The recent conference on creating a more confident Scotland, a supreme test of optimism surely, heard from the international US guru on "learned optimism", Martin Seligman from the University of Philadelphia (TESS, November 28).
He noted that certain professions are prone to more bouts of optimism andor pessimism than others. This occurred to him at home one night when the phone rang and he found himself at the receiving end of some sales talk which he duly brought to an end by putting the phone down.
Being a persistent academic researcher, this got Seligman thinking about the kind of person it would take to be a salesman. How to retain a sense of cheery optimism when, it emerges, nine out of 10 people put the phone down on you.
Having investigated, Seligman was able to tell his audience: "A pessimistic salesman is more optimistic than anyone in this room."