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Saturday, June 6, 1998 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dale Turner

Life Is More Fun For Those Who Have A Positive Outlook

Seattle Times Columnist

One of the most delightful evenings of reading that I can recall was a few hours spent with a book by Irving Tressler titled "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People." It is a parody of Dale Carnegie's best seller, "How to Win Friends and Influence People."

The author contends that Carnegie is all wrong when he encourages us to smile, to be optimistic and affable. Tressler contends that this is the wrong philosophy.

"Where does it get you?" he asks. "It gets you nothing good. First of all, you are walking down the street, enjoying yourself, perfectly relaxed and humming a tune, at peace with the world. One of your friends sees you, and because you are such a good guy he figures you are just the one to take as a guest to his service-club meeting. And because you are such an affable fellow you find yourself in a stuffy room after a dismal meal listening to a boring speech."

"Or you come home at night after a busy day, take off your shoes, put your feet on a stool, pick up the evening paper and prepare for a few relaxing hours, but before you are settled down there is a knock at the door: A neighbor has come to visit and share your friendly spirit.

"This is ridiculous," says Tressler. "Take my course for six weeks and develop a frown."

"One man," he continues, "took my course for the six weeks and developed such a scowl that he could stop a Fuller Brush man at 100 yards."

There is an interesting sequel to this account. Dale Carnegie, after a rich life and a successful career, died at his home in Forest Hills, N.Y., in 1955 of natural causes at the age of 67, optimistic, cheerful and vibrant to the end. Irving Tressler, who wrote the parody, committed suicide in 1944 at the age of 35. His obituary noted ironically that he was best known for his take-off on Carnegie's book.

It would be interesting to conjecture whether there was any relation between Tressler's philosophy of negative living and the fact that he took his own life. Of one thing we can be sure - life is more exciting and interesting for those who have a positive and optimistic outlook. Of course, there are times when it may get us to a boring luncheon meeting or spoil our evening at home, but in the long run, it is a better way of living our days.

Carnegie said, "Most of the troubles of humanity are imaginary and should be laughed out of court. It is folly to cross a bridge until you come to it, or to bid the devil good morning until you meet him - perfect folly. All is well until the stroke falls, and even then, nine times out of 10, it is not as bad as anticipated. A wise man is the confirmed optimist."

It is often those who have reason to live negatively who see and do the most constructive things in life. Great achievements have come from people who were regarded as having little promise, but who lived with a positive spirit. Paderewski was told to give up all hopes of becoming a pianist after he auditioned before a celebrated teacher. It was suggested that since he had a good lip he might find a place as a cornet player in a band. But Paderewski continued at the piano.

Until elected president, Lincoln was regarded by many of his contemporaries as an unpromising man, and he had often been defeated for office.

George Washington Carver, a great American botanist, was the son of slaves and obtained his education by his own efforts, eventually becoming the director of the agriculture department and of agricultural research at Tuskegee Institute.

Robert Louis Stevenson hardly knew a day of good health. He wrote to his friend, George Meredith, "For fourteen years I have not had a day of real health. I have wakened sick and gone to bed weary. I have written in bed, written in sickness, written when my head swam from weakness."

Even with all his difficulties, Stevenson maintained a positive, forward-looking spirit, as the following words reveal:

If I have faltered more or less

In my great task of happiness;

If I have moved among my race

And shown no glorious morning face;

If beams from happy human eyes

Have moved me not; if morning skies,

Books, and my food, and summer rain

Knocked on my sullen heart in vain:

Lord, Thy most pointed pleasure take

And stab my spirit broad awake.

No doubt the pessimist and the optimist eventually end up in the same place, but the optimist has more fun getting there. A dear old lady, with more unconscious insight than learning, once said, "My eyes are getting troublesome. I shall have to go to an optimist." It is wise counsel for all of us.

A 60-page booklet, "Let's Think About It," includes 28 of Dr. Turner's best columns published in The Seattle Times over the past four years. Copies are $2 each at The Times office, Fairview Avenue North and John Street. They are available by mail for $3 each; send your check to The Seattle Times, Dale Turner Booklet, P.O. Box 1926, Seattle, WA 98111-1926.

Copyright (c) 1998 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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