Pet Sounds: How to be a Productive Pessimist
Last week, for the first time since its inception, the brewery manifested itself in the flesh. Until now, all of our meetings had been held online. We had a productive weekend of branding and business planning, and it was so great to see Doug and Gus in person, but it was painstaking for me because I was in a funk.
It’s difficult to be an optimist. That’s not me, but it’s not for a lack of trying. I watch motivational speeches and read self-help adages, all of which prescribe a healthy dose of childlike, naive optimism, a proverbial rainbow of positive radiance and can-do spirit, an energetic puppy that shits proactive kittens.
I watched a Ted Talk that claimed you can rewire your brain for optimism and productivity by keeping a daily journal of things you’re grateful for, positive experiences, and random acts of kindness, among other things. I gave it a shot. Day 1 was fantastic. By Day 2, I smoked three cigarettes simultaneously just to get the taste of optimism out of my mouth.
That’s not to say I don’t admire optimists. My friend Rob, for example, has been a wonderful beacon of light in the battle of the black dog. During the past summer, Rob and I developed Hype Crew, a positive reinforcement system used to promote happiness and attract women at bars. Hype Crew is simple yet effective: bombard your mates with high-fives and compliments, even if disingenuous, to heighten their confidence. Be the Flava Flav to your friend’s Chuck D. The way that you live will be better.
Soon, Hype Crew had wormed its way into my workplace. I would start each day by lying to myself with this mantra: My job is easy and I’m awesome at it. All day, I’d continue the lie: I’m the best goddamn HVAC engineer this planet has ever known. I am God’s gift to building condition assessments. King Kong ain’t got shit on me. And wouldn’t you know it (you would), my confidence skyrocketed and my job became not only easier, but even enjoyable.
I think, and this is just me, and Christ knows I wouldn’t listen to me, that negativity is not a bad thing. It’s natural, like fear, rash judgment, and attractive cousins. It’s how you choose to react to that negativity that molds your character. I, for example, use spite as a catalyst for productivity. In high school, I sacrificed partying and chasing girls and picketing GMO labels in favour of acing every course because I envied my wealthy classmates. After college, I opted to stay in the happy bubble of academia to avoid the unscrupulous corporate world. And now, my disenchantment with the human-resource-riddled work environment, with dishonest work practices, with homogenised public relations committees, with commercial grade beers, with mega-conglomerates, and with mass production have shaped my anger into a full-bodied goal with great mouthfeel.
Try to be positive. Really. God only knows the world has enough pessimists like me, and being around negative people wears you down. All I’m saying is that you can be you and still be successful. There’s an answer but you have to find it by yourself. And when that black dog comes a-barkin’, you wrangle that mof’er and ride him all the way to the bank. Turn that negativity into something good, something productive. Write that book. Run that marathon. Or in our case, trudge our way through the bleak Cornwall streets to finish that business plan and turn our frustration with modern business ethics into a drinkable ideology.
Wouldn’t that be nice?
What are your thoughts, folks? Do self-help books and Ted Talks make you cringe or fire you up? How do you feel about optimism and success? If you are inclined to negativity but strive for optimism, how do you get there? And what is Brian Wilson’s greatest musical achievement?
Joshua Counsil is Wrought Iron Brewery’s Marketing Director. His years of engineering consulting have jaded his gentle spirit. Still, he loves laughing more than anything else.