Ron Mallett, Optimism and Success

Self confidence is one of the keys to career and life success that I discuss in Straight Talk for Success and 42 Rules to Jumpstart Your Professional Success.  If you want to become self confident you need to do three things.  First, become an optimist.  Believe that today will be better than tomorrow, and tomorrow better than today.  Do everything you can to make your optimism come true.   Second, face your fears and act.  Procrastination and indecision feed fear.  Action cures it.  Third, surround yourself with positive people.

The most recent Penn State Alumni had an article that featured the life of one of the most optimistic people I have encountered.  Dr. Ron Mallet is a tenured professor in the Physics Department at the University of Connecticut.  He received a BS, MS and PhD from Penn State, my alma mater.    Dr. Mallet has been featured on the NPR show, “This American Life.” Rolling Stone listed his research as the hot theory of 2001.  He’s written a bestselling memoir.  Spike Lee is making a movie about his life.

You’re probably asking, “What theory did Dr. Mallet develop?”  Good question.  Dr. Ron Mallet has mathematically proven that it is possible to travel through time.

Ron Mallet’s father died in 1955 at the age of 33.  He had a massive heart attack.  Ron was 10 years old and devastated.  One year later, he came across the Classics Illustrated version of H.G. Well’s famous novel, The Time Machine.  (I loved Classics Illustrated comics when I was a kid.  They were my introduction to many literary classics.  If I liked the comic book version, I used to go to the Laughlin Memorial Library in my hometown, Ambridge PA, and get the real book.) 

The words on the first page of the Classics Illustrated version of The Time Machine said, “Scientific people know very well that time is only a kind of space.  We can move forward and backward in time just like we can move forward and backward in space.”

11 year old Ron was jazzed.  He figured that if he could build a time machine, he could go back in time, visit with his father and warn him about his heart attack.  He began work on building a time machine – a quest that became his life’s work.

A year later, he came across a book called The Universe and Dr. Einstein.  He was 12 and couldn’t understand a lot of what was in the book, but he did understand one passage.  Einstein had found that time slows down the faster one moves.  The article in the Penn Stater says…

“That meant time could be controlled.  Suddenly, Mallet’s dream wasn’t just based on the cover of a comic book.  There was a possible answer in science, real science, conducted by one of the most respected scientists ever.  ‘I knew that if I could understand Einstein,’ he said, ‘that would be the key.’”

He didn’t have money to go to college when he graduated from high school, so he joined the Air Force.  In his spare time, he did very little but read.  He book used books to learn about binary codes, quantum physics, electrodynamics and relativity theory.  He signed up for correspondence courses is algebra, geometry and solid-state devices. 

He enrolled at Penn State on the GI Bill after he finished his tour of duty in the Air Force.  He studied theoretical physics – hoping to be able to build a time machine.

“That was part of my cover story.  I didn’t have to tell people that I wanted to build a time machine.  I could actually say, ‘I want to be a theoretical physicist.’  It was a perfectly acceptable statement.” 

He went on to get his PhD and join the faculty of the University of Connecticut.  He never gave up on his dream of building a time machine.

In 1999, he connected some dots – these dots are a little complicated for a layman like me, but essentially he concluded…

Sir Isaac Newton thought that only matter could create a gravitational field.  But, in Einstein’s general theory, light could also affect gravity.  If light could affect gravity, and gravity can affect time then maybe light could alter time.

Got that?  Read on.

From this point, he spent weeks on calculations eventually proving mathematically that time travel is possible.  It only took him 43 years.

In 2001, he presented a paper at the University of Michigan entitled: “The Gravity of Circulating Light: A Possible Route to Time Travel.”

That got him on NPR and mentioned in Rolling Stone and a call from Spike Lee (one of my favorite directors) that led to the movie about his life that will be out in 2011.

Back at UConn, one of Dr. Mallett’s colleagues is developing a machine based on his calculations.  This machine is being designed to transport subatomic particles through time.  Ron Mallet’s dream of time travel might just become a reality.

I tell you this story because Dr. Ron Mallett is the embodiment of optimism.  He has spent his entire life in the pursuit of something that most people would think is absurd.  Through it all he epitomized the third point of The Optimist Creed – “promise yourself to look at the sunny side of everything and your optimism come true.” 

By the way, if you want a copy of The Optimist Creed that you can frame and hang in your workspace, just like me, go to

The common sense point here is clear.  Successful people are self confident.  Optimism is the foundation of self confidence.  If you want to become self confident, you have to choose optimism.  Dr. Ron Mallett did, and he proved that time travel is a theoretical possibility.  What can you accomplish if you choose optimism?  Think about it.  Then go for it.

That’s my take on Dr. Ron Mallett, optimism and success.  What’s yours?  Please leave a comment sharing your thoughts with us.  If you’re interested in getting the full story on Ron Mallett, pick up a copy of his book, Time Traveler: A Scientist’s Personal Mission to Make Time Travel a Reality.  As always, thanks for reading.


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