optimism_man

Sep 282014
 

Nike has sold billions of dollars of shoes and apparel with its brilliant Just Do It campaign. The problem is that most of the people that buy Nike stuff are watching a scant few people Just Do It.

How many people have become better athletes by watching Sunday NFL? How may people become best selling authors by watching more TV? Or learn to play the piano? Or learn a second language? Or become accomplished artists? Or better business professionals? Or started their own company?

people-watching-tv

We have become the “Just Watch It” nation, sitting on our couches eating chips. Watching others do great things is the national pastime. I think it’s the great evil; unfortunately, it is easier to watch now that ever before. There are hundreds of channels. DVRs record all your favorites. If you forget to record it, it usually comes on again, or is available On Demand, or on Netflix, or Hulu, or at RedBox. If you miss the game, ESPN will talk about it all week, so that you can catch up before the next match. All you have to do is use your precious time to Just Watch It.

Consider these stats (Source: BLS American Time Use Survey, A.C. Nielsen Co. 2013):

Total Use of Television Data
Average time spent watching television (U.S.) 5:11 hours / day
White 5:02
Black 7:12
Hispanic 4:35
Asian 3:14
Years the average person will have spent watching TV 9 years / lifetime
Family Television Statistics
Percentage of households that possess at least one television 99 %
Number of TV sets in the average U.S. household 2.24
Percentage of U.S. homes with three or more TV sets 65 %
Percentage of Americans that regularly watch television while eating dinner 67 %
Percentage of Americans who pay for cable TV 56 %
Number of videos rented daily in the U.S. 6 million
Percentage of Americans who say they watch too much TV 49 %
Child Television Statistics
Number of minutes per week that the average child watches television 1,480
Percent of 4-6 year-olds who, when asked to choose between watching TV and spending time with their fathers, preferred television 54 %
Hours per year the average American youth spends in school 900 hours
Hours per year the average American youth watches television 1,200
Number of violent acts seen on TV by age 18 150,000
Number of 30 second TV commercials seen in a year by an average child 16,000

 

Nine years of the average life sitting and watching TV! My favorite stat in the table is that kids spend 30% more time watching TV than they invest in school. If you want to make more of your life, putting yourself on a TV consumption diet has to be top of the list. How you invest your time is crucial. If you find the will power to pull back on TV, please don’t substitute with low-value internet surfing like Facebook!

As I’ve pointed out many time in the past, the first step to changing any habit is keeping a journal, no matter if you are trying to eat better, reduce how much you complain, or reduce your TV consumption. Then, the ultimate next step is to use all that newfound time in a positive way, and that takes planning.

Are you going to go along with the herd or are you going to transform yourself from Just Watch It to Just Do It?

No one on their death bed wished that they had watched more television.

I.M. Optimism Man

Sep 252014
 

For more than 100 years, the population of developed countries has coalesced and formed sprawling metropolises, as cities offered ever greater opportunity to excel and succeed. One of the prices paid for the density of humanity is the gridlock of traffic that is the bane of any thriving metro today.

rushhour

I question everything, study everything, and observe how people react to situations. Traffic seems to be a nearly universal challenge that brings out the worst in most people. Traffic, so mysterious, so out of our own control, leads even the best of us to complain. I now believe that there is an invaluable lesson to be learned while you sit in daily traffic, yet exceedingly few manage to learn it.

Bear with me for a second while I make a pretty big leap: This lesson can be traced to the extreme hardships vividly documented by Viktor Frankl.

Viktor Frankl’s mother, father, wife, and brother all died in Nazi concentration camps. Viktor endured hunger, cold, and brutality in Auschwitz and Dachau. He knew that he would probably be killed any day. He lost all his belongings, including his life’s work, which was a scientific manuscript that had taken extraordinary time and care to create.

viktor-frankl

Frankl’s situation was dire. He could have easily given up all hope – most people in fact did. But Frankl emerged from the tortures an optimist by cultivating an empowering idea: he reasoned that even in the worst of situations, a person has the freedom to choose 1) how they perceive the circumstances and 2) to create their own meaning from them. Gordon Allport notes in the preface to the third edition of Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning” classic, this is what the ancient Stoics called the ‘last freedom’. The evil of torture is not so much physical, but the active attempt to extinguish it is dibilatating. A favorite quote of Frankl’s was Nietzsche’s “He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.”

Fast forwarding to Los Angeles, Houston, NYC, Dallas, Portland, or Chicago, the minor torture one endures daily is traffic. It infuriates, it shreds our positive attitude, it becomes a great source of complaints, and there is no escape or relief. It is clearly far less daunting than Viktor faced, but traffic is a modern, incessant torture just the same.

The lesson to be learned and appreciated is similar. In concentration camps, Frankl learned that, even though captive, he had the freedom to either let his circumstances infect and corrode his attitude or he had the freedom to choose his attitude and make the best of it. The lesson of traffic is the same: you can either let it get to you, or you can choose to enjoy the day, traffic be damned.

