Apr 292017
 

We have lived through a truly divisive decade and election. In just the last few months, Trump pulled off a shocker win, the Brits decided to bail out of the European Union, and the war on terror continues with senseless killings everywhere that have numbed people emotionally: a headline that dozens of innocent citizens have been slaughtered doesn’t disturb the hustle and bustle of everyday life.  A common theme through it all is that we should not help people that need help and kindness, for fear of the few radicals that strive so hard to dominate the media headlines. Many people today care less about others than ever, at least in my lifetime.

I believe we need to think about this spreading darkness, this growing callousness that is becoming all too acceptable. If we want a better society, with hope for a better future, we can’t trudge along with the herd, yelling for closed borders and constant distrust. I’m not so naive to think that intelligence should not be improved and that we should retreat from chasing the bad guys, but broad brush exclusion of needy and helpless is a steep price to pay for it darkens our own soul, our society, our future.

Pope Francis addressed this when he spoke at the TED conference this month. I hope that you click and listen, or read the transcript below. We need to keep our individual souls hopeful and believe in a better tomorrow, or the terroristic few will ultimately win an important victory.

[His Holiness Pope Francis Filmed in Vatican City First shown at TED2017]
0:15
Good evening – or, good morning, I am not sure what time it is there. Regardless of the hour, I am thrilled to be participating in your conference. I very much like its title – “The Future You” – because, while looking at tomorrow, it invites us to open a dialogue today, to look at the future through a “you.” “The Future You:” the future is made of yous, it is made of encounters, because life flows through our relations with others. Quite a few years of life have strengthened my conviction that each and everyone’s existence is deeply tied to that of others: life is not time merely passing by, life is about interactions.
1:27
As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: “Why them and not me?” I, myself, was born in a family of migrants; my father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing. I could have very well ended up among today’s “discarded” people. And that’s why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: “Why them and not me?”
2:35
First and foremost, I would love it if this meeting could help to remind us that we all need each other, none of us is an island, an autonomous and independent “I,” separated from the other, and we can only build the future by standing together, including everyone. We don’t think about it often, but everything is connected, and we need to restore our connections to a healthy state. Even the harsh judgment I hold in my heart against my brother or my sister, the open wound that was never cured, the offense that was never forgiven, the rancor that is only going to hurt me, are all instances of a fight that I carry within me, a flare deep in my heart that needs to be extinguished before it goes up in flames, leaving only ashes behind.
3:38
Many of us, nowadays, seem to believe that a happy future is something impossible to achieve. While such concerns must be taken very seriously, they are not invincible. They can be overcome when we don’t lock our door to the outside world. Happiness can only be discovered as a gift of harmony between the whole and each single component. Even science – and you know it better than I do – points to an understanding of reality as a place where every element connects and interacts with everything else.
4:27
And this brings me to my second message. How wonderful would it be if the growth of scientific and technological innovation would come along with more equality and social inclusion. How wonderful would it be, while we discover faraway planets, to rediscover the needs of the brothers and sisters orbiting around us. How wonderful would it be if solidarity, this beautiful and, at times, inconvenient word, were not simply reduced to social work, and became, instead, the default attitude in political, economic and scientific choices, as well as in the relationships among individuals, peoples and countries. Only by educating people to a true solidarity will we be able to overcome the “culture of waste,” which doesn’t concern only food and goods but, first and foremost, the people who are cast aside by our techno-economic systems which, without even realizing it, are now putting products at their core, instead of people.
6:08
Solidarity is a term that many wish to erase from the dictionary. Solidarity, however, is not an automatic mechanism. It cannot be programmed or controlled. It is a free response born from the heart of each and everyone. Yes, a free response! When one realizes that life, even in the middle of so many contradictions, is a gift, that love is the source and the meaning of life, how can they withhold their urge to do good to another fellow being?
6:50
In order to do good, we need memory, we need courage and we need creativity. And I know that TED gathers many creative minds. Yes, love does require a creative, concrete and ingenious attitude. Good intentions and conventional formulas, so often used to appease our conscience, are not enough. Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The “you” is always a real presence, a person to take care of.
