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Years ago a suit salesman gave me a tip that has always stuck with me. He said that people won't notice you're bald if you keep yourself very fit. He was a good example of this. I literally hadn't noticed he was bald until he made the comment. My first impression of him had been dominated by the fact he was so obviously fit. It was a brilliant case of misdirection. And it made me think about all the ways people mitigate their bad luck.

Generally speaking, a high level of fitness can compensate for whatever imperfect genes your parents gave you. Fitness is enough to achieve good looks if you bother to dress well, take care of your skin, and get a good haircut.

And fitness, along with a good diet, can also suppress the most common killer diseases that your genes might predispose you to. You can't prevent bad luck, but you can keep it at bay.

If you have the bad luck to be born to a poor family, education can compensate for that. Some schools are better than others, but almost all of them, at least in developed countries, will get you where you need to go.

If you're unlucky in love or business, your degree of effort can compensate for that. In both cases it's a numbers game. If you keep trying, you're bound to get lucky eventually. You just have to be willing to move on to the next attempt, and learn from your failures.

If you boil it all down, the only types of pure bad luck are the truly random disasters such as being struck by lightning, or being born without the gene for optimism. Optimism is what gives you the willingness to stay fit, eat healthy, and keep trying. You wouldn't do those things unless you expected them to work.

So suppose science finds the gene that controls optimism. And suppose it can be manipulated. That would be enough to solve the healthcare problem and boost the economy. People would get fit, avoiding medical costs, and they'd work extra hard because they believed it would pay off in the long run, thus fixing the economy.

The optimism gene is probably the most important one in the universe. Someday we'll find it. That will be interesting.
 
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Apr 5, 2009
I worked my ass off and all I got was a pink slip.
 
 
Apr 3, 2009
Ah ha! We now know that Drazen is NOT a Barack Obama devotee.

Makes for an interesting slogan idea, though. "No we can't; but we will do our utmost to fail perfectly well" ;-)

Webster
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 3, 2009
Way off the mark, Scott -- group optimism leads to the phenomenon of "irrational exuberance." The world cannot function if everyone is an optimist.

Instead, the world needs more pessimistic perfectionists -- an army relentlessly striving for something better! We should turn OFF the optimism gene!
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 2, 2009
Also, blind optimism is not necessarily a good thing. The world needs pessimism to sort of mellow everyone down and identify points of risk. There's also a high correlation between where when you live, and the amount of optimism that exists. A single person can go through periods of great optimism and great pessimism. I can guarantee you that your optimism will be greatly affected if for example where you live becomes a war stricken country.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 2, 2009
Optimism is only partway genetic. It also has a great deal to do with how you were raised, the type of community you were raised in. For example, in poor urban black communities in the US, you have eager children that end up, by the time they become teens, giving up on their potential and believing that, because of the daily reminders in their surroundings, there's no reason to strive for more. Many of the schools don't do a good job of fixing this, so usually the only way out is if the parents are very nurturing and positive. Though this too is difficult, since it is hard to stay optimistic when affording food and rent are your top priorities in life, rather than an afterthought.
 
 
Apr 2, 2009
This is a bizarre post from someone who recently posted this in his blog:
"The white collar sector is all about no activity punctuated occasionally by useless activities."
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 1, 2009
A recent gene for optimism article from Economist.

http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=13176767
 
 
Apr 1, 2009
When you feel like writing a post about optimism. Could you tell us your views on the problem that optimists are supposedly going to be dissapointed more often than pessimists because they already expcet the worst . I simply cant get my head around this .
John
 
 
Apr 1, 2009
This post makes me think of Jason Statham.
 
 
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 1, 2009
Scott, have you ever heard of "butterface"? As in, she has an amazing body, "butterface"!
 