Consider these quotes for a minute:

Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

— Viktor Frankl

The truth is that stress doesn’t come from your boss, your kids, your spouse, traffic jams, health challenges, or other circumstances. It comes from your thoughts about these circumstances.

— Andrew Bernstein

Nothing gives one person so much an advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.

— Thomas Jefferson

Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.

— Mahatma Gandhi

Complaints, either voiced out loud or simply thought out inside your own head, are a mental cancer that ruins your day. Decide to have a great day, no matter what happens, and you will have your great day as your reward.

— Bob Sakalas

This masters-level life lesson is universal. You often cannot choose your circumstances but you can choose your attitude. This applies universally to almost any situation you can’t control. If you are a student, you can’t control that teacher who doesn’t do it your way. If you are a parent, your teen will argue to the point of no return. You may have coworkers that drive you crazy day in and day out. There is no finite list of circumstances as Bernstein pointed out above.

Recently, I unwittingly started complaining — mostly inside my own thoughts — about how much back-to-back business travel I had to endure in the last few months. Although I didn’t voice it often, it was on my mind and my internal complaints began to corrode my attitude, which has a domino effect on everything like productivity, effectiveness, clear thought, focus, peace, optimism, and gratitude. This week, I finally realized the downward spiral I had inadvertently decided to put myself on. I have the freedom to ‘whistle a happy tune’ as I board flight 255 or let the circumstances infect me. Only the former helps things turn out for the best.

Tomorrow morning, I will sit in traffic, thankful for the opportunity to catch up on my stock market awareness while I listen to CNBC. I have seen the light. I hope that you do to.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. FYI, I did in fact whistle the tune to the Andy Griffith show as I boarded an MD-88 this week.

Sep 222014
 

Most commercials offer little value. Once in a while, however, Madison Ave manages to capture an idea brilliantly in just 30 or 60 seconds. Here is one such spot well worth thinking about if you have a daughter:

girl-engineer

I hope that you take it to heart. It is really easy for parents to be protective. We have a kid who wants to build, to invent, to have her own tool box. I believe it is time to let her breathe, even if it costs a few bandaids.

Don’t miss Have a Daughter? Part 1, here.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. I have no idea how this actually sell more Verizon phones and plans… but I’m glad that they funded it.

Sep 172014
 

I have two teenage daughters so I’m truly conscious of how difficult it is to grow up in America’s totally faked “what is beauty” ideal. Every TV show, every magazine, every commercial seems to tell girls that they should not be happy with what God gave them and that they should strive for an ideal that is frankly, a mirage.

Here is a typical beauty shot:

covergirl

Dove ran a series of commercials that exposes how contrived the concept of beauty has become in society. Please watch these two videos as a reminder, especially after looking at the picture above:

dove-evolution

Dove Evolution Video

dove-body

Dove Body Video

I hope all parents can convince their kids, and especially their daughters, that beauty starts from inside. What they see, far too often, is skin deep and unattainable without a lot of photoshop distortions.

I.M. Optimism Man

Sep 012014
 

Warren Buffett is a smart guy. In my book, it is more important to have great common sense than it is to just be I.Q. rocket-science smart. Mr. Buffett is both – he clearly stood in line several times as God was dealing out common sense before he was born.

warren-buffett-hi-res

As many of you know, I am a long-term investor and I have read Warren’s shareholder letters with great interest for years. I don’t agree with Warren on every front (mostly politics) but he does author a lot of great, common-sense quotes worth thinking through.  Here are a few of my favorites:

  1. Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.
    ~
  2. Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.
    ~
  3. Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.
    ~
  4. It’s better to hang out with people better than you. Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.
    ~
  5. It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.
    ~
  6. In the 20th century, the United States endured two world wars and other traumatic and expensive military conflicts; the Depression; a dozen or so recessions and financial panics; oil shocks; a flu epidemic; and the resignation of a disgraced president. Yet the Dow rose from 66 to 11,497.
    ~
  7. You only have to do a very few things right in your life so long as you don’t do too many things wrong.
    ~
  8. The business schools reward difficult complex behavior more than simple behavior, but simple behavior is more effective.
    ~
  9. Wide diversification is only required when investors do not understand what they are doing.
    ~
  10. It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.
    ~
  11. Look at market fluctuations as your friend rather than your enemy; profit from folly rather than participate in it.
    ~
  12. We believe that according the name ‘investors’ to institutions that trade actively is like calling someone who repeatedly engages in one-night stands a ‘romantic.’
    ~
  13. If a business does well, the stock eventually follows.
    ~
  14. You’d get very rich if you thought of yourself as having a card with only twenty punches in a lifetime, and every financial decision used up one punch. You’d resist the temptation to dabble. You’d make more good decisions and you’d make more big decisions.
    ~
  15. Generally speaking, investing in yourself is the best thing you can do. Anything that improves your own talents; nobody can tax it or take it away from you. They can run up huge deficits and the dollar can become worth far less. You can have all kinds of things happen. But if you’ve got talent yourself, and you’ve maximized your talent, you’ve got a tremendous asset that can return ten-fold.
    ~
  16. You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you.
    ~
  17. The trick is, when there is nothing to do, do nothing.
    ~
  18. No matter how great the talent or efforts, some things just take time. You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.
    ~
  19. Money will not change how healthy you are or how many people love you.
    ~
  20. Never lie under any circumstances.
    ~

neverbetagainst

There’s a lot of wisdom, and great reason for optimism, in less than 500 words.

