Tactical Optimism and Strategic Pessimism


I was listening to the Morning in America radio show several years ago, and Bill Bennett, the host said something like this:  “I am a tactical optimist, and a strategic pessimist.  We are all ashes in the end, but we wake up each morning and figure out how to move the ball each day.”

This is a profound and rich quote, full of allusions to sport, religion, and military maneuver, not to mention a little Stoic wisdom (most likely by accident…not sure Dr. Bennett is a Stoic).

In essence, this phrase captures how a Heroic Stoic would live.  Yes, in the end tragedy will befall us, including our own and everyone else’s death, but that does not mean we shouldn’t serve, build, and create anyway.

Tactical Optimism for the Long Trip Ahead – I’m confident I can make it to that next tree. After that, more trees!

The Stoic knows that nothing lasts forever, and that much is out of her control.  However, she continues on and works on those things that she can control.  Moreover, to be a hero she would indeed contribute for the sake of her own excellence, for the very sake of accomplishing the task.  For those who wish to take advantage of her productive endeavors, she will willingly engage in trade with them.

Right now, millions of people are currently grasping for more, or wallowing in self-pity, or even thinking that they deserve something from “the man,” from life, or from those who have the ability to help them.  Many others are happy with the illusion that tragedy will somehow miss them.  Many have never heard of the Stoics, and others might not agree with the individual-centered philosophy of Ayn Rand.  It is my view that this will probably remain the case; neither Stoic philosophy nor individualism seem to be anywhere close to be being described as “en vogue.”  It is the default position of human nature to ignore the suffering around us rather than face it head-on.  Moreover, it is a very common trait of humans to attribute one’s station in life as the fault of another, or of society in general.  In the end, the great majority will never embrace a Heroic Stoic lifestyle, no matter what I do, write, or say.

Strategic Pessimism – Those trees will be ashes soon enough.

Despite all of this, I write about these topics.  I believe in the power of Heroic Stoicism, and hopefully I can move the ball forward just a little today, tomorrow, and every day.  Even though most of YOU out there will not truly embrace what I say, I write about what I believe, because I think it will HELP YOU.

That’s because I am a tactical optimist, despite the fact that I am a strategic pessimist.

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