145 comments

The Practical Benefits of Outrageous Optimism

If you ask me, everything is pretty fucking great these days.

Your life and my life are both going to continue to increase in awesomeness over time. We are likely to have exceptional fortune and health throughout our days, we’ll help to change some lives for the better, our kids are going to turn out loving and great, and we will die with a broad smile across our rugged and weather-worn faces somewhere around the age of a hundred and twenty two. Oh sure, there will be the odd problem and catastrophe along the way, but they will just serve as recharging jolts to keep us from getting complacent. More problems to solve, more learning to do, and deeper happiness to attain. On top of that, the human race is bound for an ever-better fate, ironing out most of its current problems and most of the problems that follow in the future, ending up at a tantalizing Star Trek Utopia.

Those are pretty controversial statements to make these days, yet strangely enough the general theme tends to become true, for the few people who are crazy enough to believe it.

And most of us don’t believe it. In fact, many of us end up going completely the opposite way. One of the problems with being a clever and analytical person like yourself, is that you’ve become very good at seeing what might go wrong. You can see the risks inherent in any enterprise, and if you’ve got enough Cliff Claven in you, you might even be fond of expounding about those risks to anyone around who will listen.

There are even people make whole careers of this. Fear-mongering in general tends to make you sound smart, and fearful people get a quirky sort of reassurance by snuggling up to a fearful leader, and confidently predicting the worst possible outcome. Dmitri Orlov gets lots of attention by continuously foretelling the complete collapse of the United States. A favorite technique of Collapse theorists is to sit at the news screen, interpreting each development of still further evidence of their theory. “Oh.. now the politicians are arguing. Sure sign of collapse. National debt is growing.. collapse. Oil consumption rising faster than supply.. just as I predicted, ’twas foretold, ’twas foretold.

The same methods can be applied by a Personal Collapse Theorist. “Oh man, this job is stressing me out. My department is going down the shitter, and we’ll be the first ones on the chopping block when the next round of layoffs comes. And it will be coming SOON! … And the thing is, in THIS ECONOMY, I need to hold onto my job because there are no other ones out there. Not in my field, anyway. All this is really taking a toll on my health. I’ve got bad knees and back, and they really flare up when I am stressed. So they are getting worse every day, which makes me even more stressed, which makes me even worse at my job, which makes me even more likely to get laid off, which ….”

Whew, it hurt my fingers even to type that paragraph above, even though it was all completely made up. But it hurts because it’s true – some people actually say things like that on a regular basis. And every time I hear it, I feel like grasping the person’s head between my hands and shaking it while I say, “Wake up, Dude! You’re doing more than just discussing your situation right now.. You’re creating your own reality!”

Let’s contrast the life of the Personal Collapse person to the fate of a really lucky person. You probably know at least one person that is just so lucky that they annoy you. The person has a better job than you, always seems to get promotions, has cooler friends, and maybe even a more attractive spouse and a greener lawn. Some even accuse plain old Mr. Money Mustache of being annoying for the same reason, “Oh, enough from you Mustache. You retired early and then things seem to keep going well for you. You’re making it all up, or if you’re not, it’s just luck and it can’t be applied to me”.

Fair enough. Let’s stop the fakeypants Fresh-From-the-Tanning-Salon-Self-Help-Guru spiel right now. We’re all scientists here, so we can acknowledge that luck, or the partially random distribution of life situations, does indeed play a part in how a person’s life turns out. There’s the genetic lottery, where each person gets different abilities directly from their parents, then there is upbringing, family, location, and pure random events supplied by the outside world. It’s bound to create a very diverse set of results, right?

But if you’ve ever been to a bar and watched a less-attractive friend have far greater success in attracting mates, or worked in an office where you notice that many of the people in highly paid senior positions are less competent and intelligent than yourself, you know there is something fishy about the theory that luck and birthright alone deliver our fate.

And that’s where we get to secret weapon of Optimism that I’ve brought to you today.

I’m hefting a stainless steel case onto the table and undoing the latches for you now. It’s lined with black velvet and as I open it up, both of our faces light up with golden light, just like when they opened Marsalis Wallace’s Briefcase in Pulp fiction. Inside is a very smooth, very polished tool that looks like it was crafted by an advanced alien race. It is made of gold and silver materials, with a sculpted handle and cobalt blue trigger. It’s your new Optimism Gun.

But what good is fictional asset like an Optimism Gun when we’re trying to accomplish things here in the real world? The answer is a Hell of a lot of good, because in this world full of humans, almost all of our “reality” is created in our own heads.

Is money real? No, it’s just a shared understanding among all of us that we agree to store value in nontangible forms. What about Gold, that’s more real than money, right? Nope – offer a pile of gold coins and a nice chunk of meat to a dog, and see which one he chooses. Fame, fortune, the respect of others, or a job as President of the United States? Just chemical patterns stored in the minds of a bunch of other humans. Even physical problems, like immediately cutting human carbon emissions by 75% to reduce climate change or eliminating poverty in all poor countries, are things that could be solved within months, just by altering patterns in a bunch of human minds. And as it turns out, the human mind is exactly the target of the Optimism Gun.

But does it really work? I found my own Gun about 21 years ago and I have certainly found it effective whenever I had the courage to apply it. It has helped me get an offer for every job I have ever applied to, earn and save more money than the pessimists assumed possible, have a very nice family life, and be generally happy every day, as I’m sure you’ve heard more than enough. I also secretly use the OG in this blog (in fact, I’m writing this post with the bluetooth keyboard that was supplied with the device). And I’d argue that it is working here too, evidenced by the ridiculous spread of Mustachianism to date (now they’re even thinking of making a big TV show out of it!). Because which is more likely: a software engineer who didn’t even take an English class in university just happens to be the most amazing writer in the world with the most useful financial ideas as well? Or that the blog just makes people feel good about their lives because it is much more optimistic than other writing on the topic, and this motivates them to try some new things?

There are several psychological principles at work that make all this work on a practical level:

  1. Humans are automatically drawn to Leaders: Most people just want to hang back with the crowd and shy away from pressure of standing out. As soon as somebody stands on the box and picks up the conch, people start listening. If you dare to express optimism about anything, you’re stepping onto a little soapbox, and it gets attention.
  2. People want it to be true: If you’ve become a small-time leader and you deliver the Good Word, people will naturally want to keep listening, because you help them feel good about things too.
  3. Optimism tricks you into trying more things: If you believe success is almost guaranteed, you’re going to try some pretty fun ventures. In reality, sure, you fail at some things, but what do they always tell us is the best teacher? That’s right, it’s failure. So you end up racking up much more hard-earned experience and knowledge than the non-optimist. Then what do you do with all that extra knowledge? You succeed. Meanwhile, everyone else is still hesitating to try the first thing.
  4. You are forced not to focus on things you can’t control: One of the most useful lessons of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” is that you never worry about stuff you cannot control. You just work on the things you can. As an example, I never watch the political debates or follow the polls for next month’s presidential election. That doesn’t help me at all! Instead, I just read the descriptions of the policies each candidate plans to put into place, evaluate those against my best guess at their long-term effects on the success of the world in general (not just based on my own situation), then send in my mail-in ballot long before the election day. Then I can be optimistic because I’ve had my full say by voting, and I have hundreds of hours freed up to accomplish other things while the pessimists are still watching TV and worrying about the election!
  5. Acknowledge and Bow Down to the Placebo Effect: When it comes to health and well-being, the mind controls the body way more than rational people like to admit*. This isn’t just new-age medicine – the very thought of taking medicine that makes people better, has a statistically significant effect on the outcome of medical tests. It is so real, that scientists have to adjust for it by giving people fake pills,  which make them better, in order to see if the real pills do even more than the fake ones.
    I enjoy hacking this fact to control my own health. I have a permanent belief that I am unusually healthy, and that this condition will persist forever. Even when I get sick, I look at it as a very temporary anomaly, always assuming I’ll be back to full health by the next day. It usually proves to be true. Not only am I overdosing on the placebo effect, but these assumptions lead me to do the deliberate things one would do if one were preparing for a healthy 122-year lifespan as well. And on top of all this, the optimism is limiting the release of the human stress hormone Cortisol, which tends to destroy health. The less you worry about health, the healthier you become.
  6. Optimism is rare, and deadly when combined with competence: If you’re a smart guy or gal at your workplace, the other smart people are expecting you to be pessimistic, just like them. You can sit at the lunch table, discussing the chronic failures of management or the critically flawed design of the product you’re all working on. But once you’ve proven your pessimism/realism chops and are respected by the gang, then you gradually start playing some tricks. You can slip in ideas like “Well, this project might actually turn out OK.. all we have to do is rewrite the Flange module from scratch and then get Schmidt to let us use it in Release 2.0. I’m pretty sure I can do that.”. Your coworkers will be fooled into thinking that they really can do those things, which they wouldn’t have otherwise tried. As noted in point #3, these things occasionally work, and as you hone your skills at tricking people into succeeding, you find yourself increasingly being sought after for CEO positions.

So there you have it, from the perspective of both the motivational speaker, and the engineer. This stuff really works on other people and on ourselves, and it’s the source of most of the “luck” we experience in our lifetimes.

