IMAGE:  December 2002 GRAPHIC:  University of Chicago Magazine
Volume 95, Issue 2
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"Now that the joke has been had..."

Where optimist meets pessimist
Wellesley professor Julie K. Norem believes, and I concur, that having a negative strategy works as well as positive thinking.

Having acquired physics and M.B.A. degrees, I worked first as a metallurgical observer in the steel mills and later as a rayon research physicist. As an Army Reserve officer I served in WW II, working to develop an early-warning mobile radar capability, and in the postwar years as a manager in the Air Force Research & Development Command, developing advanced weapons systems. Based on these various experiences, I believe it is possible to be both an optimist and a pessimist, depending upon one's job pursuits. Varied assignments are much more interesting than being tied down to one type of employment.

Of note here: I scored 50 on Norem's optimist/pessimist test, and I am sure that high-ranking military retirees who subsequently served with distinction in top-level federal assignments possess this dual capability and would score in the 30-50 range on Norem's test.

I believe that having more federal and congressional leaders who have worked at both low- and high-anxiety levels would help in passing optimal legislation for solving long-standing domestic problems, from reducing corporate bankruptcies to providing cheaper prescription drugs.

It appears graduate studies in managerial accounting, production management, and improved interagency/congressional communications, especially during wartime, would be of great benefit to the nation's leaders. Universities could establish executive programs similar to those now given to executives in finances.

I think it would be of great importance if Norem made a follow-up study of the ability to function using both positive optimism or strategic pessimism as the job requires. It would encourage universities to set up the requisite programs and encourage more attendance.

Nicholas M. Masich, MBA'53
Woodbury, New Jersey

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