Nov 272015

The following video is worth watching: it is not about optimism per se, but I have found that if you have your black belt in optimism, nearly everything contributes to your self-chosen outlook.

Josh Luber’s talk will expand your thinking and appreciation for limitless possibilities. Human “logic” and cooperation is extraordinary, and the rise of interconnectivity and ‘big data analytics’ networks millions of minds together in surprising ways. If you work in marketing, this presentation is 5-star fascinating.

Yes, if you are wondering, I am a bit of a sneakerhead, although my participation is limited to the search for the perfect pair to wear, and not at full retail, if I can help it.

I.M. OptimismMan

Nov 252015

As the end of 2015 approaches, how many good ideas did you write down this year? How many did you develop from one-liners into a solid little outline? How many have grown into a short white paper?

Albert Einstein observed that imagination is more important than knowledge. Napoleon Hill said first comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The genesis is within your imagination, but imagination must be nurtured and developed into great ideas to make a difference.


Be honest: How many ideas did you write down in 2015? Pull out your journal, or log onto your system now, and look at them. If you don’t write ideas down, in a system that will stand the test of time, they will evaporate. If your answer is zero to just a few, what will you do in 2016? What goal will you set, with reminder alerts to keep your goal top-of-mind? Perhaps one idea a month, or one idea a week? Imagine 5 years from today, with one good idea per week written down and one idea per month taken to the next level of detail and development. Could it change your life? Would it make you at least 10% more brilliant?

I.M. OptimismMan

PS. Don’t have a good system?


A paper journal works and is much better than nothing, but it is exposed to loss. I like the Day One journal (if you are a Mac user) with a backup email sent to my own Gmail account, using a tag like #freshideas which makes it easy to search for later. The truth is Google is unlikely to fail, and Gmail is one of its crucial products, so an email to self at Gmail is about as safe and simple as it gets. For the redundancy backup-minded, it is easy to set up two accounts — one at Google and one elsewhere (a good bet IMHO would be Outlook.com (Microsoft)) and then email your ideas to both from the handy smartphone.

Nov 202015

We all have witnessed the stellar rise of Google. One thing that concerns me is that the Millennials, many of whom are so young that they don’t remember a world before the internet, Google, and smartphones, are treating search results as a perfect source of accurate answers.

It is crystal clear that search results are not equal to knowledge, experience, or true understanding. They are limited by popularity, average “thinking”, algorithm programming, a concerted effort to hack results, a lot of false internet noise, and bias in the system and the software architects who designed it.

Here is a short 10 minute presentation that offers an excellent discussion to open people’s minds to the good and the limitations of Google (or any search engine in fact):

Always question everything. Seek to understand. Understanding leads to wisdom and making a greater impact.

I.M. OptimismMan

PS. I think there is plenty of room for altsearch, a search engine that would specialize in quality answers that are always different than page one and two results on Google.

Nov 162015

I was recently asked by a parent for my one and only one best nugget of advice I would offer to a college student who is struggling a bit. Limiting any answer to such a broad, open-ended question is brilliant, because it makes you pause and think carefully before answering — I suspect I will write an article on this “limits make answers better” concept in the future — but for now, I’ll turn to the challenge at hand.

My best advice is to evaluate and then choose your best friends carefully. College (and high school for that matter) gives you a lot of opportunity to select which friends you would prefer to get close to. Unfortunately, many students fall into a group without forethought, just as many adults fall into a job.


If you fall into a group that is more concerned about the next party than the next homework assignment or upcoming exam, the gravity of the friendship will inexorably influence you to party more and achieve less. If you surround yourself with lazy pessimists that only hope to graduate in 6 or 7 years, don’t be surprised if you join the same track of dropping classes more often than finishing them. If your friends have no vision of their future, ponder why they are there, and still believe that their parents will somehow magically arrange their future, you will too. On the other hand, if you carefully choose and cultivate friendships with individuals with passion, drive, leadership, charisma, and other characteristics that you yourself aspire to, you will find vision, momentum, and encouragement when you need it most.