So the only remaining barrier is: are you daring enough to begin this journey by turning the Optimism Gun on Yourself?

 

 *Further Reading: The Economist reports on a recent study that found some of the mechanisms by which positive emotions influence health. 

 

 

  • Jimbo October 3, 2012, 9:23 am

    Thanks, MMM, I had not had the ‘chance’ of reading The Secret.

    Just kidding, but I mean, sheesh, that was a bit esoteric.

    Reply
    • Jesse October 3, 2012, 11:35 am

      There’s nothing esoteric about the fact that we create our own reality. Yes, “The Secret” takes this idea way too far, as if thoughts send out magical fairies to do your bidding or something. It’s not that the real things out in reality change based on your thoughts, but its your perception of that reality that is easily affected. Your perception of reality IS your reality. Ask someone how their day went, they might be like “horrible, it looks like I might lose my job, everything’s going to hell”, even though nothing bad actually ever happened. Conversely, an optimistic person will have had a wonderful day, even if nothing particularly good happened. It’s all in what you make of it. No magic necessary.

      Reply
      • Nurse Frugal October 4, 2012, 2:02 pm

        I agree with Jesse. You do create your own reality. If you have a bad attitude all day, your day is probably going to be just as bad. If you feel like things can only get better….they will! I try to load the optimism gun as frequently as possibly because without it, life sucks. I feel like you can see it a lot in other people. Would you rather hang out with your friend who is a debbie downer, or the friend who will make the best out of anything. That’s easy!! It’s almost a reflective question: How do others see you because you radiate your feelings and attitudes to others. Good for you MMM, I’m happy that these good things are going on for you. Hope that you can continue to spread the word of the bad-ass money mustache!

        Reply
    • Mr. PoP October 7, 2012, 6:00 pm

      I consider myself a hardened cynic…but MMM is spot on with this post. We create our own reality, and he’s using a couple of jedi mind tricks (Optimism Gun, Placebo Effect, etc) to improve his world.

      Disclosure-I’ve never read the secret, but the people who tell me about it are the same ones who were selling acai juice a few years back…

      Reply
      • James Duffy October 27, 2012, 9:25 am

        +1=spot on.

        Reply
      • Blackbomber November 7, 2012, 9:19 am

        …the people who tell me about it are the same ones who were selling acai juice a few years back…

        That says it all!

        Reply
  • Joe @ Retire By 40 October 3, 2012, 9:36 am

    I do know one of those guys! This guy is a super smart engineer, works as a model on the side, serial dates models, travels all over the world, etc… He got into the most exclusive athletic club in town for free by joining the swim team. This club has a $5,000 initiation fee and $500 monthly fee or something like that.
    We call him Goldenboy. :)
    I agree that optimism is a huge weapon in the tool chest. Optimistic people shrug off diversity and keep getting ahead. The optimistic people I know are always happier and things work out better for them. The complainers and whiners dwell on the negative and it just pull them down. Even if they have money, they are still not happy.
    That’s why I think the “are you better off than 4 years ago” question is a trick question. Of course, you should be better off than 4 years ago. You have 4 years to improve your situation. 80% of my readers took the poll and agree with me.

    I’m going to paste the link here. Please remove it if it doesn’t meet your guideline.
    http://retireby40.org/2012/09/better-than-4-years-ago/

    Reply
    • Mr. Everyday Dollar October 3, 2012, 10:37 am

      I also agree with Joe that optimism is one of the best emotional weapon we have.

      And at times, it’s hard to be optimistic. In my own experience, I’ve worked on teams that were filled with pessimistic people, negative nellies if you will. And I was right there with them, sucked into complaining about everything and everyone. But then I slowly started to change myself, my overall attitude and to “go all in”. Great things started happening with my career and I directly attribute it to being optimistic.

      One tip – I actually send myself via Google Calendar an email every day with a motivational saying (I am anal like that). I have 30 different one, one for each day of the month. I look forward to reading those. I take time to think about them, how it currently relates to my life and what improvement I can make.

      One thing I’ve come to believe is that you can set yourself up for success but then the rest is out of your hands. We have the ability to make the best decisions and choices with the information we have on hand. And that’s what we need to make sure we do. After that, it’s not up to us so let go and don’t think we can control an outcome.

      Reply
    • Jamesqf October 3, 2012, 12:10 pm

      I think perhaps you are confusing cause and effect here. Take your Goldenboy, for instance. He was obviously born with looks, along with intelligence & athletic ability: why the @#%! wouldn’t he be optimistic? I’d probably be optimistic if models wanted to date me, too :-)

      Same with the rest: if people have a track record of things working out for them, why wouldn’t they become happy and optimistic? It’s merely a natural reaction to their past experiences.

      I’d rather hold to a realistic middle ground, and be neither a Pangloss nor a Richard Cory.

      Reply
      • Dan October 3, 2012, 1:34 pm

        I also consider myself a realist and am very cynical and guarded, but these concepts don’t necessarily inform our self-belief. In terms of my personal situation, I’m very optimistic. I set goals and never doubt that I will achieve them. I don’t spend time envying other people or worrying about whether their lot in life is better than mine. I focus my efforts on improving my life.

        Similarly to MMM, I ignore cable news, political commentary and even sports news which frees up a lot of time and brain cycles. I tend to concentrate only on the things that I can have a direct effect on. I’ve chosen my path in life and enjoy sticking to that path. Whatever else happens, I don’t care.

        Reply
        • Jamesqf October 3, 2012, 1:50 pm

          If you never doubt that you’ll achieve your goals, perhaps you’ve been setting those goals too low?

          Reply
          • Dan October 3, 2012, 2:16 pm

            Setting a high bar? As a self-identified realist, wouldn’t you recommend that I set achievable goals?

            To your point about cause and effect, I was neither born handsome nor rich, but I’ve used my available skills and determination to get ahead in life and become the “lucky” person that everyone is annoyed by. I’m not concerned with whether others have it easier than I do because it doesn’t really affect me. I’m much more focused on what’s directly in front of me.

            Reply
            • Jamesqf October 3, 2012, 9:30 pm

              Depends on what you mean by “achievable”. There’s a lot of middle ground between your “certain” and “absolutely impossible”. As for instance, if you run for public office, neither victory nor defeat is certain. Someone will win, but it may or may not be you.

              Or take work: I write fairly specialized modelling software. I’m always looking for ways to improve performance, and try a lot of different things. Some work, some don’t. I don’t know which are going to be which unless I try them, which opens me up to the certainty of frequent failures.

              Reply
      • James Duffy October 27, 2012, 9:31 am

        I’ve worked with models for 10 years, and I can assure you that many of them are just as miserable and unattractive as the rest of the world; good-looks are quickly made worthless when their keeper is betrayed as a dolt. Human attraction is based on so many subtle factors that it would be difficult to measure them.

        Suffice to say that positive experiences mitigate future risk-aversion, and negative experiences inform future risk-aversion. The tone of this article is about taking risks when a more “scientific”, cynical nature would otherwise dissuade and discourage, and it does a superb job of that.

        Reply
  • Derek Knight October 3, 2012, 9:36 am

    Seneca or Oprah both said – “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”.
    When used in reference to what you have just described it is interesting.
    Luck is living in this eternal awesomeness.
    Preparation is believing and achieving.
    Opportunity is chance.

    Another great post. Somewhere between “The Secret” and “The Matrix”.

    I do get tired of people calling it new age though. It’s been proven. When did our ancestors stop calling sleep a new age way to fight off colds?

    Reply
    • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 3, 2012, 3:47 pm

      Certain studies have demonstrated that people who describe themselves as lucky tend to be better at picking up on patterns. As I recall, one test made people look for some bit of text or something in a newspaper and the “lucky” people saw the pattern that created the goal-phrase very quickly, while the “unlucky” (self described) people got bogged down finger-plodding through every word. The unlucky people couldn’t see the proverbial forest for the trees.

      EDIT: I found this article about the study I was half-remembering. It’s fascinating. Definitely worth a read: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/3304496/Be-lucky-its-an-easy-skill-to-learn.html

      Reply
  • Elkbark October 3, 2012, 9:39 am

    I like the Pulp Fiction reference, but I prefer to imagine the optimism gun as a cartoonish-spring-loaded-boxing glove that punches optimism into the target’s face when the trigger is pulled.

    Brilliant article!

    What’s this about a TV show? How would Mustachians watch it without TV service :)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 3, 2012, 9:56 am

      Oh, it wouldn’t be for the entertainment of the Mustachians, because you’re right, we’d never see it if it were on TV.. it would be a recruiting device to convert millions of additional Antimustachians and bring them into the fold!

      Reply
      • Elkbark October 3, 2012, 10:00 am

        Nice, when do we hear more about that show?

        Might be a tricky sell for the networks, since you essentially will have an audience for say 3 weeks, while you impart enough wisdom such that it culminates in them never watching TV (or its advertisements) again..

        Reply
        • Saving mom October 3, 2012, 9:59 pm

          Oh I have a better idea – MMM Academy on you tube. Financial version of khan academy.

          Reply
          • Sheepstache October 4, 2012, 9:07 am

            Yeeeessss!

