" ... optimism biases human and nonhuman thought. It takes rational reasoning hostage, directing our expectations toward a better outcome without sufficient evidence to support such a conclusion." - Neuroscientist Tali Sharot, in the 2011 book "The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain." Here you can order it from Amazon.com.
It is enough that Sharot documents for us that the brain is wired for optimism. She doesn't have to explain why that function can be critical to survival. The caveman wouldn't have ventured into the forest unless he assumed the odds were that he would find supper and not be supper. Also obvious are the perils of optimism. The classic one is entering a situation, be it a job or a marriage, assuming we could "handle" the negatives we are already aware of.
Some contend that it will take extreme optimism to apply for a seat in a law school for the 2015-2016 academic year. The employment situation doesn't seem like it will improve. Landing the first job practicing law is difficult or impossible. Holding onto that job for more than a few years is equally difficult or impossible.
However, one might say that it always required a ton of optimism to enter law school. Making a living practicing law was frequently, yes, difficult or impossible for many lawyers. There were some who went to law school knowing they could enter the family law business. There were others who planned to head straight into politics, not bothering to search for a legal position per se. They would work for peanuts 90 hours a week for a state or national politico.
But there had been a large number of those who tried to exist on a law practice salary and threw in the towel. When I was employed full time in public affairs at what became Chevron, it was filled with former lawyers focused on positioning and packaging energy issues to the advantage of the client. They were totally separate from the legal staff per se and the outside law firm. And, they were very pleased to have those good corporate jobs in public relations.
Over the years at 12-step meetings I encountered myriad lawyers. None had landed a position right out of law school. Those included even those who had had part-time jobs during school related to law. Some of the solos had given up and went into teaching or working as a paralegal. Some partners had been forced out. One in-house lawyer considered doing something else after being passed over for a promotion.
Yes, there also were members in the 12-step groups who had made it big. Most were owners of their own firms, usually in a growing niche such as labor law. But even they had stories of how brutal it had been to get started. They usually quit the first few law firms which had hired them. Hated the management. Felt totally exploited.
Over this Thanksgiving weekend a colleague whose son is home from college mentioned that he might apply to law school. I responded with the latest statistics on employment. Then I added that he might be the exception. And that was that. Optimism, Sharot points out, can be a self-fulfilling prophecy.