JAO Essay: Optimism Should Be a Priority

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kenneth hirschtBy KENNETH HIRSCHT

A few weeks ago, I had pulled a skateboard out of the garage and started to get back into the sport after a few years’ break. As I searched for more adventure, I rode far and wide on those four little wheels, until I reached a hill of considerably steep grade.

With some hesitation, I pushed off and began the descent. I accelerated violently, and soon the bearings in my wheels were rattling from being forced to spin faster than they were intended. Seeing a rough patch of asphalt, I knew I would lose control.

I braced for impact, and just as predicted, I flung forward and planted my face directly into the hot pavement. Within seconds, I was back on my feet with a smile on my face.

Why was I smiling? I knew I was in a bad situation, nastily scraped and a few miles from home. What in the world was I smiling at? I was simply being an optimist.

Well, here is my thought process. The bad news is, I have school the next day, I might have to miss it because I’m hurt, getting home by walking or skating is not a good idea, I’ll have to call somebody for a ride home, and I broke my glasses when I fell.

With all of these things considered, have a look at the positive points. I’m not hurting that bad because of the adrenaline, I had a fun experience before I crashed, and I will have a great story to tell. Any sane person would probably say that the whole fiasco was not worthwhile, but I disagree.

I felt that if had been too angry or frustrated at the situation, I would have completely wasted my time, and I would have hurt myself for nothing. By staying optimistic, I enjoyed the moment and kept a clear head. Optimism is an effective strategy for dealing with stressful situations.

Through spending many hours in clubs, youth groups, and my school’s engineering program, I have learned that being a leader comes with lots of responsibility, workload, and stress. Stress usually leads to nervous tension, which makes it harder to concentrate on work, and then the cycle continues.

However, allowing stress to impact you negatively is an inefficient use of an abundant resource. Stress from the workplace can be harnessed, used as a great tool to help boost your productivity, and allow you to get down to business better than any amount of caffeine. It is easy to do, if you are optimistic.

Sort your thoughts out, figure out the best course of action, and execute it knowing you chose the most efficient route, and it will prevent you from becoming a nervous wreck.

For example, when my school’s engineering program participated in an electric vehicle race in Florida last year, tension and stress levels were high. We had been working tirelessly to build two vehicles that had to be efficient and safe, while reaching out to the community to fundraise $10,000.

It was a yearlong endeavor, and when we did get to Florida, only more work was waiting for us on the racetrack. As we unpacked our vehicles and began the final assembly, we noticed that several crucial components were missing, and someone had forgotten to pack the driver chair. Whose fault was it? Did we still have a chance? What if there was not enough time?

Although things quickly turned sour, we were saved by a combination of optimism and improvisation. We had to set aside the blame, understand the task, figure out how much time we had, and get to work. Plain and simple, there was still hope for us to succeed. By putting our minds together, we got the job done and performed better than ever at the race.

Optimism is not just about “looking on the bright side” of the situation; you have to filter out the negatives and focus on how you can take advantage of the positives so that you live without regret.

Being optimistic must involve a natural thought process: it cannot be a forced perception. It can be extremely difficult to adopt a new outlook on the world, but if you do, it is certainly rewarding.

Kenneth Hirscht, a student at Los Altos High School, was the winner of the Japanese American Optimist Club essay contest. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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