I.M. Optimism Man

Aug 252014
 

A lot of people think that I’m a true “morning person” but unfortunately, that is not the case. Being a morning person implies that you jump out of bed, fully awake and ready to go, naturally, almost magically. Maybe some people are that fortunate but I’m not one of them. I burn the candle at both ends far too often, working hard and working out, daily. Jumping out of bed is not in the cards for me — my wife can attest that watching me get up is akin to a time-lapse photography sequence.

Yet, I decided years ago to transform myself into a morning person of sorts. What I really am is a rhythm and habits person, who believes in will power and forethought.

Just because I’m up at 5 am daily does not mean that it is easy. In fact, this graphic sums up mornings perfectly, from my perspective:

not-a-morning-person

After years of experimentation and observation, I believe that getting a good, early start in the morning produces killer benefits for the rest of the day.

A good start must be defined, because I believe it is not plunging headlong into the rat race sooner than most everyone else.

  • A good start involves reading a bit to kickstart fresh ideas.
  • It definitely includes pre-planning your day and your top “big rock” priority.
  • A good start must include forward thinking, as well as a bit of reflection.
  • It also should include comprehensive stretching, which works wonders physically.
  • If you are a believer, saying a short prayer or two helps orient yourself to your higher calling.
  • Finally, when the weather cooperates, it also includes stopping, watching, and appreciating the sun rise.

It takes 6 – 12 weeks to build or break a habit. But once you get past the habit barrier, I believe that there are great benefits to the choice of becoming a “morning person” — at least my kind of coffee-sparked morning person. The 10 reasons to become a morning person include:

1. Peace
When you get up early, you find moments of peace and solitude in an otherwise crowded, busy, loud-as-heck, full-of-distractions world. Peace and solitude is great for the soul. I’m not exactly meditating on my patio, but I get it.

2. Reflection
Early mornings are great for reflection, especially as you move to cup of coffee #2. One of the things I started a few years ago is keeping a smartphone based journal. I find, in the peace of the early morn, reading over my recent entries helps generate more ideas.

3. Self-Determination
You an either set your own priorities or others will set them for you. Early mornings give you time to think about whats important to you. It helps fight the urgency conspiracy driven by other people. Get up early to find the time to set your own agenda, your own priorities.

4. Magic
The sunrise is in fact magical. Try it for one week. Then, tell me I’m wrong.

5. Avoiding Some Stress
If you have to go somewhere, you will avoid 90% of the stress of traffic, while saving a lot of time as well. Most cities are busy but not jammed before 7 am. If you go in early, you will avoid that stress that every 8 am commuter feels.

dawn-runner

6. Sharpness
If you get up early and go for a workout, your mind and body are running at full speed by the time others start arriving, sleepy and groggy. Being the sharpest person in the room is a fantastic feeling and it doesn’t hurt your chances of accelerated promotion.

7. Balance
By getting up early, you get more balance in your life. When you take time to plan your day, you tend to be more thoughtful about it, which in turn leads to prioritizing your tasks and plans, both at work and in other pursuits.

8. Special Projects
When you finally forge yourself into a morning person, you will find that you have the capability of getting special project started and completed. I wrote my book, Seizing Share, using the early morning system. Interruptions don’t wake up and start interrupting until 7:30 or 8 am.

9. Improved Optimism
The more mornings you enjoy with a good start, the more often you will have the right, positive attitude all day. Optimism is a crucial ingredient toward success, so with improved optimism, you will often see more success. It becomes a self-sustaining upward spiral.

10. Better Sleep
A lot of people struggle to fall asleep. However, if you get up early, you are more worn by the time bedtime arrives. As a result, you fall asleep quickly and sleep more soundly all night. Our bodies like rhythms. The trick is to keep to the schedule. Once you have a great schedule, you will find that you sleep better, feel more fit, and ultimately become healthier too.

Consider becoming a morning person. I’m living proof that it can be done, even if you are a night owl today.

I.M. Optimism Man

Aug 192014
 

Complaining seems to be the national pastime — perhaps it has always been so — but I’ve become so sensitive to it that I can’t help but overhear it, evaluate it, and even rate it everywhere I go.