7:52
There is a parable Jesus told to help us understand the difference between those who’d rather not be bothered and those who take care of the other. I am sure you have heard it before. It is the Parable of the Good Samaritan. When Jesus was asked: “Who is my neighbor?” – namely, “Who should I take care of?” – he told this story, the story of a man who had been assaulted, robbed, beaten and abandoned along a dirt road. Upon seeing him, a priest and a Levite, two very influential people of the time, walked past him without stopping to help. After a while, a Samaritan, a very much despised ethnicity at the time, walked by. Seeing the injured man lying on the ground, he did not ignore him as if he weren’t even there. Instead, he felt compassion for this man, which compelled him to act in a very concrete manner. He poured oil and wine on the wounds of the helpless man, brought him to a hostel and paid out of his pocket for him to be assisted.
9:26
The story of the Good Samaritan is the story of today’s humanity. People’s paths are riddled with suffering, as everything is centered around money, and things, instead of people. And often there is this habit, by people who call themselves “respectable,” of not taking care of the others, thus leaving behind thousands of human beings, or entire populations, on the side of the road. Fortunately, there are also those who are creating a new world by taking care of the other, even out of their own pockets. Mother Teresa actually said: “One cannot love, unless it is at their own expense.”
10:26
We have so much to do, and we must do it together. But how can we do that with all the evil we breathe every day? Thank God, no system can nullify our desire to open up to the good, to compassion and to our capacity to react against evil, all of which stem from deep within our hearts. Now you might tell me, “Sure, these are beautiful words, but I am not the Good Samaritan, nor Mother Teresa of Calcutta.” On the contrary: we are precious, each and every one of us. Each and every one of us is irreplaceable in the eyes of God. Through the darkness of today’s conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around.
11:27
To Christians, the future does have a name, and its name is Hope. Feeling hopeful does not mean to be optimistically naïve and ignore the tragedy humanity is facing. Hope is the virtue of a heart that doesn’t lock itself into darkness, that doesn’t dwell on the past, does not simply get by in the present, but is able to see a tomorrow. Hope is the door that opens onto the future. Hope is a humble, hidden seed of life that, with time, will develop into a large tree. It is like some invisible yeast that allows the whole dough to grow, that brings flavor to all aspects of life. And it can do so much, because a tiny flicker of light that feeds on hope is enough to shatter the shield of darkness. A single individual is enough for hope to exist, and that individual can be you. And then there will be another “you,” and another “you,” and it turns into an “us.” And so, does hope begin when we have an “us?” No. Hope began with one “you.” When there is an “us,” there begins a revolution.
13:16
The third message I would like to share today is, indeed, about revolution: the revolution of tenderness. And what is tenderness? It is the love that comes close and becomes real. It is a movement that starts from our heart and reaches the eyes, the ears and the hands. Tenderness means to use our eyes to see the other, our ears to hear the other, to listen to the children, the poor, those who are afraid of the future. To listen also to the silent cry of our common home, of our sick and polluted earth. Tenderness means to use our hands and our heart to comfort the other, to take care of those in need.
14:13
Tenderness is the language of the young children, of those who need the other. A child’s love for mom and dad grows through their touch, their gaze, their voice, their tenderness. I like when I hear parents talk to their babies, adapting to the little child, sharing the same level of communication. This is tenderness: being on the same level as the other. God himself descended into Jesus to be on our level. This is the same path the Good Samaritan took. This is the path that Jesus himself took. He lowered himself, he lived his entire human existence practicing the real, concrete language of love.
15:23
Yes, tenderness is the path of choice for the strongest, most courageous men and women. Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: the more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other. There is a saying in Argentina: “Power is like drinking gin on an empty stomach.” You feel dizzy, you get drunk, you lose your balance, and you will end up hurting yourself and those around you, if you don’t connect your power with humility and tenderness. Through humility and concrete love, on the other hand, power – the highest, the strongest one – becomes a service, a force for good.
16:52
The future of humankind isn’t exclusively in the hands of politicians, of great leaders, of big companies. Yes, they do hold an enormous responsibility. But the future is, most of all, in the hands of those people who recognize the other as a “you” and themselves as part of an “us.” We all need each other. And so, please, think of me as well with tenderness, so that I can fulfill the task I have been given for the good of the other, of each and every one, of all of you, of all of us. Thank you.

