Joe, a golfer, joined three people at a golf course to make up the foursome. The three friends teed off, but when Joe hit his first shot, it went directly into the trees. The trio suggested he play a second ball in case he couldn’t find his first one, but Joe shrugged them off and went out to search for his ball.

After 10 minutes, Joe couldn’t find his ball, but he insisted on looking some more. Finally, one of the other golfers said, “Joe, we’re holding everyone up. Why don’t you just drop another ball and take a penalty stroke?”

“All right.” Joe turned and headed for the pro shop.

“Where are you going?” the other golfers asked.

“I have to buy another ball.”

If you have ever played golf, you know Joe had a case of misguided optimism. But I give him a lot of credit for believing in his ability. Even the most optimistic golfers carry a few extra balls, just in case.

As the old saying goes, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

I’ll take optimism over pessimism every day of the week. I’ve discovered that it’s just as easy to look for the good things in life as the bad. If you look at the bright side of life you will never develop eyestrain. In other words, thinking positive has no negative.

When I am hiring — especially for sales — I seek out optimists. Why?

A pessimist has no starter; an optimist has no brakes.

American psychologist Martin Seligman, working at the University of Pennsylvania at the time, studied the sales prowess of optimists and equally talented pessimists.

Metropolitan Life developed a test called the Seligman Attributional Style Questionnaire to sort the optimists from the pessimists when hiring sales personnel. Seligman found that optimists outsold pessimists by 20 percent the first year and by 50 percent the following year.

In his book, “Learned Optimism,” Seligman lists many studies that report optimists are healthier; less likely to give up; more successful in school, on the job and on the playing field; have more successful relationships; and are depressed less often and for shorter periods of time.

Mary Kay Mueller, in “Taking Care of Me: The Habits of Happiness,” lists the tenets that optimism is based on:

• Bad things do happen in life, but they are temporary.

• Bad things in life are limited in scope. (They are small or insignificant.)

• People have control over their environments.

She also lists the tenets that pessimism is based on:

• Good things in life are temporary.

• Good things in life are limited in scope. (They are small or insignificant.)

• People have no control over their environments.

Optimists help create some of the good they come to expect, so they are probably right more than not — and they don’t waste time worrying about what they are not right about.

An old saying breaks it down to this: “The optimist sees the doughnut, the pessimist sees the hole.”

Mackay’s Moral: Optimists don’t care whether the glass is half-full or half-empty — they know they can refill the glass.

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.