Complaints help no one. If you complain, you are not better off, the people you are infecting with negativity are not better off, and you are slowly but surely causing a social rift between yourself and others. Nobody likes a whiner, even other whiners.

crybaby

Complaining is a brilliant way to relive a bad experience over and over. OK, perhaps traffic was painful this afternoon, but why live through it again and again, all evening long? Life will often offer up the irate customer, the difficult relationship, the frustrating store clerk, the thin lukewarm coffee, and the inevitable meal with too much seasoning. If you decide to put “it” behind you minutes after “it” happens, and never mention it again, I know you will have a better evening.

I believe we all have the power to choose what habits we build and what habits we leave behind. Whining is a beast that can be defeated, if you decide and follow through. It takes six to twelve weeks to build a habit of excellence when you have resolve. Here’s how.

kwitcherbichen

The benefits are numerous. When you stop whining, you will reduce your stress. You will smile more, laugh more, believe more, become more optimistic, relax more, enjoy more, appreciate more, and have more gratitude, which is the ultimate key to happiness. Today is the day to start. Make a commitment. Make it happen. Make a great new habit reality.

I.M. OptimismMan

 

Aug 062014
 

Most of us really feel good about ourselves when we accomplish something great. Yet, far too often, we only wish a key accomplishment would happen, rather than taking the initiative to start, and then putting in a concentrated burst of effort to change our status quo.

I find that when I really want to make it happen, midnight can be magical.

Consider one of my favorite quotes:

The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Burning the midnight oil

When is the last time you burned the midnight oil? Perhaps today is the day. When you make things happen — great things that are not part of the norm — you become more hopeful and happier overall.

I.M. Optimism Man

Aug 022014
 

I rarely watch the same movie twice, but this week, I decided to watch Dead Poets Society again. The first time I saw Dead Poets was in 1989, while living in San Antonio. I didn’t remember the movie clearly, but I remembered I really liked it the first time around. Indeed, I now know why. If you have not seen Dead Poets, give it a shot.

That said, oh my, this was a great quote — recently featured in an Apple’s ad:

“We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for. To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!… of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life?” Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

dead-poets-society-photo

And another:

“No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.”

And another:

“They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you, their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because, you see gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen, you hear it? – - Carpe – - hear it? – - Carpe, carpe diem, seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

oh-captain-my-captain

Carpe Diem,

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 222014
 

What if you could miss out on more than half the diseases that plague humans today? You can, and the medicine is not from Pfizer or Astra Zeneca. The medicine is simply making the right choices and having will power on a daily basis.

From a big picture level, the USA spends far more money on healthcare as a percentage of GDP than any other. The USA also is one of the most obese countries on the planet. The USA’s life expectancy trails a lot of other developed countries, despite all the money spend on healthcare. The USA’s healthcare outlook and staggering financial bill would change dramatically for the better with a lot less cookies, brownies, potato chips, and giggling midriffs.

chocolate

Each cookie, brownie, and slice of cake is trying its very best to bring about your demise a bit sooner, one morsel at a time. Many people will die today from the choices that they made over the years regarding diet and fitness. Obesity is one of the most reliable indicators and forecasters of a person’s health and longevity. Yet America — and much of the developed world — is getting fatter at an absolutely alarming rate.

Consider this 30 second video that shows the percentage of the US population hitting the scales as obese. I find it an absolutely stunning fact that this fattening of America has happened since the year that I graduated from college:

obesity

Make the choice to have discipline, eat right daily, and work out regularly. There are no guarantees, but your odds of avoiding a lot of health problems are really good. Health is required to tackle life with optimism and enthusiasm.

Here is the CDC’s take on obesity: http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html

Consider this idea. It might just make all the difference. Half your health outlook is up to you and only you, one bite at a time.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

Jul 162014
 

Stephen Covey will be remembered most for his book — The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People — which was a runaway best seller. If you have read this book 20 years ago, when it was most popular, I suggest reading it again. While some of Covey’s ideas can be traced to the work of many before him, his succinct and well architected compilation is very valuable.

As we grow older, our interpretation of books and ideas is getting better. Re-reading a good book after putting it aside for a decade makes sense, because it results in new ideas and newfound appreciation.

stephen-r-covey

Here are a dozen great quotes from Covey that are well worth thinking about while in your own fortress of solitude:

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

Life is not about accumulation, it is about contribution.

The key is taking responsibility and initiative, deciding what your life is about and prioritizing your life around the most important things.

Live out of your imagination, not your history.

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.

Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important.

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. The enemy of the “best” is often the “good.”

I teach people how to treat me by what I will allow.

We become what we repeatedly do.

Leadership is a choice, not a position.

I have an abundance mentality: When people are genuinely happy at the successes of others, the pie gets larger.

– Stephen Covey

Now, here’s the kicker — after thinking deeply about these core ideas, will you decide to adopt just one of them, make it a habit, and change yourself for the better?

