You know it’s China from the peace signs.
People (mostly pessimists) like to make fun of optimism. Like it is all about dreams and unicorns and leads you to false confidence. But I would like to discuss pessimism, which can be a powerful force in our lives. I have been thinking about the idea that a [good] thing will usually only happen if you want it to – and more importantly – it definitely will not happen if you do not want it to.
How many times have you considered doing something in your life, but you think “well I’m not sure I can do that,” or even worse, “it’s just not happening“? And when you embrace this line of thought, how often do you accomplish the thing you were considering? I am willing to bet basically never. Telling yourself that something simply won’t happen is the worst thing you can do. Because you just willed it not to happen regardless of the however-small-possibility that it could have happened.
And it is true that it is often not enough just to repeat vague mantras like “I am powerful.” But when you start to craft that confidence into an idea that is actionable, like “I will make X happen,” you are now cooking with gas. Then you can start to think about how to make it happen, and so forth. People… we are living in the 21st century, with the blazing information rocketship of the Internet at our fingertips. We should damn well be able to make anything happen that our little hearts desire.
When I was in college, I decided I wanted to go to China to volunteer. Even with the relatively rudimentary Web resources of 2004, I figured this thing out and made it happen. There was no Yelp; there was my determination, research skills, and support of my family. When I was 23 and broke with no job prospects, I decided to find a vocational field I could sink my teeth into for the long term and go to graduate school. And in 2009 I graduated with Honors and took a position at a major Defense contractor. And just over a year ago, well into my “adult” lifestyle I decided I wanted to get freaking chickens! I didn’t know anything about livestock husbandry, but now I do. And I also have a fridge full of adorable little multi-colored eggs.
Nothing is ever set. You can become a farmer any time you want to. You can become an engineer – indeed, a kickass engineer – after college is done. I don’t feel I have ever missed the boat on something I have wanted to do.
I have always been a person of desire, creativity, and action. As far as I am concerned, wanting to do new and bold things is what makes life interesting. I want to accomplish as many crazy things as I can fit in. I invite adventure in.
On the other hand, if I had ever entertained ideas like “China?! What a crazy idea. That will never happen. How will I get a visa? What if my Chinese isn’t good enough?” the whole plan would easily have gotten slam-dunked into the toilet. But this thinking is contradictory: I can’t envision a pessimistic person ever getting to China, because once you start whining the relative obstacles would seem insurmountable. I don’t think a pessimistic person would even have the creativity to have the idea in the first place.
I like to remind myself of these brazen adventures I have had, because lately I have felt the pessimistic ideas creeping in and the momentum slowing down. My latest idea is to organize a 5k fundraiser to raise money for a charity of personal importance. Despite the other bold things I have accomplished, I find myself making excuses and shrinking away in fear. Like I could lead a whole defense project at work but could not organize a fundraiser in my spare time! Nonsense, when I come to think of it.
I have always had supreme confidence that I can make happen anything I want to. And up until now, I have actually accomplished each one. I haven’t thought of it this way much before, but I suppose I think the purpose of my life is to make fun and bold things happen all the time. So to the pessimists I say: what have you done lately?