by Dan Balow
This is the first in a three-part series on attitudes toward work, specifically for people in publishing.
Today, I am writing about pessimism. If there were a book glorifying its virtues, it would be the title above. It would be a thousand pages long with an updated and expanded edition published annually.
Full disclosure…I became a baseball fan of the Chicago Cubs in 1966, a year when they lost a team record 103 games. Their last World Series Championship? Just five short years after Orville and Wilbur Wright flew twelve seconds in a powered aircraft at Kitty Hawk, NC in 1903. A long time ago.
Trust me, I understood pessimism from a young age.
I define pessimism as a defense mechanism for anyone who wants to avoid disappointment. Pessimists expect to lose a coin flip even though there is just as good a chance they could win.
Back to the Cubs, the late Chicago newspaper columnist Mike Royko once wrote, “An optimist looks at a glass of water and sees it as half full. A pessimist looks at the same glass and sees it as half empty. A Cubs fan looks at it and says, ‘When’s it gonna spill?’”
There are good reasons to be a pessimist, especially for authors. The odds are stacked against both the new author and previously published author. Considering all the people who want to write a book in the world, you have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than publishing a best-seller that makes enough money so you can quit your day job.
There are even some pessimists at publishers, because even after deciding to publish a book, the chances are about 50/50 that it will never earn back the advance paid to the author.
The most interesting aspect of this is that while eternal optimists are considered unrealistic, pessimists are often considered wise, when really they have simple 20/20 hindsight mistaken for wise foresight. You know them. The “I knew it wouldn’t work” crowd.
Publishing is a tough business, but if it were easy, everyone would be doing it and making lots of money.
The great science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein said it best, “Don’t ever become a pessimist…a pessimist is correct oftener than an optimist, but an optimist has more fun, and neither can stop the march of events.”
It is pretty simple. Choose this day your attitude. Optimism is just a lot more enjoyable!