            Reply
    • Eric Lindberg October 3, 2012, 10:11 am

      I was thinking some kind of high tech star trek phaser. Goes well with the future utopia predictions. Set phasers to optimism!

      Reply
    • Dragline October 4, 2012, 1:33 pm

      I think I would eschew the weapon and go with the “Optimator”:

      http://www.beerbouquet.com/press/news/spaten-optimator-now-available.html

      Its delicious!

      Reply
  • Seawolf October 3, 2012, 9:40 am

    Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. -Seneca

    Reply
  • Lance @ Money Life and More October 3, 2012, 9:51 am

    Optomism does make a world of difference. I was around a lot of pessimistic people at my last job and it was miserable. My new job has a lot more upbeat and positive people and it makes for a much happier life.

    That optimism spills over into my personal life and has allowed me to start up my side gig and I feel it has some great growth potential. The power of optimism!

    Reply
  • mrmoneygoatee October 3, 2012, 9:53 am

    Love the “Lord of the Flies” reference… “MMM’s got the conch!”

    Reply
  • Joe October 3, 2012, 10:01 am

    Optimism is one of those really effective techniques that’s difficult to convey directly. I hope this does a good job of it.

    Regarding collapse theorists, I think that you can separate out optimism from the belief that everything external to you is going to go well; I believe in my ability to succeed in any event the larger world might go through, and that’s not compromising my success in the current national situation of relative prosperity.

    That said, I do see a lot of bias in collapse theorists: when you’re arguing that something that you want to happen is also going to happen, that’s evidence of bias that should be checked.

    Reply
    • Derek Knight October 3, 2012, 10:19 am

      Joe – Don’t you mean, “Optimism is one of those really effective techniques that’s EASY to convey directly. I KNOW this does a good job of it.”
      I think I’m getting the hang of this optimism thing.

      Reply
      • Joe October 3, 2012, 10:25 am

        You have gazed into my soul.

        Reply
        • TheHeadHunter October 3, 2012, 12:45 pm

          Get a room!

          Reply
    • Dan October 3, 2012, 1:54 pm

      Joe, I just made a similar point above and totally agree. Factors external to my life have little to no effect on my concept of how well things are going for me. When job figures were released while the US was bleeding jobs every month, I always quipped: “Good thing I only need one.” Ironically, over the past few years, I’ve routinely worked two and three jobs at once. That doesn’t make me out of touch: it makes me successful.

      I get that there are plenty of nasty things going on in the world, but I don’t concern myself with that. While everyone else blathers on about this foreign county or that national debt, I will be keeping my focus much more narrowly on the things I can actually affect.

      Reply
  • Liz T October 3, 2012, 10:05 am

    Wow. I really, really needed to hear this right now. I’m old enough to know all these things (I hope I’m not old enough to be your mother, but I might be) but recently my optimism has started to slip away, nibbled at a bit at a time by random events that I keep trying to string together into a pattern, and not in my favor.

    People (in general) seriously underestimate the effect of their attitudes on their lives, but it is critical. And yes, you do have a choice in how you feel about things. It just takes practice. Hang in there, Jimbo, you’ll get there.

    Thanks, MMM. I’ll be re-reading this many times.

    Reply
  • Shawn G October 3, 2012, 10:06 am

    Definitely agree with your article, and appreciate how you laid it out.

    One thing I find difficult is being around people who are pessimists. If you continue to think you can’t do anything why even try? To me it doesn’t make sense to think you’re going to fail all the time. Give it a try and see what happens. As you said, if you fail, learn from it.

    Last night while at a social gathering I was talking with someone and told them my goal was to retire by 50. Another person chimed in with “good luck” in a sarcastic manner. I looked them in the eye and said “If I continue with the way that I’m saving, I will be retired by 50.” They just shook their head and laughed. Not only do they not think its possible for themselves, but they doubt that I can do it.

    What an unfun way to go about living life.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 3, 2012, 12:11 pm

      Nice story, Shawn G! Around here, we call people like those “Complainypants”.

      Many of the readers of this blog have retired (or reached financial independence) younger than 50. Here’s one guy who just recently retired at 50: http://www.caniretireyet.com/

      Reply
    • Joy October 3, 2012, 1:00 pm

      I had the same response from my new financial advisor (we switched when we moved to a new area). He had access to all our financials and current savings amounts. The funniest part was that he claimed to be an “expert in retirement” and wanted to help us set up our “plan”. When I told him we were well on our way, and that I hoped to be retired by 40 he said “HA! Good luck with that.” Idiot.

      Reply
    • Jonathan October 3, 2012, 1:55 pm

      I’ve seen a lot of pessimism that seems to be the result of people having to look closer at their own lives. Pessimism becomes a knee-jerk reaction knowing that it is something they themselves do not have the strength to do.

      When some people find out that I eat a mostly plant-based diet, they see it as almost a criticism to how THEY eat. I can see this being true for those who are incredibly responsible with their money.

      So in many cases, it isn’t people being pessimistic as much as it’s people who don’t want to be reminded of their own shortcomings.

      Reply
    • Jen October 3, 2012, 7:36 pm

      I remember a conversation with one of my relatives, who is about 60 years old and still working (I am 34). I mentioned that I am really busy at work and really looking forward to my retirement. He asked: “And what is the retirement age in your country?”
      The question was so unexpected, as it made me realize that some people live all their lives not even considering early retirement. They just have the mindset of working until the “retirement age” (65 in this particular case). Kinda feeling bad that I will retire in ~5 years – at around the same time as my elderly relative.

      Reply
      • Jamesqf October 3, 2012, 10:54 pm

        I’m more than a little surprised that anyone could think of 60 as “elderly”. I think of my neighbor, who’s still working part-time at 97, as barely past middle age :-)

        Reply
        • Jen October 4, 2012, 1:23 am

          Yeah, I know, I deliberated for a moment which word to use in this case and decided to go with “elderly” just referring to his late age (by this forum’s standards) of retirement. By no means I think of 60-ies as the “elderly ” age. I recently read an article where people were polled and on average they think that middle age starts at 55. I think that is about right. Yeah, maybe that is the word I should have used: middle-aged.
          On the other hand, I was recently referred to as “middle-aged woman” at 34 (I beg your pardon?), thus I guess in either case I might have gotten a remark depending who read this post :)

          Reply
          • Gerard August 21, 2013, 7:14 am

            I have no trouble with thinking of 60-plus (the last third of our likely lifespan) as old or elderly… if I was slicing up populations for a study, that’s what I would do. That then makes middle-aged anything between 30 and 60, so yeah, welcome to middle age, Jen!
            The problem comes, I think, with the negative associations our culture chooses to attach to the terms “old” or “elderly”. We use them to mean “washed up” or “feeble”. I’m 54, and I know a ton more stuff than I did at thirty. I refer to myself as “old” all the time!

            Reply
  • slowitdown October 3, 2012, 10:20 am

    I love the “fluffy and lifestyle-designey” posts the most! Seriously, I like all the practical ideas offered on this site, but also posts like these because it’s easy to get depressed thinking about all the mistakes you’ve made or how awful the world is. Last night I watched the PBS documentary “Half the Sky” and reading this post made me think of that. Even as terrible as some situations may be, I believe in the positive power of the human spirit to continue to make life on this planet better and correct the mistakes of the past.

    Reply
  • Tara October 3, 2012, 10:38 am

    I needed to read this this morning, thanks! Been feeling way too pessimistic and worrying too much. I am going to print this out and re-read it as many times as necessary to get myself out of this funk!

    Reply
  • Jesse October 3, 2012, 10:40 am

    Great article! I follow a number of doomer blogs closely for the past few years, Orlov included, though since I discovered MMM I have been much less interested in reading pessimistic predictions of the hell around the corner, and much more interested in what I can do right here & now to reduce/redefine my needs, depend less on industrial consumerism, and take specific actions to be more resilient.

    I find it extra refreshing that MMM fully understands the need for “transition”, to adapt to the changing climate & economy & resource depletion, and I think Mustachianism is the best thing we all can do right now to “prepare”. I wonder how many other readers have followed this path, ending up here for the same reasons?

    MMM & other readers, have you found any good sources for realistic/optimistic, big picture, somewhat actionable analysis of the global dilemma, without that pessimistic “it will all fall apart tomorrow” attitude? I’m especially keen on reading about changes other people have already made to become more resilient. Besides this blog, of course.

    Reply
    • TheHeadHunter October 3, 2012, 12:55 pm

      There’s definitely a place for doom and gloom blogs, especially if they help you prepare for the worst (hint: read ferfal’s blog). I bet the people in Greece and Spain that prepared are feeling pretty good right now, as their society crumbles.

      There’s an old saying, it’s probably Klingon, that states: Pray as if it all depends on God but Work as if it all depends on you…

      Reply
    • Kriegsspiel October 4, 2012, 7:27 pm

      This is the exact feeling I get from resilientcommunities. He’s all about not doing the typical “prepper” thing, but doing stuff that’s good for you no matter what. If you’ve been reading prepper sites, you’ll want to check it out.

