Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

Joe, a golfer, joined three people at a golf course to make up the foursome. The three friends teed off, but when Joe hit his first shot, it went directly into the trees. The trio suggested he play a second ball in case he couldn’t find his first one, but Joe shrugged them off and went out to search for his ball.

After 10 minutes, Joe couldn’t find his ball, but he insisted on looking some more. Finally one of the other golfers said, “Joe, we’re holding everyone up. Why don’t you just drop another ball and take a penalty stroke?”

“All right.” Joe turned and headed for the pro shop.

“Where are you going?” the other golfers asked.

“I have to buy another ball.”

If you’ve ever played golf, you know Joe had a case of misguided optimism. But I give him a lot of credit for believing in his ability. Even the most optimistic golfers carry a few extra balls, just in case.

As Winston Churchill said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

I’ll take optimism over pessimism every day of the week. I’ve discovered that it’s just as easy to look for the good things in life as the bad. If you look at the bright side of life you will never develop eyestrain. In other words, thinking positive has no negative.

When I am hiring – especially for sales – I seek out optimists. Why? A pessimist has no starter; an optimist has no brakes.

American psychologist Martin Seligman, working at the University of Pennsylvania at the time, studied the sales prowess of optimists and equally talented pessimists.

Metropolitan Life developed a test called the Seligman Attributional Style Questionnaire to sort the optimists from the pessimists when hiring sales personnel. Seligman found that optimists outsold pessimists by 20 percent the first year and by 50 percent the following year.

In his book, “Learned Optimism,” Seligman lists many studies that report optimists are: healthier; less likely to give up; more successful in school, on the job and on the playing field; have more successful relationships; and are depressed less often, and for shorter periods of time.

Mary Kay Mueller in her book, “Taking Care of Me: The Habits of Happiness,” shows how optimism is the best policy. How you look at life can drastically affect how much you enjoy your life. If you have a positive attitude, then you will be considered an optimistic person. If you have a negative attitude, then you will be considered a pessimistic person. Optimists expect the best out of life. Mueller believes an optimistic attitude can be learned, as do I.

She lists the tenets that optimism is based on:

  • Bad things do happen in life, but they are temporary.
  • Bad things in life are limited in scope. (They’re small or insignificant.)
  • People have control over their environments.

She also lists the tenets that pessimism is based on:

  • Good things in life are temporary.
  • Good things in life are limited in scope. (They’re small or insignificant.)
  • People have no control over their environments.

Optimists help create some of the good they come to expect, so they are probably right more than not – and they don’t waste time worrying about what they’re not right about.

Oscar Wilde broke it down to this: “The optimist sees the donut, the pessimist sees the hole.”

This story is a perfect illustration.

David and Steve were friends, but they could never quite agree on anything. “Your problem is you’re a pessimist,” David said one day when they were fishing. “You can’t see the bright side of anything!”

“Oh yeah?” Steve asked. “Prove it!”

“Watch this.” David’s dog Spot was in the boat with them. David snapped his fingers. “Spot! Go back to shore and fetch me a can of beer!”

Spot carefully climbed over the edge of the boat. Then, miraculously, he simply walked across the surface of the water, opened the friends’ beer cooler with his snout, and carried a can of beer back in his teeth – all without getting wet.

“Now what do you say about that?” David asked.

Steve shook his head. “A dog that smart, and he can’t even swim.”

Mackay’s Moral: Optimists don’t care whether the glass is half-full or half-empty – they know they can refill the glass!

About the Author

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.