Never look on the bright side of life...
Source of picture: thescratchingshed.com
By John Richardson - fresh back from a long break in Europe (more on this later).
"If you keep predicting a catastrophe, John, you will eventually be proved right," a senior executive from a major Asian petrochemicals producer told me in mid-2007.
At that time it seemed as if the industry would be undone by a huge increase in supply which would be way in excess of demand.
This correspondent got the timing of a downturn roughly right - sometime in H2 2008 - but was completely wrong about the cause. As we all know it was the collapse of Lehman Bros and the subsequent global economic crisis.
But I didn't see the 2009 recovery coming and keep being amazed by the resilience of growth in Asia.
I come from a part of the world - the county of Yorkshire in the UK - where people have a reputation for being gloomy, stubborn, cussed and taciturn. This is probably to do with the awful weather and food (with the exception of outstanding Indian food), and so perhaps it's not surprising that I have often taken the negative view.
In contrast, the senior executive quoted above has always been optimistic and to date his projections for stellar petrochemicals demand growth in Asia have been proved correct.
He was originally a salesman, as were or are many of my other contacts who share similar sunny dispositions, and so their persistent optimism is hardly surprising; have you ever met a miserable, nay-saying sales executive who was also successful?
The perhaps laboured point I am trying to make here is that how you view the world is crucial in interpreting the myriad, complex signals that can point to either a rosy view of the economic future - or one that would make a Yorkshire man who enjoys wallowing in misery truly happy.
And let's take this a step further: If the dominant view is optimistic right now, when there are as many reasons to be positive as negative, perhaps we will get out of this current euro-inspired crisis unscathed.
But if the overriding opinion becomes the opposite, this will amplify the flight from risk and the short-selling in oil, stock and other markets to create a self-fulfilling prophesy of economic implosion.
I am hardly in a position to give advice on positive thinking, given my background. I will leave this to my ever-sunny American friends.
What I can suggest, though, is that you MUST NOT under any circumstances visit Yorkshire - other than to watch the greatest soccer team on earth, Leeds Utd.