      Reply
  • Doug October 3, 2012, 10:42 am

    There’s some rationale to it all. If you are an optimistic and positive person, people around you don’t mind working with or associating with you. It also means you are more likely to be hired or promoted. In my own experience I would rather be with a positive person than a whining sourpuss. That’s why such people do as well as they do. For best results, being positive should be coupled with an outgoing personality.
    On a related topic, that’s how karma works. It’s not some abstract spiritual, mystical, or supernatural thing but entirely explainable by simple natural causes. If you are a positive person who helps others, they in turn help you out or at worst keep you out of trouble. Similarly, few people go out of their way to help negative people. I had one boss who was negative, once he said something like: it’s harsh out there and it’s everyone for themselves. Well, for someone like him it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy and ultimately ends up being true.

    Reply
  • jlcollinsnh October 3, 2012, 11:10 am

    ah, crap. I’m only gonna live to be 122???

    Well, looking it over, my first half has been everything you describe and then some. I cherish now even the odd problems and catastrophes that cropped up along the way.

    My only major regret is that I spent way too much time worrying along the way. Didn’t help even the tiniest bit. It only cost me sleep.

    Your first paragraph is just about the most beautiful I’ve read on this idea. You should cut and paste it in to a permanent link at the top of your blog titled: Manifesto.

    Reply
    • Kenneth October 3, 2012, 1:17 pm

      +1

      Reply
    • Greg October 3, 2012, 1:47 pm

      I think you mean the *second* paragraph :-)

      Reply
      • jlcollinsnh October 3, 2012, 1:53 pm

        Ha! I did. But taking a second look, the first might even work better!

        Reply
  • Doug October 3, 2012, 11:22 am

    Further to my above comment, it actually takes more of your life energy to be a negative person, believe it or not. Thus a negative person consumes a lot of energy complaining and worrying about trivial things, so that’s less energy freed up to do things such as see opportunities like jobs, investment opportunities, fun thing to do, bargains, and so on. A positive person is more relaxed, sees these opportunities, and takes advantage of them.
    A saying I once heard sums it up: when opportunity knocks, most people complain about the noise. That’s especially true of negative people.

    Reply
    • Kenneth October 3, 2012, 1:18 pm

      +1

      Gosh, we need a +1 function ASAP, MMM!

      Reply
  • W at Off-Road Finance October 3, 2012, 11:25 am

    I of course have to like the obligatory Louis CK clip: Everything’s amazing, nobody’s happy.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk

    Reply
    • Joy October 3, 2012, 1:38 pm

      W at Off-Road Finance,

      Thanks for sharing that clip! LOL

      While I did laugh, he is right. Everything is amazing and, Nobody’s happy.

      That is what I enjoy the most here at MMM. Not only does he appreciate
      that everything is amazing. He appreciates that life itself and, nature are
      amazing. And, he is spreading that message which increases everybody’s
      happiness who will listen.

      MMM congrats on the TV show offer. Sounds interesting.

      Reply
    • Karawynn @ Pocketmint October 3, 2012, 7:52 pm

      Thank you. Love that!

      Reply
  • Bob October 3, 2012, 11:31 am

    Great article! I’ve never been one to get involved when friends and family piss and moan about politics, education, the economy, whatever. It’s unhealthy and pointless! if it’s something you can change, change it. Otherwise stop worrying about it!

    Reply
  • Heath October 3, 2012, 11:36 am

    An instant goddamned classic! I see hints of the golden optimism veins in myself, and I think that’s one of the reasons I enjoy your blog so much. It resonates with me :-)

    This particular post was filled with some hilarious lines! That shit about Marcelas Wallace, the annoyingly lucky friend, and your ironically not-too-conceited “I’m a fucking genius” bits were great.

    Dude… MMM, you brighten up my life. Seriously. I’m so incredibly thankful that I have this connection to a font of wisdom, joy and optimism (not to mention practicality), that also curses just to enough to make me sit up and take notice.

    HIP, HIP, HURAY! :-P

    Reply
  • Aloysa @ My Broken Coin October 3, 2012, 11:39 am

    There is stupid optimism that I call delusional optimism. Then there is smart optimism that borders with realism, and I call optimistic realism. Both types provide hope. The second type of optimism provides realistic sentiments that are applicable in real life. People need hope in order to function, to try and achieve something better, bigger. Optimism can be a driving force. Depends, I guess, how you approach it.

    Reply
  • joseph October 3, 2012, 11:39 am

    How did you find your own Gun 21 years ago ?

    Reply
  • SavvyFinancialLatina October 3, 2012, 12:16 pm

    Again, awesome article and advice!
    I’m definitely trying to be more positive and appreciate every day. It’s not always easy. I feel like the world has so many expectations that I’m not fulfilling. It’s easy to see the glass half empty instead of half full.

    Reply
  • jt October 3, 2012, 12:23 pm

    Kia Ora Mr and Mrs Money Moustache and Junior Stubble (tickle!)
    The bedrock of my normal optimistic nature has had a king hit. I’ve recently become a single Mum and am terrified of my financial future (an irrational reaction comparable to partnering up with a Klingon while relying on a limping Enterprise with dodgy warp drive!). Despite this, the quote “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so!” is alive and well. You’re absolutely dead on it (and not for the first time!).

    My salary is 34% of our previous family income but I have been saving money like a squirrel saves nuts for winter and getting better and better at it. Through the gradual return of optimistism, some tentative planning and five year analysis, and some bloody hard work, I suspect my 11yo son and I will be OK. Thank you for being so wonderful and blazing the frugal trail and getting out and talking about it. Um, I haven’t found any reference to my situation in your blog and just wonder if you could provide a little mustachian help?

    PS I LOVE my bike! Check out Banjo Paterson’s poem “Mulga Bill’s Bicycle” for Junior Stubble.

    Go well!

    Reply
  • Peter October 3, 2012, 12:28 pm

    I really like how your blog is changing shape to more existential topics, over (still very useful) penny-pinching micro advice.

    If you like this post you should check out Brent Smith’s videos. He started out as a dating adviser for men but then changed his focus to promoting happiness and success in life. I find his nearly daily videos to be a great inspiration.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UNyCfSET9UQ&feature=plcp

    Reply
  • guitarist October 3, 2012, 12:32 pm

    122? Well, sir, I plan to live forever.

    Great post. I wish my girlfriend would read it with an open mind and actually take it to heart. She is always pessimistic, almost to the point of being catatonic. She wants to learn Spanish, she is looking for a teaching job, she has a masters. So she is called for a second interview with a local school who would like her to learn Spanish. She turned it down. She told me she said no because she doesn’t want to be forced to learn Spanish. WTF? They will pay you to do something you wanted to do anyway! With one of their teachers as basically a private tutor!
    I tell her to start tracking her expenses, she will not because she doesn’t want to be depressed about the lack of income. Well, first of all, beyond me being pissed that she turned down what probably would have been a great teaching position, the fact you have no income (and a lot of debt on top of it) is what make it MORE important to track where you are throwing money away. Then, when you get depressed about the lack of income, you will be encouraged to get a job and cut down the frivilous expenses.
    I want to get rid of cable. She says it is easy for me to say that because I’m not home all day… and I miss the problem there. Maybe the TV is a crutch that lets her feel comfortable not having a job. And then I come home to all the negative stuff that was on the news that day.

    I guess my post sounds pessimistic but I honestly am not. Somewhere around my senior year of high school I just changed my attitude. I look down on some things going on in the world, but if I can’t change it, then I move on until there is something I can do to help. What’s the point of worrying?

    Reply
    • Dragline October 4, 2012, 1:39 pm

      Hate to say it, but you may need a new girlfriend. Pessimism in others generally falls into the category of things that are out of our control.

      Reply
  • Mike Long October 3, 2012, 12:39 pm

    Here’s how amazing this stuff can be…

    Neither my dad nor his dad made it out of their 40’s without life-saving open-heart surgery. I’m 42, so you can imagine what I tend to think about on the down days….

    “I won’t make it out of my 40’s healthy.”

    On my better days, I figure I’ll live as long as 3 of my grandparents, who all made it to their mid-80’s. That creates a slightly better meme, though only slightly…

    “At 42, I guess I’ve lived about half of my life by now.”

    Reading MMM’s note on living to be 122 was something that I had never even remotely considered (though at my current age and with continuing medical advances, it’s certainly within the outer realms of possibility).

    Now my meme suddenly becomes…

    “Wow! That could mean that I’ve only lived about 1/3 of my life. I still have time to do just about anything I want!!”

    That’s quite a change in mindset from the first one, dont’cha think? ;-)

    I was amazed at the strength of the shift I felt in my brain, my mood and my attitude. The key for me is staying in that mindset day in and day out.

    Reply
    • Margaret June 28, 2013, 8:18 am

      Interesting that you mention this. My Mom’s brother died at age 30 of a heart attack. She is now 65…I”m 38 and for as long as I can remember she’s always said that she doesn’t have much time left ..she’s been saying that for over 30 years.

      Reply
  • mike crosby October 3, 2012, 12:50 pm

    Ah, MMM just doesn’t let me down. I scan through my reader with over 100 new posts to purview. Of them all, MMM’s post gets my attention.

    MMM, you really do have a special gift. Keep up the great writing.

