Monday, October 15, 2012

Digging for the Pony

Taking a positive perspective on things has never been a problem for me. I have been a glass-half-fuller my whole life. 

When we were kids my dad used to tell a story about two sisters. One was an eternal optimist, the other a pessimist. These sisters were supposed to be me and my younger sis.

One day the dad puts the two girls in separate rooms. The pessimist, we’ll call her Kristen, in a room full of toys and the optimist, we’ll call her Kasie, in a room full of manure.

It’s important to note here that my sister and I are not really the caricatures the story makes us out to be. We are both governed by a tremendous logic that tries to honestly weigh the odds and make calculated decisions.

That said I am more likely to think things will turn out okay and Kristen more likely to expect imminent disaster.

Anyway, after an hour the father returns
to Kristen’s room to find her crying over all the new toys. When he asks her why she’s crying, she responds, “These aren’t my toys and I just know I’ll break one.”

The father shakes his head and goes to check on the optimist.

When he gets to Kasie’s room, she’s digging.

“Kasie!” he says, “what are you doing?”

She’s moving manure around, pushing piles to reveal what’s underneath.  Without stopping, she says, “I just know there must be a pony in here.”

See it for what it is

The key to optimism is not an altered state of reality. It’s not about blind faith that someone will intervene to create a happy ending. It’s not even about being prepared to make the best of a bad situation.

Recently, when confronted with a situation out of which no good could possibly come, I doubted my optimism. I thought how childish and simplistic I had been trying to make things. Of course people would be hurt, lives would be changed, and these things were difficult. But difficult does not mean impossible.

So optimism, really, is about finding what is possible and pursuing that with every effort you have available to you. In many cases, the efforts of others are required for the ideal outcome. You may not have their efforts available to you. So, what? Do you wait around for others to act? Bemoan your inability to move forward?

I don’t.

Not ever.

Do something about it

Optimism is about finding what is possible and then pursuing it with every effort you have available to you. If the efforts of others are not available, you have to pursue possible without them.

Leave them behind.

I’ve written about courage before. I’ve said change takes courage. Changing your life takes courage. You must be willing to fail to be able to try.

Failure could happen. But it might not.

Optimism is about seeing what is possible and then pursuing it. Because for every opportunity to fail, there is an opportunity to succeed.(The exact ratio is a little tricky. Someday I'll write about what I call stacking the deck.)

Is this life-coachy enough? Motivational-posteresque?

Try this: Fail. Don’t fail. No one cares. The only person truly invested in the decision you make is you. Everyone else is peripheral. Other people will just get over you.

So get over yourself.

Then make a decision.

A great blogpost about the “sometimes” in our lives had this to say: Sometimes you don’t know all the facts and you don’t have all the answers but you still have to make a decision.

Decide to pursue the best possible outcome.

Be an optimist about that room full of manure. If for no other reason than, pony or not, the digging matters.

What do you do in a room full of manure? Dig? Pray for rescue? Or give up?


  1. Sometimes when the room is full of manure it's hard to believe anything good can come out of it and yet, time after time when I've taken the time to dig I am amazed at what I find. I do believe everyone has the capability to dig thru and find what they need to find. Unfortunately there are too many people who do not have the courage to dig or perhaps are afraid they will not like what they find. I am choosing to not give up but to dig. If we strive to look at the glass as half full rather than half empty then I believe we are always going to find what we need. That being said, I also believe in hard work which is in and of itself sometimes its own reward. Keep up the great work and you are my Life Coach!!

    1. Thanks, mom! I wrote this a week ago and when it still resonated today, I posted it. I'm glad it resonated with you, too.

  2. I really admire people who can see the glass half full. It must be a brilliant feeling. For me though it is alien and definetly not the first automatic reaction. I cna sometimes turn the reaction around...sometimes, not often. Good for you Kasie, it's a nice way to be. :)

    1. Thanks for coming by Clemson Road, Veronica. I think I inherited my optimism from my dad. He's always looking on the bright side. Maybe optimism can be learned? If I could teach it, I'd be a millionaire!

  3. Always searching for what can be made from whatever scraps I'm handed whether of value to others or not. Good exercise in creativity, not only optimism. Life never disappoints. It's always handing us something. :)

    1. Glad to see you on Clemson Road, Lara Britt. I agree life has unexpected gems to offer. Some of them may look a little less shiny than others, but they're gems just the same.

  4. Great story about the pony, Kasie! I like how you talk about optimism as not an altered state but as discernment about what is possible and then pursuing it. That being said, I would probably not be digging in a roomful of manure. Maybe looking for an escape route with a lot of perseverance, though.

    1. Hi, Jennifer! Thanks for coming over to Clemson Road. I'm always surprised when people haven't heard that story because it was such a part of my childhood. I don't imagine myself to be particularly tolerant of manure, but the metaphor is not lost on me. I think an escape route may be an acceptable alternative to "pony."


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