The Engineer Says the Glass is Too Big

The world needs more pragmatists.

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Photo by Joseph Greve on Unsplash

Yesterday I heard a joke on TV. The pessimist looks at a glass and says it’s half full. The optimist looks at it and says it’s half empty. The engineer looks at it and says the glass is too big.

Positivity is overrated. I think it’s great to have cheerful and optimistic friends around you. But optimism doesn’t solve problems. It creates hope. And hope is a double edge sword. It’s what leads to disappointment.

Negativity is no good either. It assumes failure without trying. Pessimists wallow in their own fate and sometimes blame the world for it. Nothing great was ever accomplished by not believing in it.

I’m a pragmatist. Having hope and faith is good. Being happy is always better than being miserable, for yourself and those around you. But I also believe in probability and statistics. Therefore waiting for miracles is an unproductive way to make things better or achieve dreams.

Rather than see something as just good or bad, accept it for what it is. If you want it to be different, well, find a new glass.

I once watched a documentary on Mariah Carey. She goes back to her high school as a world famous diva and tells the kids there, “You can be anything you want to be!”

She is the American dream. Small town girl turn world famous singer. She has a rare seven octave vocal range, making her uniquely suited to develop a career as a singer.

This chap, however, doesn’t seem quite as gifted, but he must have taken Mariah’s advice to heart.

Well, at least he was famous for a while. More due to entertainment value than singing prowess of course.

I also treated an old friend to a birthday lunch yesterday. She liked wine so we went to a French wine bar. The young chap managing it was from Lyon, a city in France.

He’s been working in Singapore for three years and he told us why he left France to venture out here. He felt there was too much individualism back home right now. People have forgotten they live with one another in a collective society.

I’ve never been to Lyon, so I can’t vouch for his view. But I have been to the US, and I’ve always wondered at the logic of gun laws.

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The pro argument is the individual’s right to bear arms and protect himself or his property. The con, of course, is rampant shootings in public areas or even schools every now and then because guns, including automatic assault rifles, are too easy to get.

I’m okay with individual rights as long as it doesn’t impose an onus of burden on someone else. After all, your life is your life. To each their own. But I draw the line at consequences to other lives, intended or not.

In post-war Japan it was the opposite. Collectivism was so strong people worked their whole lives loyal to one corporation, observed strict hierarchy, and apologized to society on TV if their company or children made a mistake. Now young Japanese are leaving the country or choosing to live more in the moment.

Although things have improved recently, suicide rates in Japan over work issues is still relatively high, compared to the rest of the world. One industry insider recently wrote an article titled “Employers must help cut Japan’s suicide rate” in the Nikkei Asian Review.

Japan lost six times more people to suicide than to traffic accidents in 2017. Some 70% of the victims were men…(in) 10% of cases work is identified as a cause.

A lack of diversity — the flip side of excessive uniformity — is partly responsible: Japanese returning from working overseas often feel depressed after struggling to readjust.

— Nobuko Kobayashi, A.T. Kearney Partner

Life is all about balance. Nature exists in virtuous cycles and gets disrupted in a bad way if anything is pushed to one extreme or the other. Organisms survive in harmony within ecosystems that are interdependent.

Am I stating the obvious? Well, I leave you with this one:

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I write about business, technology and society... Investor | Entrepreneur | Thinker 🔗

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