One day a farmer hired two boys to clean stalls in his barn. After showing them what needed to be done he left to complete some other chores. Upon his return one boy burst into tears. ‘What’s the matter?’ the farmer asked, baffled. ‘There is so much manure I will never get finished,’ the boy replied. After reassuring this boy the farmer went to check on the other boy. The other boy was delightedly pitching manure out of the stall and into the wheelbarrow. The farmer asked him why he was having so much fun. The boy replied, ‘With all this manure there must be a pony in here somewhere!’
adapted from How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life by Peter Robinson
Why did these two boys have such different experiences of cleaning stalls for this farmer? They both were faced with same stalls with the same amount of manure to shovel. Yet each boy created a very different story of their experience.
One created a story of failure. The other created not only a story of success but hope, “there must be a pony in here somewhere”. We might scoff at what might be referred to as this boy’s blind optimism but considered what he created for himself. He had a job to do. The same job the other boy was hired to do. They were getting paid the same amount. The blind optimist created a story that carried him through his day with fun, excitement, and something to look forward to at the end of his hard work.


We could argue that he would be hurt and disappointed when he didn’t find a pony but my guess is he would just shake his head, and say ‘”well, no pony but I sure did get those stalls cleaned in a hurry, now I can collect my pay, and bike to town, and buy a soda pop!”
I can create a story of how horrible my day, month, year, or life is to live, or I can create a story of blind optimism about how wonderful my world is today. It really is all perspective, and personally, I am going to just keep shoveling manure, and keeping my eyes open for that pony. How about you? How do you define optimism? What story will you create today? Will it focus on the poop or the pony?