Let’s not sit idle while hope is extinguished. America must stand for more than that. We are the shining city on the hill that sets the example for all.

I.M. Optimisman

Mar 062017
 

Worrying about stuff that might or might not happen seems to have risen exponentially as we have become more interconnected. Facebook and the rest makes us feel like we are not succeeding fast enough or big enough when compared to all those people we personally know. Kids born today seem set up from birth to worry more than any previous generation.

Since I believe we are the architects of our own mental psyche, I believe we can train ourselves to worry less by being mindful about our own thoughts and living in the present.

Below is an article that I stumbled upon on LinkedIn.com from a guy named Brian Howe.

I don’t know Brian, but his article hits the nail on the head. Here it is in its entirety because I don’t know how to link to a LinkedIn article without LinkedIn trying to track you and acquire you as a user. If you like it, consider following Brian Howe, from Inuvo, Little Rock, Arkansas on LinkedIn:

7 Ways You’re Making Your Life Harder Than It Should Be

Life can be a real struggle sometimes, no question about it.

As a culture, we worry way too much. In fact, we worry because we are worried that we are spending too much time worrying. We are worried that we don’t know our futures; we are worried that we don’t know exactly what people think about us and we are worried whether or not the stove was left on when we left the apartment and when we get back the building will be burnt to the ground and it will all be our fault….. Its sad that these are the sorts of things that keep us up at night. These little things can end up making your life 10x harder and drive you insane.

We live in a generation that is so anxious at every blinking moment of our lives. Here are some ways you’re making your life harder than it should be.

Sticking to a plan: You have begun to realize that life is a stage, and that you are the star of your own show. So, if life starts to stray from the Hollywood script you naturally start to panic like a middle schooler who missed their line in the annual school play.

It is common that your life is actually a lot more complicated and a lot more stressful. That scripted sitcom you’re used to watching where no-one seems to ever work but can still afford that awesome apartment is by no means reality. So, if life doesn’t follow the standard Hollywood script: its ok, no one’s does.

Dwelling on the past: Dwelling on the past can literally turn you into a crazy person and will eventually get in the way of the life you are currently living. How many times have you been standing in the shower, coming up with snappy comebacks to all the arguments you never won? Let it go – it happened 3 years ago.

Being dramatic: It’s easy to think this way. The moment something doesn’t go as you planned, you immediately think about the worst-case scenario: They’ll kick you out of college, you’ll be fired, Donald Trump will give up all his power to Putin. It never ends up being as bad as you thought, so keep that in mind the next time you feel like toasting your bagels in the bathtub.

Taking things personally: That jerk cut you off in traffic, you turned in your resume but haven’t received a response, your grandma cancelled weekly bingo with you because you’re not as fun as she thought.

Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes you’re the collateral damage. It doesn’t feel good, but don’t take it personally.

Comparing yourself to others: Its late at night, you have chip crumbs on your shirt, a diet coke on the coffee table and Netflix just asked you if you’re “still there” because you’ve been binge watching your favorite sitcom for the past 5 hours. Scrolling through your Facebook feed, you might feel the same feeling of disappointment we all do when we see another person get engaged, score a brand new job or buy that fancy new car. Heck, even the kid who ate the teacher’s goldfish in middle school got his life together. All you see is an endless stream of achievements, re-affirming your choice of bourbon for breakfast.

Keep in mind that Facebook is the highlight reel of people’s lives and they’re only going to show the touchdowns and tackles, not the part where they throw up on the sidelines or fumble the ball for a loss.

Taking risks: No one will care if you take a leap of faith and you fail – they’ll just be impressed that you took the leap in the first place.

