Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bah, humbug …

… The happiness conspiracy: against optimism and the cult of positive thinking. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

This is madness, as anybody who has been subjected to team-building or any of the other devices from the shabby book of spells that is management theory will attest. It produces palpably false statements such as this one from Marc Andreessen, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor: “And I can tell you, at least from the last 20 years, if you bet on the side of the optimists, generally you’re right.” In fact, once you take into account the number of optimistic failures, you’d lose every penny.
Shortly before I retired, my then-colleague Carrie Rickey was writing a piece about holiday films. The focus of the piece was those moments in such films that elicited tears. I told Carrie that, when watching A Christmas Carol, I often broke down when Scrooge abandoned his free-market principles. Carrie begged me to let her use the quote, and I readily agreed, since it would only enhance my curmudgeonly image, of which I am very protective. I like to think of myself as a realist: God maketh His rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike; get used to it. But having had the opportunity recently to witness severe depression, I can say that the power of negative thinking can prove devastating. Neither a pessimist nor an optimist be.

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