    Oh yeah, in regards to the book “The Secret”, at the end it says to go outside and turn around one time and say “life is wonderful” or something like that. My elderly secretary did that, fell down and broke her hip. She’s dead now. (No joke)

    Reply
  • CL October 3, 2012, 1:28 pm

    I ran the numbers yesterday to figure out how much I actually spend per month on essentials such as food. I realized that I could probably survive on ERE-levels of cash flow, especially if I had a house. I’m still in school, but by the time that I graduate with my four degrees next May, I should have enough money to keep me afloat for 5 or so years, which would mean that I’m 20% of the way there. I’ve always thought that Jacob’s hardcore tactics were fantastic, but that I could never live like that. MMM has shown me the light; I can live like that. Almost all of the adults in my family are Negators about my early retirement, but my sister is very supportive – probably because I want her to retire at 30 and she’s seen that it’s possible. :)

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 3, 2012, 2:49 pm

      Cool story, CL!
      I still have to resolve the dispute between softcore and hardcore frugality, by talking about the slippery slope to minimalism in another article. Most frugal people don’t think they are hardcore, they just think they are living a great and sensible life. For example, Jacob from ERE takes ice-cold showers, because he finds it increases his general badassity. I still take hot showers (especially in winter). I could call him extreme for being that further level along the scale, but he’d disagree.

      Reply
  • Jamesqf October 3, 2012, 2:07 pm

    I think you’re perhaps missing a couple of points.

    First, something minor. You say “…f you’ve ever been to a bar and watched a less-attractive friend have far greater success in attracting mates…”. Now that’s just wrong. If your friend is having greater success in attracting mates, the friend is BY DEFINITION more attractive. If you think otherwise, it’s your standards of what constitutes attractiveness that are at fault. (This is something a lot of women could reflect on, as they often seem to try to attract men by dressing/behaving in ways that appeal to other women.)

    Second, those collapse theorists. What you don’t seem to realize is that they are being optimistic, from their particular points of view. If you don’t like the world as we know it, then the idea of the collapse as the first step in building something better can be quite appealing. Witness any number of post-apocalyptic tales.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 3, 2012, 2:44 pm

      By “attractive”, I meant the physical part of it – how you look. But in the bar scene confidence and lack of inhibition and general friendliness are much more powerful than just your physical presence. So maybe I should have said “your ugly friends”. :-)

      Reply
    • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 3, 2012, 4:06 pm

      Very true re: doomers. I get a lot of overlap with the bean-and-bullet audience on my blog and…how do I put this? Most of the time, I love those guys. If you read what they’re really saying, they *want* the whole f-ing thing to come down. They really do. They think the foundation of society is cracked, the joists are rotten, the drywall is molding and the sink is ugly to boot, so it’s easier to raze the whole thing and start with a new build than to keep patching up what’s broken. They are excited about being so prepared that they’ll survive and be the first out of the bunker tubes in 15 years to help remake the world. It’s all wrapped in collapse talk and there is tons of fear involved too, but ultimately it’s a Genesis fantasy.

      Reply
      • Mr. Money Mustache October 3, 2012, 7:10 pm

        Damn, Erica! That is some sweet insight on the doomer movement that had never occurred to me. I’m off to check out your blog right now to see what other neat things are there.. http://www.nwedible.com/

        Reply
        • Erica / Northwest Edible Life October 3, 2012, 10:10 pm

          You’re catching me running a very finance-heavy month because we’re doing one of our periodic No Spend Challenges. (Including many links to your site, which has been very inspirational to me.) Normally, it’s more canning and gardening and chickens and occasional rants about urban homesteading and related fun. :)

          Reply
      • Dragline October 4, 2012, 1:49 pm

        Agreed. A lot of it is simply not liking where you are in the social pecking order of your reality. So you imagine another one where you are “superior” and then spend all your time convincing yourself its just around the corner. Call it the “Farnham’s Freehold” syndrome.

        The most pathetic are those who hoard food and weapons, yet are in such poor physical shape they would never survive more than a week without medication. And would be easily overrun by the Army of Zombies that I plan on leading.

        Reply
      • Emmers October 5, 2012, 2:09 pm

        For a taste of what would *really* happen in a societal collapse, read “Alas, Babylon” by Pat Frank. (Spoiler alert: lots of people die – some through no fault of their own, some otherwise. And this is in rural Florida, where the winters don’t kill you and the agriculture is plentiful.)

        It depresses me that the doomers you mention *want* to live in a society where my best friend (Type I diabetic, yo) would die, but…I guess that’s just on them.

        Reply
  • Kevin October 3, 2012, 2:24 pm

    MMM, this post was awesome! Thank you very much for your inspired and optimistic writing, it encourages me and opens my mind to patterns of thinking that I am not used to using.

    I am looking forward to the Stark Trek utopian future.

    Reply
  • Uncephalized October 3, 2012, 2:55 pm

    MMM, you are too awesome.

    My life is becoming more awesome too, the more I understand that my life is under my control, that I can fearlessly make the choices that appeal most to me on a deeply personal level, and that if I live my values and my wishes openly, optimistically, and honestly then respect and success will just happen. They’re not something that I need to worry about much.

    Thanks for the shot from the Optimism Gun!

    Reply
  • freetobelee October 3, 2012, 5:14 pm

    I actually just redid my Flange module from scratch and Schmidt slated it for the 2.2 release. I’m stoked.

    Now what’s this hear about your TPS reports? Didn’t you get that memo?

    Reply
  • Jen October 3, 2012, 7:28 pm

    “You’re doing more than just discussing your situation right now.. You’re creating your own reality!”

    Loved this.

    Reply
  • jet October 3, 2012, 7:44 pm

    Ah, pessimism…. I think the most unfit people I know go ‘oh I have a sore …., I can’t work out today that would be pushing myself too hard and will hurt myself’, and as a result they get even more unfit and more likely to hurt themselves.

    Reply
    • Jamesqf October 3, 2012, 9:48 pm

      But then you have the irrational optimists, who think “Yes, I really CAN bench press 200 lbs!” when they should be doing half that, strain something, and wind up unable to work out for weeks. There’s a sweet spot where optimism needs to be tempered with realism, as e.g. “Well, I can do 100 lbs this week, go for 110 next week, and in a few months I’ll have worked my way up to 200.”

      Reply
      • jet October 4, 2012, 2:54 am

        Jamesqf – I think that moderation may come with maturity/a bit of age/wisdom? Like you learn know that you are progressing from a base point, not doubling your ability in a week (or doing something you have never done before!) I think there are more ‘I can’t’ people around than the ‘bench 200lbs’ types, well there are around me at least.

        Reply
        • Jamesqf October 4, 2012, 11:51 am

          I’ll grant that this over-optimism seem to be a lot more common in the financial area than the physical, as in “Sure, I’ll be able to make the payments on this new car/house/whatever that I’m buying on my over-extended credit.” or “Taking out $100K in student loans to get an English Lit degree from Harvard is a great investment.”

          Reply
  • Jeffrey October 3, 2012, 8:31 pm

    Turns out this optimism thing has been going on for awhile!!

    http://www.coachwooden.com

    Nice post. Thank you.

    Reply
  • Mirella October 3, 2012, 8:48 pm

    Love this very entertaining post :)
    Browsing through some of the comments made me think that for many this idea is a bit extreme and challenging because they are yet to master the art of optimism and self-belief at the individual level. Once full belief, and not just positive self talk, has taken root, people can see their own lives change in amazing ways. Then they are ready to apply the same belief on a larger scale to their community, their country and then the world.
    I’d love to read a post about applying the Optimism Gun on the smaller scale :)

    Reply
  • Nathan Haslewood October 4, 2012, 2:49 am

    Love it. Well done MMM. As someone who’s studied Buddhism, it’s encouraging to see this spreading to the West. They’ve been at it for 2,000 – we’re getting there!! :)

    Reply
  • Arbor33 October 4, 2012, 5:05 am

    We are definitely in control of our own health! I’m glad you touched on that. I have a friend who is perpetually sick or aching or just complaining about something. I refuse to believe that she’s consistently been dealt a series of such shitty hands. Keeping with the analogy, she needs to learn how to bluff! I’ve always considered myself immune to most things. I know it’s not 100% true but I couldn’t tell you the last time I’ve been sick. The placebo effect is powerful!

    We can control so much in our own lives. That’s why I like to say, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me.”

    Reply
  • lurker October 4, 2012, 6:54 am

    I actually think it may be pure writing talent from an engineer…sure as hell can’t be optimism. that stuff is nuts!
    cheers all.

    Reply
  • M October 4, 2012, 6:59 am

    If you subscribe to the “second brain” theory then a substantial portion of our nervous system lies in our gut. Most of its messages are subconscious and cautionary. So if you eat a crap diet, you’ll view the world with some negativity. Improve your diet, breathe deep clear fresh air, and you’ll see the world with an open mind. I imagine if we could teleport ourselves into the past (as little as 200 years ago) and told folks what humans have accomplished in terms of vaccines, disease prevention, food security, they’d think we’d hit Utopia. Most humans today have never had it so good.