Caring way too much: We spend a lot of our lives caring what other people think of us but, no offense, no one thinks about you all that much – apart from your mom of course. But this is a good thing: once you wrap your head around the fact that almost everyone is an egotistical narcissist, you realize that they care about themselves too much to pay much attention to you…and that’s liberating.

I hope that you enjoyed Brian’s article. Choose to worry less… just do you best today… and consider rationing your social media exposure to a couple of times per week — I believe it will help.

I.M. OptimismMan

Feb 252016
 

Differentiation is important. People decide who they want on their team, who they hire, who they promote, who they buy from, who they associate with, and who they become friends with, based on what they perceive makes a person special and different than the rest. Personal differentiation is driving force behind who gets elected, who a person marries, who succeeds and who flails about.

What makes you special? What makes you better than the average guy? What makes you stand out? How do people describe you to a stranger? What quality will make you a success over the long-term?

For some, their differentiator for personal success if obvious. Kevin Durant’s height, athletic ability, and basketball IQ made his destiny as one of the best players in the NBA simple to see, even as early as high school. Sure, he made smart choices that helped, he had determination to persevere, he envisioned his future and did what was necessary to make it happen. But his differentiators are God given and quite obvious to all, especially the ones that had to guard him.

Most of us are not freaks of nature endowed with superhuman hops. We are born much closer to average than being an extreme outlier in terms of ability. In statistics, outliers are stats that are so far outside the averages and the normal bell curve that the data points look like bad data. Mozart was an outlier in musical ability. Einstein was an outlier. Wayne Gretzky is an outlier, as are Tiger Woods and Michael Phelps.

So what can the rest of us do to differentiate ourselves?

The answer is far simpler than you think, although not necessarily easy. Far too many people search for natural traits that they were born with, rather than decisions that they can make and stick to. The trick is to find an area of life where few people make the right decision, the decision that could help them immeasurably over the long-term.

Uncompromising personal integrity is one such magical ingredient: the differentiator that can serve as the bedrock to build a great life of success. Unquestionable integrity is a choice that anyone can make, but in truth, exceedingly few people do. Yet, when a company is looking for a leader to be in charge of a division, integrity is one of the most important criteria that it looks for in candidates for the position.

We live in a desert of integrity.

One aspect of integrity is telling the truth. University of Massachusetts researcher Robert Feldman conducted a study that was published in the Journal of Basic and Applied Psychology. Robert asked two strangers to have a conversation for about 10 minutes. The conversations were recorded. Afterwards, each person was asked to review the recording. Before doing so, the research participants told Feldman that they had been 100% honest in their statements. However, during the review, the subjects were surprised to discover all the little lies that came out in just 10 minutes. According to Feldman’s study, 60 percent of the subjects lied at least once during the short conversation and in that span of ten minutes, subjects told an average of 2.92 false things. If 60% lie when it does not matter in just ten minutes time, it seems logical that more than 85% will lie when there are greater incentives and the outcome really matters. A recent study of dating websites found that 81% of people lied about themselves while seeking a new mate and another found that 91% of college grads lied at least once on their résumé. Our world is a desert of integrity indeed.

Another aspect of integrity is whether or not people steal or cheat when they have a good opportunity. The fraud prevention industry has long held to a general rule of thumb called the 10-10-80 rule. Chain retailers with experience of millions of employees believe in it. The rule says 10% of people will never steal no matter what, 10% will steal at any opportunity, and the remaining 80% of employees will steal or not steal, depending on how they evaluate a particular opportunity and their chances of getting caught.

Integrity is greater than simply being perfectly truthful and not stealing, although these two aspects are black and white and therefore simpler to measure. Keeping your promises, doing what you say you will do — no matter what it takes — is the fundamental core basis of integrity.

The choice of integrity is available to you and completely up to you. Your past matters not. You can make the wise choice to live a life of uncompromising personal integrity from this day forth.

