Thursday, March 15, 2012


Optimists who mean well -- but often are not thoroughly evolved -- in the dogmatic practice of their prejudice are quick to call any and every instance of concern or negative perception, "pessimistic" in nature. Frequently this is true -- as with the familiar half-glass of water that can be described as either half full or half empty, depending upon one's general attitude. However, there are instances where critical analysis of a situation reveals the "potential" for very dire outcomes should preventive measures not be taken "immediately" or "as soon as practical" depending upon the criticality (yes that is a word) of the situation. These instances are not pessimistic, but rather, are realistic interpretations that should not be ignored. For example, two people stranded in the middle of a desert with no Oasis in sight and one, half-full canteen of water between them. The optimist wants to use the water to cool his brow, while the realist argues to save it for hydration purposes. Is the optimist correct to insist that the realist is being "pessimistic"? I think not.

On a sidebar: when I was in training for a commercial pilots license, my instructor insisted on very detailed preflight inspections of our aircraft. In flight, any and every little wobble or divergence of a flight instrument was not to be missed or ignored. The training was frustrating beyond belief. I never had a perfect flight, even though my skills advanced continuously toward achieving a certification minimum. The instructor was always better than me, and -- looking back, now that I understand -- was not pushing me, but rather pulling me along to where I needed to be before being allowed to carry people or cargo for hire in an aircraft.

A popular witticism among pilots in training refers to the difference between an amateur pilot and a professional pilot. The amateur is surprised when something goes wrong. The professional is surprised when it does not.

The attitude instilled by this training was to approach a flight plan, aircraft inspection, taxi for take-off, approach to landing, even parking and securing the craft at the end of the day -- approach with the attitude that "Something is wrong with this deal and I am going to find it before it finds me." Now tell me, honestly. Would you rather fly with the pilot who is an eternal optimist, and just knows that everything is good in the world, so not to worry? Just get aboard and let's go! Is the other guy really a "pain in the ___" pessimist?

Now why am I writing about this in the first place? The article I posted by Nouriel Roubini is a very good summary of potential threats in the world today. I hope you read it to the end. But Dr. Roubini is known affectionately -- in the economic arena -- as "Dr. Doom". It seems he always (almost) sees things in a negative light. Do not take this wrong. It is his job to find problems before they surface, and warn the rest of us. He is not a pessimist. Realistically things might not turn out as bad as he points out. And the canteen might have enough water to last until an Oasis is found. Or the aircraft will probably be O.K. with only a little water in the fuel.

When it comes to life and health critical circumstances, combined with efficient use of limited resources -- I hope my "ruling elite" -- whether that be the Governor or the "Head of Household" -- at least knows where to look for problems. It matters not how good one is at handling emergent situations, if one is constantly "surprised" by unexpected events. Sooner or later one will fail to respond properly.

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