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Optimism in the eyes of a US navy, Greek Philosophers, Impressionist Artists, and Climate Scientists

A pandemic that has been going for over a year. A climate crisis that was unnoticed for decades. An asteroid might also hit us at any moment. So, a Nuclear war is also coming? If you are worried, you should and you shouldn't be. To understand how and why, I need to share quite a few stories. Fabian here from the think team! Today I will share with you all the perspectives I have accumulated here in that has helped me built mental resilience in a seemingly dystopian world.

Yesterday we had a retreat, where we reflected on our first quarter of 2021. There are several highlights to this, but the one I want to share with you is when our CEO Tak made an important announcement. He elaborated his observation in the past few weeks that indicated a future possibility that may not be so positive. The pandemic hit us quite hard last year and we still survived. However, seeing current patterns, we may be heading towards something bigger that might impact all of us. You can read about it here. He ended the note with “I hope I didn’t scare anyone, but we need to prepare”. Truth be told, he didn't scare me. If anything I became super relieved.

He continued with plans for us to keep moving forward with a system called OODA which I will come back to later. What he emphasized a lot is that "I am not an optimistic person". In many ways, I agree and disagree. I thought, for someone who never gives up, he is the most optimistic person I know. At the same time, he always draws worst-case scenarios. And from here I learned that there are different types of optimists.

I grow up being told that I am an optimist. My definition of an optimist is to remain positive in tough times. To look at the bright side of things no matter what is going on. At the same time, I realized how this mindset could backlash, by putting a blind eye on things that actually matter – e.g. the problems. And now comes two types of optimism as explained by Tak.

The first is the "ignorance is bliss" optimist, who remains relaxed without clear action points, also known as Easy Optimists. The second, which we should all be is representing the best of both worlds, combining optimism and realism. The best way to illustrate this is the Stockdale paradox, a blog also written by Tak. To put it simply, it is about hoping for the best while preparing for the worst. It is about remaining calm without neglecting the negative possibilities. To not be a passive daydreamer. I enjoy and appreciate this perspective a lot, as this connects really well to a philosophy I've held with me. The philosophy of Stoicism.

This may not work for everyone but I personally have become less anxious over the years because of this. By preparing for the worst, I actually gain comfort. Because if I can handle the worst, then all the other possibilities become more manageable in my mind. I instantly feel more powerful after pondering all the scenarios. Now I understand why Tak would make these announcements because he wants us to prepare.

This made me realize that perhaps Tak doesn't like claiming that he is an optimist, because the mindset itself is not enough to survive. Your actions are if anything, more important. This brings us back to the OODA concept, he also wrote here. Based on a system used in the US Military, we move quickly with small adaptive decisions. Kind of like small science projects, we try and if it works it works, if it doesn't we adjust. This relates to resilience theory as well written here. With every critical decision, we become more resilient as we move further away from the worst-case scenario, which also relates to my early post about impressionism! We know where we don't want to go and so we take paths that avoid that direction. Everything is connected :)

I think this is really the coolest part of working at Apart from representing so much of past artists and philosophers, the company is continuously changing for the better. To adapt to the ever-changing world. This is why I said I was relieved after Tak's speech about an upcoming 'disaster'. Of course, I may be speaking from a position of privilege, which in fact is very true in this context. I am privileged enough to be in a company like, a company that I see will continue to exist due to the nature of the system - by becoming one with nature instead of going against the current. Tak's words assured me that he cares about the resilience of himself, the company, and the world. That no matter what happens we need to be able to stand. Now I cannot imagine having a boss that is an Easy Optimist.

Although actions are in the end what determines our future, I think it's still necessary to first build a strong mental base. And that is to be realistically optimistic. In an era where people are convinced we are continuously heading downhill, our minds need to elsewhere to realize a different reality. To close off I will leave a quote from Winston Churchill.

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."- Sir Winston Churchill.

I hope you begin to see the value in being a well-rounded critical thinker. To remain realistic without going down the spiral of negative thoughts. To remain positive without being disconnected from reality. This way, really nothing will stop us but us.

See you next week!

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