extra dark chocolate. And make a bundle of money.

Fools make Pollyanna look like Eeyore.

The personification of the oblivious optimist is Harry Langdon. He's usually just too innocent to see anything else.

There's a moment in my piece "The Juggler," in which I keep trying to juggle, keep dropping, ignore each drop, and simply get a new ball from my case. (Step one: Ignore the worst. Move on.) And then, with a flash of insight, I change the game. I'm not trying to juggle, I'm trying to drop! (Step two: Transform the bad into something glorious.) I proudly throw three balls on the ground and bask in the applause.

You practice seeing the best in the worst as a temporary trick on your mind, a tool you can use to move ahead and make luck happen.

But occasionally, to flip this fool tool, fools look for the worst in the best. Seeing the worst may be the critical eye you need to break the spell of an idea that's only good enough.

Think: Is the glass half empty or half fool? What's the best that I can see here? What's the worst?

Next: How to Think Like a Fool #59: Don't Think

Previous "How to Think Like a Fool" Posts

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