Everything good starts will making a good decision.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 072014
 

It is a crowded world, full of distractions, and it is getting louder all the time. People seem to have less time and less interest in listening to anyone. Instant messaging and checking one’s Facebook and Instagram take more and more available attention. It seems like more than half of everyone under thirty is wearing ear buds. Without a doubt, it is getting hard to be heard and understood, yet few skills matter more to your success and effectiveness than your ability to communicate effectively. 

Color-headphones

Do you find that others sometimes miss your message or don’t listen as attentively as you would like them to? There’s a reason, and it is well worth figuring out the root cause. There are ways to rise above, but many people fall into poor communication habits. The result is that less people listen.

Julian Treasure studies sound and advises businesses on how best to use it. He is the chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses — offices, retailers, hotels — on how to use sound. Here is one of his three short talks at TED. We all have habits that can be improved. I think his thoughts are well worth considering:

2014-06-27_1018-julian

As with many things that lead to personal success, improving yourself is a matter of eliminating or at least greatly limiting bad habits while enhancing good habits. In the case of speaking, Julian suggests eliminating your –

  • gossiping,
  • judging,
  • negativity,
  • complaining,
  • excuses,
  • lying / exaggeration, and
  • dogmatism.

These seven absolutely turn people off to your message. Those who think a that a bit of gossip every week, or little white lie here and a little exaggeration there are no big deal, don’t realize the damage they do to themselves and their longer-term believability.

Focus on four good habits –

  • speaking honestly and from the heart,
  • being authentic (be yourself),
  • do what you say (have integrity), and
  • have love (wish them well) for your fellow man.

Improving oneself is mission-critical but we often lose months, even years, because we are too busy. Jim Rohn’s consistent message was that everyone should “Work harder on yourself than you do on your job.” One of Stephen Covey’s seven habits was “Sharpen the Saw“, a likely adaptation from Abraham Lincoln’s “If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my axe.” In my opinion, improving your ability to communicate — clearly, concisely, and with impact — must be at the top of your skills improvement quest. There is always room to get better.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 012014
 

Many foolishly believe that having the brilliant idea is what makes a person succeed or fail. I believe the truth is found in the value of discipline in our lives. Hundreds of good ideas come and go during any given year. If a person is not disciplined, none of them will pay off. Discipline is the ingredient that makes all the difference.

Here are ten great quotes about discipline to consider over a cup of coffee:

langkawi_sky_bridge

It doesn’t matter whether you are pursuing success in business, sports, the arts, or life in general: The bridge between wishing and accomplishing is discipline.
– Harvey Mackay

Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.
– Stephen Covey

It was character that got us out of bed, commitment that moved us into action, and discipline that enabled us to follow through.
– Zig Ziglar

Discipline strengthens the mind so that it becomes impervious to the corroding influence of fear.
– Bernard Law Montgomery

Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.
– Roy L. Smith

Discipline is just doing the same thing the right way whether anyone’s watching or not.
– Michael J. Fox

The only discipline that lasts is self-discipline.
– Bum Phillips

It’s easy to have faith in yourself and have discipline when you’re a winner, when you’re number one. What you got to have is faith and discipline when you’re not a winner.
– Vince Lombardi

Most people want to avoid pain, and discipline is usually painful.
– John C. Maxwell

The world conspires to steal and waste your time. It takes true discipline to stay on track while television, social media, and friends of leisure beckon.
– Bob Sakalas

Bruce-Lee-Enter-the-Dragon

If you embrace self-discipline, you will go far in life. Discipline matters. Discipline is what you must be made of.

It — no matter what “it” we are talking about — will not be easy if it is a worthy pursuit. One of the disciplines that I believe matters most is the discipline of optimism and enthusiasm. Rare the success that isn’t fueled by true belief and an excited mind.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jun 242014
 

Regret is often the product of not taking a chance, not embracing an opportunity, when we had it. While people offer a lot of excuses for why they missed out as they express regrets, the underlying truth is most often a failure of courage. If you are not making mistakes, it is a clear indicator that you are not trying enough new things. But it takes courage to try anything new, to embark on any new exciting journey, to try a road less traveled by the rest of the human herd.

The hardest step is always the first — getting started comes before getting motivated — and getting started takes courage.

Nothing gets in people’s way more often than fears, and fears are usually quite silly once one looks back on them and sees them for what they really are. It is often more than just the fear of failure that prevents people from trying the new. Others have fear of success, for with success comes far greater responsibility. Others yet fear change or the unknown, simply because they assume the the unknown is worse than where they are today. Small minded people fear people that are not like them, or people that think differently than them. In every case, those who decide to risk in the face of small fears or large fears, expand their lives and their horizons. This is courage and like every key to success, courage can be learned, courage can be practiced, courage can be expanded through experiences.

skydiving

This is not to say that all fear is bad. Fear is what drives prudent decision-making, in other words balancing the chance of success versus the chance of failure. But those without courage allow themselves to become paralyzed. Fear prevents so many things that are good. A person with a fear of rejection doesn’t stick their hand out and introduce themselves to new people. Similar fears convince people to not try out for the team, to not run for class president, to not put in for that promotion, to not decide to have kids, to not be all they can be. In each of these cases, the upside potential usually outweighs the downside risk but those who have not developed the courage to take risks, shrink away from opportunities.