I believe that integrity should become your #1 differentiator. Choose to become remarkable: becoming remarkable is not a birthright. Less than 10% of people demonstrate integrity in their daily lives by avoiding all deceit. When you add in doing exactly what you said you will do, keeping all your promises large and small, you will discover a world few people know and understand: you will become a person who is destined for success. Others will inevitably learn that you are the rare person who they can count on in good times and in bad, the person who will do his or her very best, the person who will do the right thing every time when put in positions of greater responsibility.

I.M. Optimism Man

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.

yesterday-you-said-tomorrow-nike

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

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.

angry-woman

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

grace-kelly-jpg

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

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 a 737 this week.

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.

2014-06-21_0821

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 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.

693px-US_incarceration_timeline-clean-fixed-timescale.svg

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 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

Feb 072014
 

What’s your annual income? Is it more than $34 K per year?  If so, you are in the richest 1% of the world.

To be in the top 50% on the globe, you need to earn $1,225 per year. Top 20%? $5,000 per year. Top 10% is attained by earning $12,000 per year.

2014-02-07_0823-applepie-america

What does it take to make the top 0.1%? Only $70 K!

Around 4% of people on planet Earth are fortunate enough to live in the USA. If you are reading OptimismMan.com, you are probably here. America’s poorest are among the richest people on the planet. Be grateful that you are an American.

Thank you Branko Milanovic (World Bank economist) for the numbers.

I’m thanking my lucky stars (and stripes)!

I.M. Optimism Man

Jan 132014
 

A key to solving any problem is to first understand the problem, and then take steps that address key factors that influence the severity and trajectory of the problem.

America, over the last number of years, has plunged into income re-distribution as though such policies solve income inequality and opportunity problems. Some people realize that re-distribution has been proven to not work for solving these problems; rather, re-distribution does tend to keep certain voters happy and not much else.

Below is an article from the Wall Street Journal that offers a startlingly clear statistic that does help understand the poverty problem. Yet one one running for office is talking much about it because it probably would not prove to be a popular tactic that helps one in the polls. If you don’t subscribe to the WSJ, I highly recommend it. Few publications present a clearer perspective.

How to Fight Income Inequality: Get Married

In families headed by married couples, the poverty level in 2012 was just 7.5%. Those with a single mother: 33.9%.

 By Ari Fleischer

If President Obama wants to reduce income inequality, he should focus less on redistributing income and more on fighting a major cause of modern poverty: the breakdown of the family. A man mostly raised by a single mother and his grandparents who defied the odds to become president of the United States is just the person to take up the cause.

“Marriage inequality” should be at the center of any discussion of why some Americans prosper and others don’t. According to Census Bureau information analyzed by the Beverly LaHaye Institute, among families headed by two married parents in 2012, just 7.5% lived in poverty. By contrast, when families are headed by a single mother the poverty level jumps to 33.9%.

And the number of children raised in female-headed families is growing throughout America. A 2012 study by the Heritage Foundation found that 28.6% of children born to a white mother were out of wedlock. For Hispanics, the figure was 52.5% and for African-Americans 72.3%. In 1964, when the war on poverty began, almost everyone was born in a family with two married parents: only 7% were not.

fleischer

Attitudes toward marriage and having children have changed in America over the past 50 years, and low-income children and their mothers are the ones who are paying the price. The statistics make clear what common sense tells us: Children who grow up in a home with married parents have an easier time becoming educated, wealthy and successful than children reared by one parent. As the Heritage study states: “The U.S. is steadily separating into a two-caste system with marriage and education as the dividing line. In the high-income third of the population, children are raised by married parents with a college education; in the bottom-income third, children are raised by single parents with a high-school diploma or less.”

One of the differences between the haves and the have-nots is that the haves tend to marry and give birth, in that order. The have-nots tend to have babies and remain unmarried. Marriage makes a difference. Heritage reports that among white married couples, the poverty rate in 2009 was just 3.2%; for white nonmarried families, the rate was 22%. Among black married couples, the poverty rate was only 7%, but the rate for non-married black families was 35.6%.

