Self Development
Look At The Invisible - Brighter Side

by DP Sabharwal
Very often, we tend to look only at the gloomy side of the life. One might say that for some the glass is half full, while for others it is half empty. If you think both the parties are right, think again!
It was December 7, 1941 and Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert when he received a pager message that read: An important call, please attend. The caller was President Franklin Roosevelt who said, ‘You have been appointed Commander of the Pacific Fleet with immediate effect.’ The Japanese had launched the massive attack on Pearl Harbour just that morning thus drawing US into the World War II.

Admiral Nimitz landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941 and noticed a spirit of despair, dejection and defeat as if the Japanese had already won the war.  He went on a boat tour to see the destruction wrought on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese.  Big sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters everywhere he looked. On his return, the young helmsman of the boat asked, ‘Well, Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?’

Admiral Nimitz's reply shocked everyone as he said, ‘The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or perhaps God was taking care of America! Which do you think it was?’ There was stunned silence that was broken by a feeble voice that asked, ‘and what were those mistakes Sir?’
  • First Mistake: The Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of ten crewmen from each of the ships ashore, were on leave. If the same ships had been lured to sea and then sunk, we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.

  • Second Mistake: The Japanese sank our battleships, but never bombed our dry docks opposite those ships.  If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired. You see, the sunken ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks, and each one would be repaired and shall be at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. 

  • Third Mistake: Every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is stored in of the ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill.  One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply. They failed to do so. ‘That's why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America.’
Whatever way you look at it; Admiral Nimitz was able to see the brighter side of the situation where everyone else saw only despair and defeatism.

Every coin has two sides. Though the sides are quite the same in shape and size, yet the designs and inscriptions on the two sides are quite different. Same is the case with life. It too has two distinct sides; black and white, but there is a bit of difference too. There is nothing absolute black or white. There are shades of black and white in everything. It is how one looks at. In any given specified frame or an image one person is likely to see tinges of white, while the other would see more of the black.

Let us consider the simple case of a glass with some water in it. For some the glass is half full, while for others it is half empty. If you think both the parties are right, well, you are wrong. The glass is never half empty. The so-called empty portion is filled with air. Thus when you look at the glass, you should only look at the portion that is holding liquid because glass is designed to hold liquid and not the air. This is the concept which strongly advocates: ‘looking at the brighter side.’

Few decades back two salesmen were sent by a British shoe manufacturer to Africa on a two-week all-expenses paid tour to investigate and report back on market potential. The first salesman reported back, ‘There is no potential here because nobody wears shoes.’ The second salesman reported back, ‘There is massive potential here because nobody wears shoes.’

In day-to-day life we go through many situations where things do not happen to our liking. At times the happenings are rather disturbing and sad. It is common to fret and fume on such occasions. One becomes disheartened and starts blaming others or the God or both for being unkind. At such times, one just can’t think of any brighter side existing at all. But it is not so. One can indeed see a brighter side if one start thinking that things could have been even more disturbing like having lost a leg in an accident the thought that both legs could have been lost amounts to looking at the brighter side.

As grown-ups, we should be more adapt at looking at the brighter side of the picture. Alas, this is hardly the case. The elders tend to look at the uglier and the darker sides more often than not. In addition, the elders also worry a lot imaging the worst outcome about things over which one has no control. Such a habit is keenly observed by children who, by the time they grow-up, forget how to look at the brighter side, though as children they really know how to look at the brighter side of any picture.

A small boy was auditioning with his classmates for a school play. His mother knew that he'd set his heart on being in the play, just like all the other children of his class. However knowing his child too well, she knew that chances of his being selected were rather thin, thus she wondered how he would react if he was not chosen. On the day the parts were awarded, the little boy's mother went to the school gates to pick-up her son. The little lad rushed up to her, eyes shining with pride and excitement.

‘Guess what Mom,’ he shouted, and then said the words that provide a lesson to us all, ‘I have been chosen to clap and cheer.’
Wg Cdr DP Sabharwal (Retd) is a post-graduate in Aeronautical Engineering from Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. He worked in the Indian Air Force for 25 years on fighter (Hunter, MiG-21, MiG-29) aircraft and helicopters (Chetak, Cheetah, Mi-8). He sought voluntary retirement in 1995 to pursue a career in teaching and writing.
A Fellow of Institution of Engineers and the Aeronautical Society of India, Sabharwal is visiting professor at engineering and MBA institutes and a Corporate Trainer on behavioral skills. Author of 22 books including 'A Finer You' a book on personal grooming, manners and etiquettes; he is settled in Bangalore (India) and can be contacted at