It is never too late to reassess. Are your close friends helping you succeed or dragging you down? Are they true friends or are they only friends of convenience? Is their heart in the right place? What do they say about you when you are not there? If they are dragging you down, make a bold decision, change your friends for the better, and you will find that you will change your trajectory. Looking back, I was fortunate with the close friends I made at school, starting with a good first “suite” of achievers in the freshman dorm (that was a lucky break, not one of my own choosing). Like everything else, it is not a matter of wishing things were different. Change only happens when you make clear decisions and then do it, finishing what you started.

I.M. OptimismMan

PS. A couple of quotes, because I love quotes.

Consider each of your friends in this context. I would add help you “be all you can be” but this quote goes a long way in capturing the essence:


It isn’t all that hard to test your friendship:


You can’t really know until times get tough. Everyone is your “friend” when things are going well:


Nov 012015

We have often faced what seems like impossible problems. Unfortunately, 99.99% of people throw their hands up into the air and believe that impossible is impossible. But are they really impossible?

Mike Huckabee, in the recent Republican debate, sounded ‘pie in the sky’ to the 99.99% when he talked about curing the 4 diseases that are the primary expense of U.S. Healthcare, and the extraordinary effect it would have on our nation’s, our world’s financial and personal family outlook. I commend Mike because it takes leadership to help people change their question from “If we can cure Alzheimer’s to how can we cure Alzheimer’s…” — or insert another disease that has impacted your loved ones. More of our leaders must genuinely embrace optimistic leadership. JFK mobilized the nation to win the race to the moon. We need the same leadership and mobilization against disease.

Please watch Jennifer Doudna in this TED speech and then think about Huck’s call-to-action again. Perhaps he is just an optimist?

I.M. Optimisman

PS. Unfortunately, many diseases are not “just” genetic in nature (as though just genetic is easy, which right now, it is not) — Alzheimer’s included (see this Mayo Clinic synopsis). But, promising science, if used wisely, can make a positive impact. If we don’t set audacious goals, if we don’t believe it can happen, we will not figure it out nearly as quickly. Let’s elect leaders with vision, not politicians with egos.

Oct 272015

I have often talked about the importance of planning your day — it is far too easy to give in to other people’s urgencies. Here are two articles that outline my thoughts on the topic:
First Cup of Coffee
Urgency Conspiracy

Today, I simply want to point out that checking your email first thing in the morning is pretty much the worst thing that you can do to torpedo your day. Imagine if you changed your habits to avoid your email until 10 am, or better yet, 11 am. What would happen? Imagine if you actually worked on your single most important “strategic big rock task” every morning — the item that you wanted to do, on your own agenda, first — and only then turned your attention to all the issues that other people will upon you, via email. I’m betting that the stuff that comes in on email would still get done, and you would ultimately be far better off.

Did any of the greats — Herb Kelleher for example — work on the agenda other people emailed to them, or did they decide what was most important to them, and work on that?

herb kelleher southwest airlines

Are you willing to take control of your own destiny? It is not as hard as you think. It only requires better habits and a little bit of will power.

I.M. Optimism Man


Oct 172015

A lot of people talk about achieving ‘balance’ in life. The part that no one seems to mention is that every single decision in life comes with a price, and that balance is an achievement of wise decisions made.

I’m a fervent believer that you must strive for balance: it is far too easy to succumb to the gravity of daily work, so much so that you miss the rest of your life, including your family, your health, and brilliant moments of peace and happiness.


The most difficult decisions wind up costing a lot in time and effect your financial flexibility, ultimately changing your outlook and life’s balance.

Consider this:

1. Every decision has a direct price to be paid
2. There is a domino effect, a likely consequence, that changes what decisions are available to you, next, after the immediate decision is made
3. There are both direct and indirect benefits
4. There is a cost to some other aspect of your life’s balance

Those that foresee these four aspects clearly and are right about what the short-term and long-term domino effect will be — at least 80% of the time — will have a better balanced life.