    Reply
  • Tushar @ Everything Finance October 4, 2012, 7:22 am

    Optimism is magnetic. Positive people are so much nicer to be around than pessimists. Optimistic people also make way better leaders, because they generally don’t waste time freaking out about things that could happen, and focus on making things happen. It’s hard to always remain optimistic, though, and I think we as humans need constant reminders.

    Reply
  • Donovan October 4, 2012, 9:58 am

    Found a quote that goes very well with this :)

    Embedded within that question is the key to understanding the science of happiness. Because what that question assumes is that our external world is predictive of our happiness levels, when in reality, if I know everything about your external world, I can only predict 10 percent of your long-term happiness. 90 percent of your long-term happiness is predicted not by the external world, but by the way your brain processes the world. And if we change it, if we change our formula for happiness and success, what we can do is change the way that we can then affect reality. What we found is that only 25 percent of job successes are predicted by I.Q. 75 percent of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.

    Reply
  • Freeyourchains October 4, 2012, 10:05 am

    I was looking up applications for Mail in Absentee Ballots, and these “restrictions” were posted on their website for the state of Pennsylvania..I think to deter the average american away from voting earlier to increase the chance they don’t vote in general.

    “Who[m] may Vote by Absentee Ballot?

    The following people may vote for any office in any election by absentee ballot as long as they are registered to vote (unless otherwise indicated):

    A person who is or may be in the military service of the United States, regardless of whether at the time of voting the person is present in the election district of residence or in the Commonwealth and regardless of whether he or she is registered to vote.

    A spouse or dependent residing with or accompanying a person in the military service of the United States and who expects on Election Day to be absent from his or her municipality of residence during the entire period in which the polling places are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.).

    A member of the Merchant Marine and his/her spouse and dependents residing with or accompanying the Merchant Marine, who expect on Election Day to be absent from the Commonwealth or the municipality of residence during the entire period in which the polling places are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.).

    A member of a religious or welfare group attached to and serving with the armed forces and his/her spouse and dependents residing with or accompanying him or her, who expect on Election Day to be absent from the Commonwealth or the municipality of residence during the entire period in which the polling places are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.).

    An individual who, because of the elector’s duties, occupation or business (including leaves of absence for teaching, vacations and sabbatical leaves), expects on Election Day to be absent from his/her municipality of residence during the entire period the polls are open for voting and the spouse and dependents of such electors who are residing with or accompanying the elector and for that reason also expect to be absent from his/her municipality during the entire period the polls are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.).

    A qualified war veteran elector who is bedridden or hospitalized due to illness or physical disability if the elector is absent from the municipality of his residence and unable to attend his/her polling place because of such illness or disability, regardless of whether the elector is registered to vote.

    A person who, because of illness or physical disability, is unable to attend his/her polling place or to operate a voting machine and obtain assistance by distinct and audible statements. (Note: A disabled elector may be placed on a permanently disabled absentee file.)

    A spouse or dependent accompanying a person employed by the Commonwealth or the federal government, in the event that the employee’s duties, occupation or business on Election Day require him/her to be absent from the Commonwealth or the municipality of residence during the entire period the polls are open for voting (7 a.m. to 8 p.m.).

    A county employee who expects that his Election Day duties relating to the conduct of the election will prevent the employee from voting.

    A person who will not attend a polling place on Election Day because of the observance of a religious holiday.”
    source http://www.votespa.com –> types of Voting ..> Absentee Ballots.

    WOW! REALLY? What if i just want to vote early and vote with a more convienant modern method to save me gas, money, and TIME? I guess i have to tell them i am religious and won’t be there, see if that will pass my application for a Mail In Ballot. Plus, i think it’s ludicrous that we all vote on a workday tuesday and don’t get a National Service Holiday OFF for exercising our Constitutional Right to Vote.

    I wonder even if America were ever to be invaded, that if my nation would declare an Emergency day off for people to obtain weapons for theirselves and for homeland Security?!!! (I guess we’ll just have to depend on learning Martical Arts and the hopeful assumption we still have the right to bear Arms.)

    Reply
    • Bella October 4, 2012, 10:58 am

      Wow, that’s a little ridiculous. I guess it’s more expensive to manage the mail in ballots than to to just expect everyone to wait in line for hours at end at the polling places.
      I’m pretty sure in CO you have to do something special to be able to vote in person.
      Somehow you don’t get to stay registered to vote if you don’t vote every year.

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2012, 5:01 pm

      Are you sure that an Absentee Ballot is the same thing as a Mail-in Ballot in your area? I thought the absentee one is what you use if you are out of the country.

      Still, I can see several ways to qualify from even that silly list. And yeah, I agree – going somewhere in person is a ridiculous and outdated way to accomplish anything that boils down to just involves transferring some paper of information! (banking, taxes, payments, license renewals, etc). I do it all online, by credit card, with automatic mode set to “ON” if at all possible.

      Reply
      • plam October 4, 2012, 7:03 pm

        There is actually a security/privacy issue with not-in-person voting. The problem is that it’s really hard to guarantee that your vote, which is private, got properly recorded. This is very different from financial transactions. Elections are important and probably worth a bit of inconvenience.

        (Systemically: how does the government ensure that you are not selling your vote with a mail-in ballot? You can vote in front of the person who is buying your vote. It’s important for elections to be not buyable.)

        I believe in optimism but also in setting up the system to prevent bad actors from wrecking the system.

        Reply
        • Jamesqf October 4, 2012, 9:42 pm

          Also, with mail-in ballots, there needs to be some way to ensure that the people sending them in actually are residents of the voting precinct, and not the mobile equivalent of the graveyard vote.

          Reply
          • Oh Yonghao October 28, 2014, 11:42 am

            Oregon has been leading the nation in vote-by-mail and has done Presidential elections since 2000 with vote-by-mail, having an 80% turn out rate. Their earliest vote-by-mail election in Oregon began in 1981, so there is now 33 years of history, trial and error behind this method of voting. There are already laws governing voting fraud, so we don’t have to change anything there. Ballots are mailed out, you sign the voting envelope after filling out the ballot, then send it back in (postage not included), or drop it off at the library or other drop-box location.

            Theoretically you could sell your ballot, after signing the envelope, to someone else to vote, but again, there are hefty penalties.

            In your state you can only be registered in one location, you could keep a property somewhere just for the purpose of voting in that district, but then you wouldn’t be voting in the district that you are a resident, so what’s the purpose? If it happens to be in another state, then maybe you might get away with being registered twice, unless the states share voter registration information and realize you are registered in both states. Again hefty penalties are attached if you are caught.

            As a lot of things in life you can find endless objections and fringe cases where something may have happened, but just like when people first get a bike trailer and worry about leaving it outside the grocery store because someone could steal it, you’ll find the ones who have been doing it for a long time haven’t had their trailer stolen yet and no longer worry.

            Reply
  • ddrem October 4, 2012, 10:52 am

    Good post, MMM. But I believe optimism is more in the action than in the worldview. An optimistic attitude only works if you’re taking the right steps toward an optimistic future. If my day consisted of me sitting on the couch, eating a bag of chips, getting fatter and watching reality television, I’d have to be insane to be optimistic about my future. However, if I’m learning new things, increasing my skill set and getting in shape through regular exercise, an optimistic attitude would be a natural by-product of my actions.

    Peace of mind is what enables you to be optimistic about the future. It’s only when you’re deficient in some areas that pessimism can creep in and take hold. If there is some deficiency in your life that is leading you towards pessimism, please DO SOMETHING about it immediately. Take positive action and your attitude will follow.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2012, 4:57 pm

      Great point DD – I find I’m at my happiest and most optimistic at the end of a long day when I have Gotten Some Great Shit Done. Hard work is the recharging fluid for the optimism gun.

      Reply
  • Clint October 4, 2012, 11:22 am

    My optimism gun stopped firing in August. I didn’t want to outsource the repair, but since it stopped working, I don’t think I have what it takes to fix it myself.

    But seriously, ever since I was a hard working grade schooler, I used to constantly underestimate myself, tell myself that I was probably going to fail, etc. Then when I got a perfect or near perfect grade, I’d get a short-term high. Because I made it seem so dire, I tricked myself with a nice positive surprise. I’d do the same with the college sports team I loved–convince myself they were going to lose so I could be extra happy when they won. This is warped, I know. My dad used to say I liked to whip myself. I still do this stupid stuff today. Yet I’m a happy guy, trying much of the advice here, enjoying most of it. I guess I need someone to coldcock my with an optimism gun.

    My broken one is sitting here. Wonder if I can do it myself?

    Reply
  • Bando October 4, 2012, 12:21 pm

    For me the negativity gremlins are hard to keep quiet. I’ve learned that they can be held in check temporarily by positive bluster. Zig Ziglar talked them down for a good long bit. Mr MM has punched them in the face a few times. But whenever I am weak or tired they sneak back in. They feed on the noise of self talk and I find the best way to defeat them is to dump the internal conversation completely.

    Reply
  • MMSW October 4, 2012, 12:36 pm

    I’ve been waiting for about a week for an appropriate time to post this but i just can’t wait anymore…. I bought a bike and rode that bitch 8 miles round trip to the grocery store yesterday. … yeah, i am about 40lbs over weight and it damn near killed me, but I am going to do it again in a few days.
    Thanks MMM for giving me the guts to do this.