Marriage inequality is a substantial reason why income inequality exists. For children, the problem begins the day they are born, and no government can redistribute enough money to fix it. If redistributing money could solve the problem, the $20.7 trillion in 2011 dollars the government has spent on welfare programs since 1964—when President Johnson declared the “war on poverty”—would have eliminated income inequality a long time ago.

The matter is influenced strongly by decisions and values. The majority of women who have children outside of marriage today are adult women in their 20s. (Teenagers under 18 represent less than 8% of out-of-wedlock births.)

Rather than focusing on initiatives that might address this issue, President Obama, as well as Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and New York City’s new mayor, Bill de Blasio, believe that the income gap can be closed by increasing taxes on the better-off and transferring the money to the poor.

Good luck with that. The tax code is already extremely progressive, as a December study by the Congressional Budget Office makes clear, yet poverty remains a significant problem. According to CBO, the top 40% of wage earners, those who make more than $51,100 a year, paid 86.4% of all federal taxes in 2010, the most recent data available. The bottom 40% of earners paid just 4.2% of all taxes. The top 40% paid virtually all of the income tax collected, while the bottom 40% paid a negative 9.1% of all income taxes. Paying “negative” taxes is possible because of the earned-income tax credit and other public-assistance measures that give the bottom 40% refunds for taxes they didn’t pay.

Given how deep the problem of poverty is, taking even more money from one citizen and handing it to another will only diminish one while doing very little to help the other. A better and more compassionate policy to fight income inequality would be helping the poor realize that the most important decision they can make is to stay in school, get married and have children—in that order.

Mr. Fleischer, a former press secretary for President George W. Bush, is president of Ari Fleischer Communications.

So, what is the solution? There are no simple answers, but I know where to start: Teach everyone what works and what does not work. Teach it in schools. Teach it on T.V. Get the message out. All parents want their kids to succeed, rich and poor alike.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jan 072014
 

You must believe you can, if you want to accomplish great things. Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you will be proved right. Pessimists and realists always sell themselves short.

In my first post of a series that hopes to prove this point, watch this memorable video from the 2008 Olympics:

4x100 Mens Gold 2008

Choose to believe. Choose to be an optimist. It is the only path to greatness.

I.M. Optimism Man

Dec 112013
 

Last weekend, we lost power for more than 12 hours, as Dallas got hit by a nasty ice storm. No electricity for just one day — a dark, cold house without warm water, internet, or T.V. — combined with the inability to drive anywhere — will wake you up to how much goodness you take for granted. That got me thinking, yet again, about the essence of happiness.

Dallas-Ice-Storm

I’m happy and at peace. Very happy. All of the time. Being a hyper-analytical guy, I wonder why. Why am I so happy and at peace, when many others seem to be less happy and less at peace to varying degrees?

It is not because I have enough time — I don’t — and I’m a person that is quite focused on investing my time wisely. It is not because I have more than enough money — finances are tricky most the time — there is always more to invest in, more to fix, stuff to improve and buy, than there is budget available. It is not because everything goes smoothly — it never does — Murphy’s Law seems to be getting stronger all the time. It is not because I’m caught up — my list continues to expand like the universe — I’m frustrated when important items remain undone for months, even years, on end. But I’m very happy and at peace none-the-less.

I want to understand the “why” behind happiness. Why am I at peace in a tumultuous world? How can clearly understanding happiness lead me to help others to be happy too? One of my theories has been expectations: if you are always longing for more than you have, it is hard to be happy. A key is to love what your already have, and I do.

When I look at my life, I see nothing but countless blessings. I love my wife, truly and completely, happy in every way that she said “yes” nearly twenty years ago — she is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I love my kids truly and completely, and could not imagine them turning out better in any way than they already are. I’m very proud of them. I love my mom and am very happy she has moved to Dallas. I love my home, my stuff, my laptops, desktops, tablets, and smartphones. I love the color of my office. I love my coffee cups and my chair. I love my constant flow of geeky gadgets. I love my vault of ideas that grows every day, full of promise, even as I know that I won’t be able to sincerely work on 99% of them. I love my Macs. I even my Windows laptop (Lenovo T510) and it takes a leap to appreciate your windows machine sometimes. I love that I live in this age of extraordinary progress. I love that the (public-sphere) internet was born in the 90’s — how did we live life before wikipedia and googling something?