How can you improve your decision making results? Write the facets of each decision down, with what you anticipate regarding the four points above, before you decide, in your permanent journal. Then, revisit and review on a set schedule (at least once a year) — there is a lot to learn when you see how your own thinking actually plays out. Most people forget the logic that they followed in the past and are therefore doomed to repeat mistakes of judgement in the future. Don’t forget to write down what you learn, as that too changes over time.

Learn to make decisions better. I believe that it can be done.

I.M. Optimism Man

Oct 042015

Basic knowledge doesn’t get you far. If it did, everyone with a smartphone and access to Google would become CEO of Skynet or some other growing multi-national corporation.

Ideas are far different than knowledge. Fresh ideas — your ideas — your ideas blended with other ideas — are one of your most important assets. A great idea person is welcome in any group, whether work associates, sports teammate, or personal friends.

The problem is that ideas are often like fine wine — it takes time for them to grow in character.


I have posted often about keeping journals — writing it down is helpful. But, as I personally have discovered, ideas that are inter-dispersed in chronological journals get lost — the signal disappears in the surrounding noise.

Do you keep an ever-growing, well-indexed vault of your ideas? Do you read over your ideas on a regular basis, so that they serve as a catalyst for new ones? How do you distill ideas so that they don’t get lost in the clutter? How do you improve them over time?

Imagine if you started when you were young — lets say as a middle-school student or a freshman in high-school — and wrote down every idea! you ever had in a permanent vault. What if you then re-read and added to your ideas at least once every three months?

This would constitute managing your ideas as an important asset. Do you manage your ideas as an asset?

If you have no idea how to start, I would suggest Day One if you are an iPhone / iPad / Mac person. Evernote is another possibility although I find it cumbersome to review and improve. IdeaMatrix is a good tool that I helped invent, if you are happy with text only idea management (which offers brilliant speed and ease, but gives away pictures). As I type, I realize that I have not done my homework because I don’t know how to effectively export and backup from Day One or Evernote — and it is pretty clear that most tech companies expire after a few years. Trusting one of these with your idea vault also means that you must backup / offline / in a export-import friendly format. I will update this post after I work through the backup capability investigation. [here is an update on Day One — export to an adobe ‘pdf’ file seems to be the best backup — of course, that means you should do so on a regular basis, but in general, I’m comfortable with the capability.]

A few quotes to consider:

“There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come.”
– Victor Hugo

“Ideas are great, but mostly worthless, without action and optimism.”
— Bob Sakalas

“Ideas won’t keep. Something must be done about them.”
– Alfred North Whitehead

Are you an idea person? Manage and refine your most valuable of assets. If you are not an idea person today, start a vault today — it isn’t magic.

I.M. Optimisman

PS. An article worth reading… how IBM encourages invention.

Sep 072015

Do you make assumptions about your kid’s potential? Assumptions about what she can or can’t do can either empower or limit your kid.

Consider this 11 year old:

joey alexander

I.M. OptimismMan


Aug 262015

The headlines this week are all about China woes, and how that domino has started a sell off throughout world markets. While pessimist blood runs in the streets, an optimist is gleeful about being give an entry point opportunity.

I’ve always been a “Growth-At-a-Reasonable-Price” investor, commonly referred to as GARP. Adding to my GARP formula, I like to invest in companies that have a “unique moat” that makes threat of obsolescence from competition or immediate technology innovation hard to imagine (I guess I’m a GARPUM investor). Lastly, I believe you must know your investment thesis… GARPUMIT — For the first time in a while, a few momentum companies that have been on fire (and therefore outside my GARP radar) have been discounted.


People often become paralyzed trying to pick the absolute bottom of a market which is both logical and illogical. It is logical to have this desire, but logic also says that your odds of buying a stock at its low is close to impossible and determined by luck, not skill. Like it or not, irrational price swings exist and will continue to exist, efficient market theory be damned: there is plenty of evidence.

Let’s check where these issues will be on January 2017. If I’m right, they will be up 30 – 50% in only 18 months and should double in four years (by September 2019). I like putting it in writing so that all of us can learn from opportunities. GARP Stocks to consider, IMHO:

Apple @ $105
Starbucks @ $52 — in truth, this is not as much of a sale but still a worth buy
Nike @ $105

Optimists have the innate ability to be brave because they have hope. Optimists buy when investments are cheap. Did you buy?