    Reply
    • Clint October 4, 2012, 3:05 pm

      Congrats!

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2012, 4:44 pm

      WOW!! Excellent MMSW – your attitude is thoroughly kickass – thanks for sharing it!

      Reply
  • Marie at FamilyMoneyValues October 4, 2012, 12:42 pm

    Pretty cool pics from Next Gen – my 2nd fav Start Trek series.
    I like point 3. If you talk yourself into believing you are going to fail, you talk yourself out of even trying. I’ve been pretty expert at this most of my life!

    Reply
  • Erika October 4, 2012, 2:13 pm

    Thank you MMM for another inspirational post. Definitely a keeper.

    Reply
  • rjack October 4, 2012, 2:14 pm

    In general, I agree it is good to be optimistic. But how do you draw the line between being optimistic and being naive?

    Reply
    • Dragline October 4, 2012, 3:51 pm

      “Affirmation without discipline is the beginning of delusion.”

      It means it’s good and useful to think good things, but you have to have some activity involved towards achieving or maintaining your goals.

      Goal Example: It’s good to envision yourself as financially independent, but if you are not there, you need to save/cut expenses and track your progress. Journal it, baby.

      Maintenence Example: If you are in good health, its good to be grateful for it and optimistic for your probable long life, but that doesn’t entitle you to start getting drunk every night and stop exercising.

      “Never let the weeds get higher than the garden. Always keep a sapphire in your mind. Always keep a diamond in your mind.” T. Waits — “Get Behind the Mule (in the Morning and Plow)”

      Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2012, 4:53 pm

      Hmm.. that’s a good way to phrase the question Rjack. Of course, being smart would always help. But how does a person of very average ability get appropriate optimism without becoming naive? From a practical sense, I’d say just maintaining a conservative slant on your financial life. Never spend money on current luxuries, assuming future income will pay it back. Prepare for the worst, expect the best. Assume that money comes from hard work rather than pyramid marketing schemes.

      The optimism I was talking about here is more in the areas of being optimistic that you can get a great job, learn things you currently think would be hard to learn, and most of all, not wasting time on worry.

      Reply
      • Dragline October 4, 2012, 5:59 pm

        I think you need to create a Virtuous Circle. Its the opposite of a Vicious Circle.

        In a Virtuous Circle, optimism spurs planning and action, which is tracked to record measurable improvement in a reasonable time in some way, which creates satisfaction and additional optimism.

        In a Vicious Circle, pessimism leads to inaction and a failure to accomplish anything, which leads to blaming forces beyond your control and further pessimism.

        Optimism just needs an occasional kick-start, which triggers an idea or a feeling. That’s essentially what you do here.

        Reply
        • Kim October 7, 2013, 2:14 pm

          I love this.

          Reply
  • clyde October 4, 2012, 2:23 pm

    If you are a 5 year old orphan living on a rubbish dump in Brazil or India how far will optimism get you?
    We are all lottery winners in comparison. Life for most of humanity is a grind.

    Reply
    • jlcollinsnh October 4, 2012, 5:28 pm

      yep. we are….

      ….and we should start acting like it and using that lever we’ve been blessed with to build our success.

      Then maybe one day that optimistic kid on the garbage dump will find a hand extended to help. Maybe even the hand of someone here.

      Reply
  • Travis October 4, 2012, 2:42 pm

    “On top of that, the human race is bound for an ever-better fate, ironing out most of its current problems and most of the problems that follow in the future, ending up at a tantalizing Star Trek Utopia.”

    MMM, I hate to be a party-pooper here, but there is significant evidence that suggests humans will not be able to meaningfully reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in time to curb the accelerating greenhouse gas effect that is occurring.

    It’s not talked about much, but climate change is the real deal, and scientists feel confident that the consequences will be extremely dire. We will continue to see increasingly extreme weather patterns over the next 50-100 years, which will leads to droughts, starvation, floods, war, water shortages, etc. The future does not look good.

    How do you stay optimistic with this knowledge?

    Personally, I take comfort in the vast and awe-inspiring beauty of the universe. Scientists believe that other intelligent life is probable, and I have hope that if humans do not survive (due to runaway greenhouse effect), then there will be other species out there exploring and understanding the cosmos in our place.

    It’s an abstract way for me to be optimistic about the future, but ultimately it’s difficult for me to stay positive when observing the world’s inaction regarding climate change. I would very much like to see humans succeed into the future!

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 4, 2012, 4:39 pm

      I hear ya, Travis.. I do read all that climate change stuff in a fair amount of detail these days. But if you understand this article well enough, you will start to understand why I remain so optimistic (hint: it’s the part about not worrying even a tiny bit about what you can’t control, even as you take steps towards helping to solve the problem yourself).

      Reply
      • Travis October 4, 2012, 11:20 pm

        The problem is that I do have a small amount of control. We can always do more to influence the world (you’re doing a great job with this blog, btw).

        I can try and pretend that I can’t, but the reality is that I could be doing more to influence how quickly our society recognizes the seriousness of climate change. Either through volunteering, donating money, chaining myself to a russian drill rig in the arctic, etc.

        It feels selfish and irresponsible to NOT worry about the world’s problems. Specifically for climate change, this is something we should all be worrying about and discussing on a constant basis.

        We’re all in this together, and deluding ourselves into optimistically believing that everything is going to be okay (when all evidence indicates otherwise) seems dangerous.

        Reply
        • Mr. Money Mustache October 5, 2012, 3:25 pm

          You’re right Travis, but there’s action and there is worry. I don’t mind taking action.. but I never worry that I’m not personally taking _enough_ action. The worry itself works directly against your goals, so you just don’t allow it to exist. Just keep yourself busy, make sure you’re generally moving forward instead of backwards, and all is well. The world really will be fine, and you can help make it that way!

          Reply
    • Doug October 5, 2012, 8:46 am

      I agree fully, this climate change issue could create a lot of trouble not just for humankind but also to a lot of other living things in the future. The trouble is, it isn’t getting the attention it deserves. It’s like the ship’s going down but most people don’t notice because they are too busy arranging the deck chairs. If more people were like we mustachians, this problem would be solved or well on its way to being solved. By that I mean we are efficient in the way we use energy and resources (a good start to reducing carbon emissions), and we appear to be more informed and educated than most of the population and understand the nature of the problem and how everyone needs to pitch in NOW to solve it. The consequences of climate change will affect everyone and are thus everyone’s problem.

      The problem is, nothing will be done until it’s too late, so I figure it’s time to take a defensive stance by buying investments that should do well. The first is to avoid insurance companies. The payouts for damages will go up due to more extreme weather events. Companies that will thrive include power companies that produce low carbon energy like Northland Power, Brookfield Renewable Power, Western Wind Energy, or Algonquin Power. Other companies that will benefit are uranium producers like Cameco. When the world finally clues into the need for low carbon energy, there will likely be a nuclear energy boom. General Electric is a good bet, as they have exposure to nuclear, wind energy, and build railway locomotives (trains are an efficient lower carbon way to move goods or passengers). If you can think of other good investments, feel free to mention them. Last but not least, avoid coal companies.

      Reply
    • lurker October 6, 2012, 2:37 pm

      agreed. BUT we can still be optimistic enough to act to save the planet even as it starts to look more and more like Custer’s last stand…in fact, if we have kids, what choice do we have? their world is going to be massively changed…

      Reply
      • toranga_leela October 9, 2012, 11:35 am

        Absolutely – And while I agree that climate change is a serious thing, and we really need to act on it, I remember reading when I was a kid that the world would be uninhabitable by the 1990’s due to pollution (this was in the 1960’s I’m an old timer), so I think it’s possible the situation might not be as dire as predicted – having said that though, on the subject of climate change, I do have a son and a nephew, and am in favor of doing whatever we can to slow the course of climate change, and I think positive action rather than hand-wringing is the best way to go.

        Reply
  • Cecile October 4, 2012, 4:56 pm

    So now we have a “Badassity Portfolio” (see post from a couple weeks ago), and an “Optimism Gun” as asset. I like this journey more and more every day!

    We should make a series of cartoons out of MMM, would be better than the TV show.

    Reply
  • Mrs EconoWiser October 4, 2012, 10:51 pm

    I should use the optimism gun more often, thanks for your inspiration.

    Reply
  • Iforonwy October 5, 2012, 2:15 am

    For a long time now I have been thinking that folk could be thinking themselves into recession. I try to live by the “I have enough” theory of life. If that fails then I think of my late father’s nickname for me – “Pollyanna – with attitude!” But there again he also called me “Calam” as in Calamity Jane.

    Reply
  • G.E. Miller October 5, 2012, 7:31 am

    MMM, you’ve mentioned numerous times that you tend to over-worry about everything (which would imply you being overly pessimistic or fearful).

    This article is motivating, but I’d love to hear more about how you made the transition to optimist, b/c I don’t think it’s as easy as pulling out a gun.

    Reply
    • Mr. Money Mustache October 5, 2012, 3:21 pm

      Hey GE.. I’m not sure if I said I tend to over-worry about everything. I did say my natural instinct has been to be cautious, and it’s true that much of my present fortified life has been caused by a continued mission to drive down the probability of bad stuff happening.

