Thursday, November 11, 2010

...of half empty glass...

Is the glass half empty or half full? I think this is a most common and popular rhetoric expression to point out how a person perceived a situation, being optimist or pessimist. I won’t go to the details as I believe all of you know which portion of the glass referred to.

During my younger day, when I first came across this idiom, I was astounded to the simplicity and exactness of the philosophical question. Usually they used it in motivational talk or workshop in order to motivate and gather positive energy in achieving the goal. Simple as it is, whoever seeing the half full regarded as optimist and considered as having positive attitude. While whoever seeing the half empty regarded the opposite,…being pessimist and blocker.

Then as I get older, I realized that thing is not always easy to be classified as half full or empty. We are taught and conditioned since early age that, seeing half full glass is good, positive, optimist and so on. We were told story how successful inventor such as Thomas Edison succeed in inventing light bulb due to tireless effort and persistent determination, which attribute to half-full glass comparison. We also told on how successful entrepreneur or billionaires make fortune by taking risk in business ventures, which is not yet, explore by other people.

Yes, success story is nice to be told and heard, especially to naive young audience. But have we heard the other side of the coin, stories of failure, disappointment or even disaster that due to the optimist half-full thinking. Up to only few months ago, thanks to Discovery Channel, I get to know of "War of Currents" era (sometimes, "War of the Currents" or "Battle of Currents") in the late 1880s, George Westinghouse and Thomas Edison became adversaries due to Edison's promotion of direct current (DC) for electric power distribution over alternating current (AC) advocated by Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla.

As we know, Westinghouse won or otherwise we’ll have DC power socket at our house. It’s good to have persistence and perseverance attitude, but when all the evidence shown in front you to stand down and accept a better solution… and we continue to be persistent, for me this is arrogantly stubborn.

This way of thinking, probably lead to a recent oil spill in Gulf of Mexico. Even after all the evidence and study show the real high-risk of deep-sea drilling, some people who’re having the optimist idea, go on with the project. For them the huge profits outweigh the hidden risk. And the environment, local fisherman, fauna and flora pay the “half full glass” approach.

If we are given opportunity with risk attached, it’s wise to asses the risk rather than go straight ahead into the unknown.

Being pessimist or optimist when the gain versus the loss is almost equal is not a wrong standing. Neither is wrong nor right.

But being optimist when we see the drawback is more than the gain is definitely not a right way of perceiving a situation.

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