I.M. Optimisman

Aug 212015

Some people are cheap, some are value-oriented, and some are not careful with their spending habits. I fall squarely into the value-oriented Costco legion. I love getting a great deal but I rarely buy the absolute least-expensive version of a product, believing in the idea that you tend to get what you pay for.


My quest for best-value-for-the-buck is not obsessive because it is invariably tempered by my #1 productivity habit/goal: minimizing the time required and invested in any pursuit. I remain first-and-foremost, a time-focused “how to best invest (and not spend) my time” individual, but I also want to know that I got a great deal.

Which type are you? If you are value-oriented, read on.

I’ve recently noticed a subtle but important mental trap that must be avoided, if you are to maximize value out of any purchase: don’t look back once a decision is made, unless the return policy is still in effect and in serious consideration.


For example, the water-is-truly-under-the-bridge after you get on a cruise ship for your family vacation. Your goal must transition, leaving the payment transaction in the rear-view mirror and looking forward to maximizing your enjoyment and really experiencing the trip. This will not happen if you continue to question the decision, complain about the price already paid, or cut corners on every discretionary expense that accompanies the primary purchase. If you stay focused on price paid, you will enjoy the trip, or the car, or the smartphone, tablet, or laptop a lot less than you would have, because you will still be polluting your inner zen with a ricocheting thoughts about “should I have made this choice — and — was this a good buy at the price that I paid…” Optimistic value-seekers understand that there are two sides of a purchase and therefore, plunge in with both feet, enjoying the purchase, maximizing their experience, and having fun, without complaints.

My advice is that the minute you are on the far side of any purchase, never look back. Seize the day (or purchase) for all you can get out of it.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 252015


If you invest your time and money, you will become rich. It’s really that simple.

— Bob Sakalas

Why not keep a daily diary, a small little log, of what investments you make each day?

noun: investment; plural noun: investment
  • The action or process of investing money for profit or material result.
  • An act of devoting time, effort, or energy to a particular undertaking with the expectation of a worthwhile result.
If you keep a daily log, it will open your eyes and you will see: few devote enough daily energy to investments that can or might pay off. Create something, learn something, write something, buy something that will gain value — just re-tweeeting someone else’s article doesn’t really count — but even that is better than watching T.V. or scrolling Facebook and Instagram. Don’t be part of the Just Watch It” nation that wear Nike “Just Do It” t-shirts while sitting on the couch.


I.M. Optimism Man
Jul 182015

A few weeks ago, I discussed the need for whole-hearted commitment and the will power that results as its by-product. Today, I’m compelled to mention the obvious: There is no substitute for working hard on your pursuit. If you don’t invest the hours, the sweat, the blood, your chances of seeing your finish line diminish greatly.

Consider these observations:

Hard work has made it easy. That is my secret. That is why I win.

— Nadia Comaneci


The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.

— Vince Lombardi

You aren’t going to find anybody that’s going to be successful without making a sacrifice and without perseverance.

— Lou Holtz

Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.

— Ann Landers

The biggest trick in life is finishing what you start, and the number one ingredient is the will power to do the hard work, the unexpected work, without hesitation.

— Bob Sakalas

There is no substitute for hard work.

— Thomas Edison


There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.

— Colin Powell

Would you rather suffer the pain of hard work or the pain of regret? If you are optimistic, I think the answer is clear.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 082015

I rarely see a situation in life where anger helps, yet I often see situations where anger hurts not only the person who is the target of the rage, but also the one who allows himself to become angry.

Yet some people seem angry all the time. I wish we could do a study and track angry episodes per month and how it would correlate to physical health and longevity. If stress causes damage, anger is stress on steroids.


Does yelling at the person that cut you off in traffic help?  Does yelling at your kid when she doesn’t do her chores improve your relationship? Does fuming at your teacher for producing an unexpected pop-quiz improve your chances of getting a good grade? Invariably, the answer is no.