All the great leaders of the last century have observed the extraordinary importance of courage. Winston Churchill, perhaps the greatest leader during world war two, proclaimed “Courage is the first of the human qualities because it is the quality that guarantees all the others.” He is right. I have often written about the crucial importance of integrity. Is it possible to be a person of integrity if you do not have the courage to stand up for what you believe is right? Is it possible to have extraordinary character if you don’t have the courage to stand up to peer pressure? Your faith will be tested, as will your sense of duty. Even your purpose will be questioned and you will have to have to courage to swim against the ever-changing winds of “popular” thinking.

Courage takes practice. One doesn’t typically have the courage to speak in front of an audience of thousands if they have never spoken in front of an audience of five, then ten, then thirty. One doesn’t step onto a basketball court and hit two game winning free-throws unless they have played thousands of games first. The trick is to take every small opportunity you can, at least every one that makes prudent sense along the road of life, so that when the time comes, you have the experience and the courage to give it your best shot.

speaking-well

Fear is often driven by perceived risk, not necessarily actual risk. Irrational fear is driven by an irrational perception of risk and it leads to paralysis or irrational failure. Healthy fear — lets call it apprehension — is healthy, because it is driven by an accurate assessment of risk. It does not immobilize us, but helps us make good decisions when it is critical that we must. A great example is a person trapped atop a burning building. While most of us have a fear of heights, the prudent and courageous person can evaluate the situation, and decide that sliding down a wire over the yawning abyss is less risky than staying put on top of the inferno.

Courage therefore is not lack of fear but rather mastery of fear and risk. Mastery of fear and risk starts with doing your research, your homework, evaluating your situation. Preparation helps an extraordinary amount, yet many people are lazy and do not prepare. Using my example of speaking in front of a large crowd, it is far easier to master your fear and succeed if you have developed great material, written down a crisp opening, made some backup notes to keep in your pockets, and practiced your speech once or twice. Courage is bolstered through preparation.

Preparation may not put you completely over the top, but it makes that last bit of courage far easier to muster. Courage allows a person to become decisive, to grab opportunities that others do not, to take chances when the odds are good.

Take every prudent risk, face the world with courage, and your world will be a far bigger place, with far more expansive horizons, with plentiful opportunities. Don’t listen to your peers for you must realize that smart, courageous people are rare – most everyone you will know will have far more limited horizons than you.

The world can be your oyster if you embrace it. Envision yourself courageous. Take smart risks. Embrace opportunities with little hesitation. Most importantly, realize that courage requires practice.

Here is a quote I love:

What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?

Embrace opportunities. Life is better when you have the courage to live life large, with few regrets.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. Watch Jim Carrey in Yes Man once a year.

yes_man

Jun 212014
 

I think all of us, at one time, had our trust betrayed. When that happens — when someone breaks their sincere word to us — as just happened with my daughter’s coach of many years, it is easy to learn the wrong lesson. At such a seminal moment, most people walk away never able to place their full and complete trust in others again. Unfortunately, that all-too-understandable conclusion hurts the betrayed person far more than the betrayer in his or her moment of weak character. When you lose your willingness to trust, you damage your life’s true potential and promise.

This is a genuinely difficult time to be Optimism Dad.

The coach, who had often promised his loyalty and desire to take my daughter far in her soccer future, had never once pulled her to the side in the last two+ years to ask her to improve any aspects of her play. Not once did he warn us or her that she was “not safe” for next year. Even as he called me to cut her from the team, he admitted that she played nearly flawless games on the field and had done so, consistently, for years. In the end, she broke her leg, he found a replacement, and he simply decided to go with the new girl based on a newfound preference for a larger, sturdier, and currently uninjured kid. After three years of her faithful dedication, I was most surprised that he never talked to her directly in the end, making no attempt to help mitigate the psychological damage.

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My daughter took it very, very hard. At times like this, it is hard to stay true to the optimism that is, in part, a product of the choice to trust. Yet trust is a crucial choice, if you are to get the most out of every endeavor and relationship. When you don’t trust the next teacher, coach, friend, manager, partner, or colleague fully, your odds of great success and achievement are reduced. Not every teacher, not every coach, not every manager will fail a crossroads character test.

