In true American style, Ted Williams was living in a cardboard box last week. Now he's a media sensation and well on his way to making some serious cash.
I know it's corny, but after 20 years in the US, the "can-do" attitude still amazes me. From a skinny, inexperienced African American guy making it to the White House, to a down and out ex-con being spotted by the side of the road, it shows that anything is possible here. There are no barriers to success.
Unlike the Rolling Stones, who sang "You can’t always get what you want", Americans prefer to sing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow". Barak Obama's presidential slogan was "Yes we can", which was a bold move for one so young and inexperienced. But it paid off.
Some might say that this approach to life can lead to disappointment, but wouldn't you rather go to your grave having tried something, than full of regret at not having had the nerve?
I remember a girls' weekend in Boston many years ago. We had tickets for a Sunday morning Duck Tour (an amphibious vehicle which drives around the streets then plunges into the Charles River for a bit of a cruise). As usual, we were running late and had been warned against that by the Duck people. As we neared the departure point, we were a good ten to fifteen minutes tardy so the English contingent gave up and started walking slowly. "We've missed it. Let's not bother. We'll do something else".
"No, no," said the Americans, "Keep running. You never know".
So the Brits started running half-heartedly, readying their "Told you so" faces. We rounded the corner to find the Duck vehicle not only still in the parking lot, but the tour guide waiting for us and encouraging us to run as fast as we could. I learned something that day.
Some say the belief that anyone can do anything is self-deceptive, and I agree that there must be a dab of realism in there. But when does realism become pessimism? When does the glass become half empty as opposed to half full?
I may be the American in this duo, but I have to take the British side on this one. Certainly good things do happen to people. Some people. On the other hand, some people get struck by lightning, but that doesn’t mean something like this is in store for the general population. And you don’t have to look very hard to conclude that there is a fair amount of Sod’s Law at work in the universe.
Sod’s Law, as you may know, is not the same as Murphy’s Law. Can anyone explain the difference? “(Oh, me, sir! Can I, sir?”)
Murphy’s Law is an engineering principle that reasons, if you build a system that has a fault in it that, if exploited, will have adverse effects, then you must assume someone will exploit that flaw. It’s an exhortation to build systems intelligently, whereas Sod’s Law is more like rain at a picnic. It’s much more pessimistic in its outlook, and therefore more suited to the British mentality.
Even when I lived in America, I wavered between being a cautious optimist and a realist, which I take to mean, expect the worst, and if it doesn’t happen, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised. This may sound strange coming from me after my previous post advocating optimism. The truth is, I do like to believe good things will happen; it’s just real life teaches us that they rarely do.
What I think makes the Americans different isn’t that they succeed more often, as I do not believe they do, but that, despite failure after failure after failure, they never stop believing they can and will succeed. Perhaps there is a lot we all can learn from that attitude.
And, by the way, Obama ripped off, “Yes we can!” from Bob the Builder.
Got something you want us to address? E-mail your suggestion to:
MHMail55-MT AT Yahoo.com
or just pop it into the comment box.