So why get angry? I have no self control” is not a valid answer: the truth is that you have not mastered the millisecond gap — see my previous post here on the topic.

Like any worthy goal, it takes getting out of bad habits, unlinking your reaction from the “triggers” and learning new better habits. If you want to get better, and believe that you can and that you must, you can and will succeed..

Here are six great quotes about anger and how we can get better:

When anger rises, think of the consequences.

— Confucius

When angry, count to ten before you speak. If very angry, count to one hundred.

— Thomas Jefferson

Every day we have plenty of opportunities to get angry, stressed or offended. But what you’re doing when you indulge these negative emotions is giving something outside yourself power over your happiness. You can choose to not let little things upset you.

— Joel Osteen

Anger is a killing thing: it kills the man who angers, for each rage leaves him less than he had been before – it takes something from him.

— Louis L’Amour


Getting angry doesn’t solve anything.

— Grace Kelly

A broken bone can heal, but the wound a word opens can fester forever.

— Jessamyn West

Resolve to remove anger from your DNA. It will lead you to a much better place.

How do I start?

Like much of my advice, start by keeping an honest log of your angered moments and the reasons why you got angry. Why something happened is far more powerful than what happened. Pale ink is magical, as I have observed in previous posts — here’s a post about anger’s cousin, also beatable through the magic of pale ink, the destructive habit of complaining.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 042015

I tried everything to make it happen, but nothing worked.

How often have we heard this? Actually, how often have you said this yourself?  Was this statement ever true? 

The truth is that nearly everyone gives up after trying just one or two ways to achieve a goal. Three distinct attempts is quite rare, reserved for only the most important of endeavors. People shoot themselves in the foot when they announce that they “have tried everything” because nothing can be farther from the truth. When you make announcements, they become your own limiting belief. Sadly, a lot of people get mentally stuck, simply trying the same methods, over and over, expecting different results but not getting them.

I see few examples of anyone trying multiple paths and methods. This is true for the math teacher trying to get her lesson embraced by her student, or the student who tries to memorize the key elements needed for the upcoming exam. This is true for the coach trying to help his team win, the manager striving to make his sales team hit the forecasted numbers, the entrepreneur trying to win customers for her start-up, and it’s true for millions of people hoping to improve their physical fitness. Most everyone tries only one or two ways — sometimes for months and years — and then gives up.

So how do the extraordinary few actually succeed?

Getting started as soon as possible is truly step one. Waiting for all the lights to turn green before driving across town is futile — yet many wait for the perfect moment and fail to get out of the starting gate. As I have observed in another article, getting started comes before getting motivated. Many believe it is the other way around.

But, what truly matters most — in the long-run — is whole-hearted, stake your life on it, commitment. Jumping into the deep end — with both feet — makes up for any shortcomings that you have in raw talent. Your commitment level is the single most important factor that changes how many distinct ways you will try to overcome a challenge. If you decide that “I must succeed at ________ ” instead of “I want to succeed at _______ “, you will find that your success percentages will dramatically improve.


Winning means you are willing to go longer, work harder, and give more than anyone else.

— Vince Lombardi

Imagine two people, Nick and Mike, who both hope to invent the next big thing. Nick, in his own mind’s eye, simply says “I want to” and so, he will work on his project whenever time allows, after he does his day job, hangs with his family, works out at the gym, sees his friends, checks his social media, watches the ball game, and catches up on the news. Mike, on the other hand, commits whole-heartedly and says “I must” — this one little difference makes all the difference. He etches out hours, each and every week without fail, he pivots, adapts, and overcomes, he gets to the finish line of the project, succeeding with persistence and tenacity. It is rarely about talent alone. Success is invariably about your commitment. Commitment is the seed of will power. Only the committed are relentless in the pursuit.

What’s happening in your life today? What are you trying to achieve? Where you should upgrade your commitment from “I want to succeed” to “I must succeed?

I.M. Optimism Man


Jun 222015

It turns out that common “wisdom” — the idea that announcing your goal will help you achieve it — might in fact be false.