      I think this goes back to “expect the best, prepare for the worst” again. For the most recent 20 years, I’ve always felt strongly that “Things are great and they’re just going to keep getting better”. The caution or worry part is just an undertone of The Nagging Voices of Success that remind me to keep moving forward.

      To make the transition from pessimist to optimist, you just need to hang out with confident people, and read books by them. Just like pessimism, it is contagious.

      Reply
  • Sara October 5, 2012, 1:10 pm

    Thank you for this awesome and timely article. My husband and I are small business owners (just opened our shop this past March) and the past 2 months have been pretty tough. It’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but we have chosen to evolve and are constantly coming up with new ideas to incorporate into our business. It would be so easy just to throw in the towel at this point, but we are going to make this work. This is a great reminder of how powerful positive thinking is!

    Reply
  • Invest It Wisely October 8, 2012, 8:28 am

    A bit of a singularitarian are you? ;) Some amount of optimism is a great thing to have, especially when it’s something you have control over and believe in. I also think that different people have different set points, and I sometimes catch myself leaning too much toward the pessimist side, and I have to catch myself and try to head back toward the middle. It’s too bad our minds are not as easily programmable as a computer.

    Reply
  • toranga_leela October 9, 2012, 9:04 am

    I just found this site a little over a week ago – I love it! Great advice and so in line with my thinking. This particular post about Outrageous Optimism is the best.

    Reply
  • Niki October 14, 2012, 10:12 am

    I totally agree with what some people here have said: “I also think that different people have DIFFERENT set points, and I sometimes catch myself leaning too much toward the pessimist side”.

    Sometimes, based from my own observations & experiences so far, it IS true that a pessimist is actually a person with more ‘realistic’ outlook, and even more objective & rational (so it’s *NOT* only about a person being *intentionally* negative, or pessimistic, etc etc…it’s not that simple!).

    And vice versa: an optimist is actually, in worse cases, those people who just BLINDLY accept everything, without any rationality & logic & common-sense, and just act on sort of a “BLIND faith” , as well as being FAKE sometimes (eg: “fake-optimism” , ie: want to be 100% ‘ohh i’m soo happy and everything is okayyy woo-hooohh life is beautifulll yaayyyy I have NO PROBLEMS at all in my life yayyy’ ……that’s just naive, in my opinion).

    Sometimes, we DO need those ‘pessimists’ (or should I perhaps say: “realistic”) people, because they can and often DO point-out many important points & perspectives that’s often too gullibly & ignorantly overlooked by those ‘simple-minded’ optimists.

    I admit that I actually lean more *nowadays* towards being a ‘pessimist’ (well, that’s what many people told me..) , but I choose to view myself as rather being a RATIONAL REALIST , rather than being a “BLIND optimist” . because I often like to point out to my ‘optimist, and simple-minded’ friends of mine about the important facts, things that they’ve missed due to their ‘over-simplified’ and blind optimisms.

    No offense to all those ‘optimists’ out there,
    I’m just trying to add more perspective here, so people’s understandings here can become much more richer.

    Reply
  • EDI January 23, 2013, 10:28 am

    “Because which is more likely: a software engineer who didn’t even take an English class in university just happens to be the most amazing writer in the world with the most useful financial ideas as well? Or that the blog just makes people feel good about their lives because it is much more optimistic than other writing on the topic, and this motivates them to try some new things?”

    You now, after rolling my eyes for all of my life at the helpless, insane optimists, those few words left me a bit speechless.

    Sure, it’s not really 100% truth, in that optimism = success. But I feel as if I understood… something. It’s not even about money – I’m sure that I can manage it way better than 95% of humanity – but about life itself.

    I don’t think I’m making much sense at the moment, but… thanks, mate.

    Reply
  • Greg March 5, 2013, 11:12 pm

    It turns out the benefits of optimism are real! Who knew?
    http://tinyurl.com/cm59j2m

    Reply
  • Young Kim April 27, 2013, 2:15 pm

    MMM, you just blew my mind with Optimism and reduced me to tears. I always thought being optimistic was equivalent to being naive and foolish. But reading this made me realize being a pessimist doesn’t change a darn thing! I feel so much freer knowing that optimism is a good thing! Thank you!

    Reply
  • John June 13, 2013, 6:26 pm

    Mr. Money Mustache,

    That was awesome! You are pulling me out of the mud and rays of sun are shining on my face for the first time since I was a kid! I just told my boss’s boss that everything was going to be great – “we’re focusing on the highest priorities and have great controls around…… blah blah blah”

    Now I’m going for a run!

    Thanks!

    John

    Reply
  • Mr. Minsc June 24, 2013, 9:25 pm

    Optimism, this is something I’ve certainly improved in the past decade. Still, I have a long way to go. The biggest thing I’ve learned is sitting around thinking of doing something leads nowhere. While I can still get stuck with inaction, the switch does eventually flip. When it does I snap in to action. Being optimistic is a great help avoiding avoidance. :)

    Edit: Oh yes, Sir Patrick at the top of the article is awesome. If you look up talks and Q&A sessions he gives during conventions you’ll be inspired by his stories of his own personal issues he has overcome in life. It really helps one see that actors are human too. ;)

    Reply
  • Michelle September 9, 2013, 8:48 am

    Thank you SO MUCH for this blog! Exactly what I needed to read today!

    Reply
  • DT October 23, 2013, 8:21 pm

    Hey MMM,

    Brand new reader of the site, and I’m consuming your articles at an alarming rate.

    I LIKE your style brother. What a great post!

    This article and the one on Stoicism are two of my favorites so far. Optimism is definitely the way to go. Thank you!

    DT

    Reply
  • Eric January 31, 2014, 5:41 pm

    This is fantastic! Mr. Money Mustache, one of my students pointed me to this site and I’ve read about a third of your blog in the last two weeks. I’ve been inadvertently trained as a Mustacian since the days of my youth by my parents (who I consider Jedi Mustacians). It’s so refreshing to find a community of people who cherish value and things that matter (e.g., friends, family, giving, etc.) rather than luxuries and other superficial things (facebook friends, world of warcraft families, taking).

    I actually do research on optimism and how the construct is linked with physical health. Research actually shows that optimists act in healthier ways. Optimists exercise more, smoke less, and eat healthier diets (e.g., more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, salads, and fruit).

    Optimists also generally know more about health risks and process health risks more deeply. There are many studies examining this but let me give you one example. One study found that optimists knew more about cardiovascular risk factors and had higher self-awareness of their cardiovascular risk status even after adjusting for potential confounding factors, such as level of education. This study also differentiated dispositional optimists (the type of optimism you talk about in this article) from unrealistic optimists. Most people pile these two groups into one category because they may appear similar on the surface, but they actually function quite differently. I could probably go on and on about this topic but you can go here if you want to find out some more: https://umich.academia.edu/EricKim

    A final note, you can actually systematically increase optimism. There a few randomized controlled trials on this.

    Reply
  • Wan February 3, 2014, 5:30 am

    Wow! I had always been a tad pessimistic but the more I think about it, optimism is more practical in a crazily subjective world.

    Thanks for the post, MMM.

    Reply
  • Megan February 12, 2014, 7:33 pm

    I got to this post way late in the game since I am pretty new to the blog. I have to chime in and say that I really love this point of view. I am a naturally optimistic person so it is really hard for me to relate to people who view the world as a glass half empty. Why would you want to waste your previous and limited time on that viewpoint?

    Naturally shit does happen sometimes in life and there is a time and place for a whole range of emotions and responses. Generally speaking though, I live a great life and am grateful for it.

    I just finished up a temporary 6-month assignment working in a stressful situation for someone who was overwhelmingly pessimistic and negative. It was extraordinary how much of an effect that had on me emotionally and physically. I HATED the job and hated complaining about it even more. My sleep was disturbed, my eating patterns got out of whack, my general outlook on life declined precipitously, and (maybe TMI here) it impacted our ability to start a family.

    Now that I am free of that I feel like I’ve rediscovered my old self in some ways. Yes, I am still dealing with a stressful and totally unpredictable health situation, but you know, I will get through this too. In the mean time there are some pretty great things out there to enjoy.

    Not least of which will be my pre-bedtime snack and then the comfortable bed that awaits me in the other room. ZZZZZZzzzzzzz :)

    Reply
  • Landi February 18, 2014, 1:58 pm

    Hi, i discovered MMM today & have found it useful & interesting. I must say, i was given a pretty raw deal in life & made plenty bad choices & carried on down a very spiky path for ages. One day, at 24 years old, i got up & said to myself, if i carry on this way i might not be here tomorrow! So i packed my things, moved across town, found a new job & flat & i have never looked back. When i told people i was gonna travel overseas & live in London, they said to me, hahaha, dream your little dream! Here i am today, worked on cruise line ships, traveled all over & am currently living in London! So hahaha to them! You don’t need others to believe in you, just believe in yourself & have very deaf ears!

    Reply
  • Justin March 11, 2014, 2:34 pm

    Love your blog/site as a 23 YO Computer Science grad I appreciate someone from the analytical world explaining these things to me. Going to start being optimistic today! (Great Pulp Fiction ref btw!)

    Reply

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