 
Apr 1, 2009
Optimism is a good thing, in moderation. By that I mean that it needs to be tempered with reality. An overly optimistic person may rationalize their lack of fitness (to stay with your theme), by saying that they are confident they won't get heart disease regardless of whether they exercise or not. Similarly, they may also may optimistically believe that they will not die of lung cancer if they don't quit smoking.

I stay fit because I believe it will help protect me from certain diseases and improve my quality of life. If I were, however, to believe that staying fit meant I'd be somehow immune from cancer, I wouldn't go to the doctor for checkups.

Reality is reality, regardless of your mental attitude about it. While I agree that optimism is better than pessimism, you had better believe that it is no substitute for having common sense about those issues that affect you.
 
 
Apr 1, 2009
Oh come on, David7. You are giving male shoppers way too much credit on the sophisticated brain function front. Men don't normally make subconscious connections. Our subconscious gland barely functions.

My guess is that the incident started with Mrs Adams instructing Scott to buy some obscenely expensive suit she had previously eyeballed at the local Nordstroms. Women like their men to look as good as possible so to make other women think, "Say, that's a relatively good looking breeder she snagged there. I'll bet their kids aren't too hideous."

Scott, grudgingly, complied with the 'buy something that makes you look better to other women" instruction and toodled off to the the mall ... convinced that he would return home without the suit, armed with some completely fabricated (but plausible) reason for thwarting Mrs. Adams' will. Rather, he planned to return home with that new PDA he had been dreaming about -- and hide it in his sock drawer until a suitable amount of time had passed.

But something went terribly wrong for Scott. He ran into a good salesman.

This is how men shop ...

Woman says buy suit. Suit man say smart things about suit. Me impressed by suit man. Suit man say I look good in suit. Me buy suit to please woman. Me also buy obscenely expensive PDA to show woman who boss.

Webster
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 1, 2009
Did you notice the salesman was fit before he mentioned it? I doubt it ever crossed your mind.

Under the pretense of drawing your attention to his baldness, he was using misdirection to get you to notice his fitness. By doing so, he was increasing his chances of making the sale, because you subconsciously started to want to be more like the salesman. A connection between "buying the product" and "looking very fit" was created in your mind. I am going to bet that you bought a suit.
 
 
Apr 1, 2009
@Patfett

Extremely well said, sir. It's a shame that every young man in America can't read your paragraph. It would save about 50% of them a lot of unnecessary anxiety in life.

Write an article and send it to GQ -- that would be a good start.

Webster
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 1, 2009
Here's a funny thing. I was in high tech marketing for years, and was a pretty generic looking guy - tall, somewhat thinning blonde hair, bland good looks. I would meet high level people from other companies multiple times, and they would never remember me. (I met Scott once, too, when my company hired him to speak at a customer conference - and I bet he doesn't remember me either.) II finally gave up on the thinning hair and started shaving my head and grew a goatee. The results have been dramatic: now, EVERYBODY remembers who I am after meeting me just once. So in this case I took something that could be looked at negatively (balding) and accidentally turned it into something that has been very positive for me. I don't think of this as "optimism" or denial, and PLEASE don't anybody mention lemons and lemonade. It's just playing the game with the cards that life dealt you, you know?
 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 1, 2009
Hmmmm...

I don't know if I would tamper with an "Optimism" gene. I'm sure there are good sides, such as people in a perpetual state of hopefullness, or lottery lines stretched out of the convenience store door.

However, it's the bad side that worries me. Optimism is a terrible thing, say for airline pilots. Can you imagine an overly-optimistic pilot at the controls of an aircraft? You might hear, "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is the Captain speaking. If you look out of the windows you will see that we are flying 5000 feet lower than the surrounding mountains. I'm staring at a sheer wall of granite in front of us, but don't worry! I know we will fly through it with no problems, because I'm feeling very optimistic today!"

No, there are many ways NOT to go with this one. I think a good mix of both optimism and pessimism is needed to stay healthy. One can say, "I'm optimistic that I'll stay healthy and live longer if I work out!" But, looked at another way, one can say, "I better get healthy, or I'm going to die young, broke, and forgotten!"