Here is a short, simple three minute presentation to consider, before you announce that you are going to lose 10 pounds in the next 12 weeks:


Try it out and see if Derek is right.

I.M. OptimismMan

Jun 162015

Be careful about what you believe about yourself, because there are ramifications for every belief that you have.


Imagine seven people facing the same difficult problem: escaping from the top of a burning skyscraper:

  • Nick believes that he is sharp-as-a-tack smart. 
  • Katherine believes she is resourceful. 
  • Mike believes he is unlucky.
  • Ashley believes she is not good under pressure.
  • Beth believes she is tough and determined.
  • Ian is an optimist while Jen is a sarcastic always-blame-others pessimist.

Can you jump to the end of the story, and imagine how each would approach the immediate, life-threatening problem?

While it is easy to see how these seven people’s beliefs liberate some while they limit others in my life-or-death hypothetical, the same paradigm exists in everyday life.


Imagine the same seven people:

  • in a tough job situation,
  • parenting a difficult teen,
  • having a chance to run for class president,
  • attending a very competitive university in a tough major,
  • breaking down in their car in the wrong neighborhood,
  • deciding to interview for a new position,
  • losing a leg in a car accident,
  • running a 5K,
  • getting a promotion to VP,
  • running into financial woes,
  • starting a new company, or
  • losing 30 pounds and getting into the best shape of their lives.

A person’s chosen beliefs will cause him or her to handle the exact same situation in a different way.

When you look in the mirror, what are your beliefs?  Are they conducive to success?


If a girl believes she is pretty and that her beauty will get her through life, what happens when she ages and Oil of Olay doesn’t live up to its hype?  What if that girl believed she was ‘creative‘ and ‘unstoppable‘ instead?

Many people accept the beliefs handed them by family, teachers, coaches, and friends, but each of us has the freedom to choose. You must be careful when you decide what you believe. You must question everything. You must plan ahead and be deliberate when helping your family and close friends develop their beliefs.  These beliefs can serve them well, or undermine their efforts.  If you have influence, you can help or hurt their chances.  

You can see examples all around. Does a person believe that he is a great speaker or does he believe that he wilts in front of a business crowd? Did Shaq believe he could become a better free throw shooter (probably not)? Did Sylvester Stallone believe he could be a success at acting (obviously yes)?  

I believe that I can choose and cultivate my own beliefs. This belief-about-belief is all empowering. Do you believe that you can change and choose your own beliefs?  If so, do you have some current beliefs that are limiting your potential? It might be high time to take an inventory and re-consider.

I.M. OptimismMan

Jun 092015

When’s the last time you really laughed out loud? Or could not stop laughing? I think for many people, me included, its too long ago and too rare.


If you are one of these people that seem to have forgotten how to live life laughing — and there seems to be more and more of us as we turn 40, and 50, and 60 — what can you change to rediscovered your un-jaded, childlike heart?

I.M. Optimism Man



May 142015

What would a near perfect workday look like for you?

What would a perfect weekend day look like?

What about the perfect vacation day?

Let’s say you could design exactly how you would like to invest and spend your time tomorrow, and also pre-plan how things would turn out. Based on your current situation, write down your perfect workday. Lay out exactly what you would do and what would happen from 6 am – 10 pm. Be specific.

What would be the result of your efforts? What would you accomplish to go to bed happy and content after one great day.


Here’s the reality: you can either set sail, compass in one hand and rudder in the other and have great influence on tomorrow’s play-by-play and end of day results, or you can let the winds and the ocean currents push you off course and frustrate you.


It starts with ink on paper — having a plan is like having a compass. Then, it simply takes a mix of will power, optimism, and the occasional “no, I can’t right now” to prevent other people’s agendas from overwriting your own.

Make your plan tonight, execute your plan tomorrow. I promise even if you miss 100% of your milestones, you will achieve 90% — which is probably 100% better than the average day without a plan.

Try the same for this Saturday. Better result?

If you believe, if you envision, you will surprise yourself.

The real payday is when you build pre-planning and visualization into a habit.

I.M. Optimism Man