She felt safe, secure, valued, and genuinely loved by her friends and the coaches that she completely trusted, only to be ejected by the “family” that intentionally and often sold the “this is a family” concept at every turn. She lost many of her best friends in the blink of an eye. Real families don’t turn their backs on the injured while he or she recovers. This must be what it feels when a spouse is shocked by unexpectedly served divorce papers, without ever having any arguments or counseling sessions. She has played top level soccer for nearly 6 years. At 12, she has experienced this shock twice already: she broke her arm when she was 8 and lost half her job then. She then broke her leg at 12, and lost her job entirely. The second one hurt much more, because she really trusted these coaches and she really loved the friends she had here. I played a sad part as well, telling her many times that I believed this coach was different and trustworthy. I was wrong. Life is not always fair and just.

nike-boot

Why did this really happen? In the end, I would place the blame on misguided raw ambition of the coaches and the few people they look to for counsel. This team is one of the best the coaches have ever had, consistently ranked in the top 5 in one of most competitive metros in America. They, and some of the parents, believe that scoring just a few more goals, or stopping just a couple more shots, or having two more games without an injured keeper — per year — is worth any price. But, blame doesn’t help and forgiveness makes you better, as I have pointed out before.

This is a difficult time for our family and a difficult lesson to teach my kid. I hope to convince her that, contrary to this painful event, life is better when you choose to trust. Through faith in others, greater highs are achieved — you are able to do your very best only through faith and optimism — but that the occasional lows may be much lower as well. Just because the path of trust is right and true, doesn’t make it easy choice to make, given the choices others sometimes make.

When you are faced with similar situations, I hope that you help your kids see the light. Choosing to trust matters, even after those you trusted decide to rip your heart out. Trust is the right decision until you have proof of a person’s poor character — don’t make the same mistake twice in those cases, of course.

holtz-notre-dame

I wish these coaches followed Lou Holtz’s simple formula for success in life — (1) Do Right, (2) Do the best you can, and (3) Treat others the way you would like to be treated — if they did, this event would never had happened. I sincerely hope they learn something from this event and at least pre-warn the next kids, months before they nuke them. For now, I hope that we can salvage a good, important, lasting lesson from this painful chapter.

A quote all of us have heard is:

Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

– Alfred Lord Tennyson

The same is true for trust. Tis better to trust and lose, than to never have trusted at all. 

The strong can choose to trust, and to forgive, even after the lowest low.

Optimism Dad

Jun 112014
 

dancing-in-the-rainSometimes I see something so concise, so brilliant, so crisp, so true, that I truly wish that I had written it.

Life will never go quite as planned. You can be meticulous in your ideas, your goals, and your execution, and Murphy’s Law will remain a potent force. Being flexible and enjoying what you get is important. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to plan a number of large, outdoor events, so perhaps the ever changing weather really taught me some valuable lessons.

Consider this little magnet, found in a small boutique at the Seattle airport. It really hit home for me:

storm-to-pass

Do you agree?

I.M. Optimism Man

Jun 022014
 

To be a true optimist who makes an impact, you must believe certain things must improve and that proactive action must be taken. Not every corner of any society, ours included, is rosy. Simply having faith that things will eventually get better is not good enough. For things to get better, we have to think about the uncomfortable topics, discuss them, debate them, and even argue about them — we have to demand progress so that we can move toward resolving them.

Some issues are disturbing, if one gets deeper than the simplistic and often out-of-context sound-bytes from Washington DC’s politicians, as quoted by the USA Today and Headline News.

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One of these issues is why America has had an 8-fold population explosion of prisoners, going from 300,000 to well over 2,300,000 in just the last 40 years? This is a difficult issue, but it never seems to hit the top ten discussions of any presidential election.

Chino

I believe another difficult issue that cause many Americans to look the other way includes inequalities and injustice in our legal system. This includes the staggeringly disproportional incarceration rate of black young men and the question of whether God gives us the right to levy the death penalty as a valid tool of justice.

There are other, smaller, but equally perplexing “justice” issues as well. Let us not forget the extraordinary financial damage our justice system dispenses with frivolous class-action suits and I continue to be perplexed at the political and legal support for patent-troll companies, full of lawyers who do little but stifle innovation while enriching themselves.

For justice to get better, we have to make progress on all these fronts, and most of these topics are not comfortable ones.

Below is an extraordinary talk by Bryan Stevenson, a lawyer who is a leading spokesman about many aspects of injustice, especially as it comes to race. I highly recommend listening to Bryan, and contemplating the topics. It helps that he is such an accomplished orator. There will be no progress unless all of us first understand the issues — beyond just the sound-bytes — and then take action, sooner than later.

bryan-stevenson

We can solve anything if we are willing to take it on. I find it hard to fathom why the USA, the land of opportunity, should lead the incarceration of the developed world.

I.M. Optimism Man 

PS. Here is one more chart to think about:

Incarceration_rates_worldwide

May 282014
 

The more information is shared, the faster progress accelerates. Yet, most people hoard and keep information secret, because they believe such info is the source of their power. The idea of “need to know” has an Achilles Heel, namely the assumption that the information gatekeepers really understand who have the need to know what.