You need a little of hopefullness and dejectivity in your life for meaningful balance.

I'm happily optimistic I can press the "Post" button...
 
 
Apr 1, 2009
Scott, that's weird.
One of my favourite quotes of yours is "an optimist is a pessimist with no work experience"
 
 
Mar 31, 2009
We may find the optimistic gene, and become as fit as a fiddle, but whether we get a good haircut or not is in the barber's hand, not ours.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 31, 2009
BALDNESS!

My weeks of quietly contemplating the Scott Adams Blog have paid off. Finally, a topic arises within my field of expertise.

Here’s my hair loss perspective.

First, (take careful note of the syntax) I have, for many years, been losing my hair -- I have not completely lost it. The back and sides remain fully intact. I have been dealing with a hair-loss-in-progress situation. I have been on the long and painful journey from hair to eternity. I am the victim of a dysfunctional family of male follicles.

A rather impertinent barber was the first to comment on my initial thinning in the Spring of 1978. I promptly found a more pertinent barber and entered a protracted period of denial. A few years later (approximately 12:04 PM, April 3, 1982, at the intersection of Georgia and Granville) a former friend mentioned, in remarkably callous fashion, that I “seemed to getting a little thin on top”. This signaled the end of my denial stage.

The next 5 years are a blur - a frenzy of hat shopping and hair fluffing - culminating in an unspeakable act of courage. I scored a 3 month prescription for Rogaine.

But I didn’t renew the prescription.

Not because it wasn’t working --I believe it was. I dropped Rogaine because it was expensive and the label warned that if one stops using their expensive product that all of the hair you might have gained, plus the bit their product stopped you from losing, will promptly fall out. Over the next several months I suffered from a recurring nightmare - one where I lost my job and, in addition to suffering the indignity of the employment insurance line-up, was forced to watch myself age 20 years in a matter of days. In other words, I decided to avoid running the risk of starring in a further remake of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

I must emphasize that it was only the interim losing bit that bothered me. Far from worrying about losing more hair, my worst fear was that the hair loss would mysteriously subside in mid stride - leaving me to spend the balance of my life fighting the urge to experiment with hideous comb-overs or fritter away countless hours mesmerized by late night Hair Club For Men commercials. No, I wanted to do a thorough and proper job of this balding thing.

To prepare myself psychologically for postgraduate hair loss, I established a stable of bald heroes.

Jean Luc Picard (Star Trekker) is stunningly and proudly bald. Bruce Willis (another fine film actor) looks quite sinister when they force him to fill in the follicular blanks. Sean Connery, my personal hair loss mentor, once had the hair of an anthropoid - but now, thanks to his breathtakingly high forehead, is considered to be one of the more dashing geezers on the silver screen. The producer people sometimes forced him into hair for a movie part, but I think he looks much better without the polyester stuff.

I don’t mean to imply that I don’t have hairy heroes. I do. Dustin Hoffman has the perfect amount of hair, although possibly not for a man of his height. Albert Einstein, while not known for precision grooming, had the optimum quantum of hair, relatively speaking.

On the other hand, I have some heroes who seem to carry far too much hair. President Obama, for example, has hair like an adolescent - far too thick for a man in his position. Scott Adams doesn’t have grown-up hair either. But Bill Clinton is probably the best example of a heroic figure who got too much of a good thing—and I’m not referring to Monica Lewinski.

I have a good deal more to say on this subject. However, I feel that I have met both of the objectives I established for myself under this topic - to have a cathartic hair loss confession experience - and to find a way to mention Scott Adams, Monica Lewinski and Albert Einstein in the same post.

Webster

 
 
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 31, 2009
Little of target on this one Scott. It's not about optimism, it's about determination. A determined pessimist will get farther than a lazy optimist.
 
 
 
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