Research proves that optimistic, positive people are happier and live longer. Learned optimism is an idea rooted in positive psychology. It involves developing the ability to see the world from a positive point of view.
I called it our poor man’s Porsche. Mary and I hadn’t been married that long and I had recently been given a raise and a bonus. We’re on our way!
Mary’s parents, hardworking and honorable, had suffered some financial setbacks and their car was close to giving up the ghost - would it surrender quietly, limp to the side of the road and expire with one final belch of black smoke, or try to go out in a blaze of glory by eviscerating its innards and spewing parts like a mad kamikaze? We didn’t want to find out - especially since Mary's Dad had an unnerving penchant for hugging the right shoulder on narrow Ohio farm roads.
My folks had helped us as newlyweds into a nice family sedan that was paid off and, with my brilliant assessment that riches were one performance bonus away, Mary and I decided to give her folks our car. So we drove it to Ohio for vacation and handed over the keys.
I started looking for a replacement at local dealerships. With our ship scheduled to come in but still at sea, I couldn’t afford the upscale roadsters I coveted. At one dealership, however, I spotted a sleek little number with an unfamiliar name. Renault Fuego. Why, through a dirty shop window it looks like a Porsche if you squint. And see, Dear, the sunroof is much larger, and it has turbo and a nice stereo.
It also had transmission problems, but the smooth salesman ran a comb through his greasy hair and assured me this gently used floor model was under complete warranty, and besides, we could drive away for less than what they had paid for the bomb, er, I mean, it is faster than a bomber.
I may have only been 25, but I knew a thing or two. So I called my banker. Larry said, “Hmm, not many of these around, and it seems overpriced even with the discount.”
“But Larry,” I said, “will you finance the car?”
“Oh, we can probably work something out. I know where you live.”
Aha. So, this French rocket was legitimate collateral in the world of finance.
Next, I called a mechanic friend, Dan, who had moved to Ohio. He was nice enough to drive the Fuego and said, “It’s fun to drive but that tranny is making a strange noise. I’d pass on it.” I thanked him and told Mary he said it was fun to drive. I convinced her that if it didn’t work out, we would be making enough money to just trade it for a Mercedes or something.
Learned optimism is an idea rooted in positive psychology. It involves developing the ability to view the world from a positive point of view.
Long story short - I bought a pig in a poke. At the first stop for gas, Mary and I looked at our young daughters crammed in the back and Mary said, “What have we done?” I turned up the volume on the Def Leppard cassette and pretended I didn’t hear. We did find a dealer in Tyler to replace the transmission under warranty, and it was fun to drive, but my ship got detoured and it was a few years before we could unload our poor man’s Porsche that had devalued like…, like an inferior foreign knockoff.
One moral of this story - among many too embarrassing to list, is that misplaced optimism is can be costly.
But learned optimism framed in reality can be very healthy.