Why do some thrive while others are crushed by hardship? (Listener question on Podcast ep. 55)

Why do some people thrive in the face of hardship while others are crushed? To this challenging listener question, Matthew answers essentially that it’s about building resilience through the method of optimism versus the default of passive pessimistic resignation. On a deeper level, it’s about free will (optimistic) versus determinism (pessimistic).

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Optimism is realism: Where’s your focus?

Estimated reading time 11 mins.

Part of the satisfaction I get from my work as the teacher of a Korean university English conversation class is sharing and discussing ideas I care about with young people. For some material, I often take an article, talk, or podcast I like and present it to students in the clearest way they can consume it, given their English proficiency levels and other factors. We might simply read the article or, more often, I might create a Prezi presentation and give a mini-lecture summarizing the material in understandable terms at an appropriate pace before we discuss the ideas.

Preparing one such lesson, I recently re-listened to a Human Flourishing Podcast episode titled, “Cultivating Appreciation.” In it, host Alex Epstein recounts his experiences with a trolley and Uber driver, respectively, and was struck at how both expressed through action and in words great joy and appreciation for their work and the environments in which they get to perform it. Alex goes on to say that he was struck by this mental approach, highlighting how what they chose to focus on shaped their experience of it. There are further valuable points made in the episode, but for this article, I only intend to piggyback on it up to here.

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