The truth is lots of things should be shared far more freely than they are. No, I’m not advocating that everything should be shared with every terrorist-wannabe. But I do suspect that if we could increase information sharing and information interconnections by 80%, we would see a much larger increase in the pace of innovation for society as a whole. The internet is clearly an empowering revolution. Countries like China, Turkey, and others who are trying to slow it down for their own populations will do little but slow their own country’s progress in the end. It is inevitable.

Not sure what I mean? Consider these 7 minutes of thoughts by General McChrystal, a central figure in recent conflicts:

mcchrystal

This applies more to your life than you realize. The more information you find, mine, refine, and share at work, the more you will become invaluable and succeed.

I.M. Optimism Man 

May 192014
 

If you pay any attention to the news or any survey on the topic of safety, people feel less safe now than they did in the past. I believe the perception is seeded and watered by CNN and all the other all-news-all-the-time networks that sell fear, first-and-foremost. People tune in for “fear uncertainty and doubt” stories, and tuning in is what drives ad pricing power.

The truth is that the USA, and most of the countries of the world, are far safer now, than at a time only a few decades ago. But, because the networks must make money, they sell gloom and doom 24-7.

Consider these 5 facts:

1. In the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s, an average of 433,000 people died each year globally from “extreme weather events.” That figure has plunged to 27,500 per year because we have better communications and better understanding of how to adapt and cope with difficult challenges like hurricanes. That’s almost 1,000,000 more people surviving every two years. The world is a safer place, even though the ABC weather man is always getting pelted by hurricane force winds.

abc hurricane coverage

2. No one has died from a new nuclear weapon attack since 1945. No political scientist from 1950 would have predicted that. Nuclear arsenals remain locked. The world is a safer place, even though Fox News keeps coverage going on Iran sanctions whenever a saber is rattled.

castlebravoblast

3. A flu pandemic in 1918 killed as many as 100 million people. Today, flu deaths are rare and pandemics don’t happen. The world is a much safer place although bird flu made for great ad sales at MSNBC. Could a pandemic happen? Perhaps. But does selling this fear, year in and year out, help us, or just contribute to the background stress?

flu pandemic

4. America averaged about 21,000 murders per year in the 90s. That rate has dropped nearly 20% to 16,000 per year in the 2000s. Give or take, that’s about 50,000 citizens not killed, but CNN covers every grisly, spectacular event, to ensure that we don’t feel one bit more secure, while simultaneously informing us about the power of the Ecoboost V6 engine in the Ford F150.

CrimeScene

5. In 1950, 23 Americans per 100,000 died annually in traffic accidents, according to the US Census. That traffic fatality rate fell to 11 per 100,000 by 2009, even as traffic has grown more challenging in our biggest metros. Due to the declines, nearly 350,000 more Americans would have perished from 2000 – 2009. CNN missed this good news story too, covering only the unfortunate events when a school bus is rammed by a train.

la_traffic

We are safer in so many ways than ever before, but CNN and the others don’t let us feel that way. If you want to be an optimist, you have to look at the news and see it for what it really is. It doesn’t cover the longer-term, slower moving stories of important progress and improvement, defaulting to fear and sensationalism.

I personally think its a terrible shame that a lot of kids no longer play outside because mom’s don’t feel safe. Keeping one’s perspective and situation awareness is crucial if you choose the enlightened path of the optimistic few.

I.M. Optimism Man

May 152014
 

So this is interesting. We are awake about 16 hours per day. Only 14 hours are “alert and vibrant time” because there is always some wasted time, especially at the end of the day.

How you choose to invest (or spend, or waste) your time matters a lot. My philosophy is found in many of my posts, such as this one — Red Pill Clarity.

Mark-Zuckerberg

Enter Facebook and the other social media players that gain billions based on your engagement. The prediction (and charts) show that 2014 will be the year that the average active social media user will hit 4 hours of daily social media engagement. That is almost nearly a third of one’s day, and the new young moguls want more!

Ipsos-US-Average-SocNet-Time-Spend-Per-Day-Jan20131

Lets not forget the great time killer of the last 50+ years – T.V. The average American watches T.V. 34 hours each week – that’s pretty much 5 hours each day. 500 channels of stuff and nothing good to watch, but watch we do.

Granted, we can assume there is overlap – people play on Facebook and Instagram while watching T.V. – but its a fair guess that 6 – 7 hours of a 14 – 16 hour day are chalked up to consuming shows, posts, and data that will not matter two weeks from now.

man-watching-tv

Face your own reality instead of the averages:
I would simply suggest keeping a log of how much time you spend on social and T.V. for a month or two. Then consider what you could do, if you cut that time in half. How much better shape could you be in? What could you create?

I.M. Optimism Man

PS> I “get” that social media helps keep you socially connective and active. But too much of anything – Facebook, Snapchat, chocolate, weight lifting, basketball, even water – is bad for you.

snapchat-00

I suggest understanding how much time you will allocate for Facebook (and other social media) and T.V. and then sticking to your decisions. Everything in moderation, and planning your use of time in advance, makes for genuine achievement.