I have just discerned a key component — if not the key component — to happiness. I was on the right track, but a bit hidden in kind of a “cart before the horse” equation. Many people think gratitude is a product of being happy, but, after watching the video below, I have come to appreciate the subtle difference of “gratitude leads to happiness” not “happiness leads to gratitude.”  When you start from a perspective of being grateful, of being thankful and feeling blessed for all of the people in your life, as well as the wonderful little not-so-important things, it puts you on the right road for true happiness and peace.

Please watch this rather “zen” video when you have a few minutes of tranquility to think without distraction:

david

Peace, Joy, and Happiness this Christmas Season. It is definitely not about getting a new Lexus, no matter how shiny it is!

I.M. Optimism Man

PS> Like this article? Try these two from last year — Escaping Average and Want to Be Happy?

Nov 112013
 

This is the best talk I’ve listened to in months. It is well worth the time. And — it’s quite entertaining too — always a wonderful thing.

Let’s make things better. It takes all of us, sharing ideas that make sense, to build momentum. So much of what people believe is often wrong.

I.M. Optimism Man

Oct 272013
 

Not everyone succeeds at what they attempt.

Invariably, people often make excuses for why things didn’t work out as well as they hoped. Some of the most commonly accepted excuses is that the other guy or girl had “more talent or a higher IQ.” Yet, the smartest geniuses on earth are rarely the most successful.

Here is a six minute food-for-thought video, especially if you are a parent and want your kids to have successful lives:

Now, how do you teach the lessons is an open ended question. Please write me if you find ideas that really work.

I.M. Optimism Man

Sep 292013
 

I spend my time trying to convince people on a daily basis that true business insight, real expertise, and competitive advantage can only be found in the details and specifically, how those complex details connect and interrelate. My competitors usually argue the opposite. They try to convince companies that summarized data stores and pre-canned reports are good enough. The reason is that my competitors’ underlying technology is not good enough to a) keep one true, integrated copy of the (big) data and b) allow any user to access and analyze that one true copy of data at any time.

This is not an easy concept for everyone to understand because most of us come from a long history of working from pre-canned, summarized, much of the value washed away reports. Its all we have had and we have gotten by — we did the best that we could with what we had.

I stumbled into this TED talk that illustrates the idea that “the true insight is always in the detail data” brilliantly, although that was not the goal these speakers had. This truth applies to any industry, for every industry is complex and ever-changing. It is well worth watching this short eight minute video — you will gain understanding:

 

The more the world architects for big detailed data and asks iterative questions of the detail data, the greater the advances we will see in our lifetime. Hail big data analytics! The world will be a better, safer place. We have only begun to invent.

I.M. Optimism Man

Sep 162013
 

Is your life on auto-pilot?

Life in the western world, and especially in the true land of opportunity — America — is what you make of it. There a thousands of stories where a person started with next to nothing and became something special in just 5 or 10 years. People that expect the extraordinary — the spectacular — tend to achieve it. People that expect mediocre and “good enough” tend to get mediocre results.

Why is that? Your expectations matter because they change the small, daily decisions that you make. Over time, these decisions add up to some very large differences in your personal results.

To achieve the extraordinary, you must make tough decisions, take calculated risks, leave many tasks undone, go against the grain, and prove critics wrong. You must plan ahead, plan carefully, and take initiative. A dead-end career will remain a dead-end career unless proactive steps are taken and short-term risks and sacrifices are embraced.

A life on auto-pilot will not get you to extraordinary. Yet, if I were to ask the 124 people with whom I am chasing the afternoon sun on a west-bound flight this afternoon, almost every one of them would indeed reply that they are living on auto-pilot.

The enemy of greatness is good enough. Good enough tasks keep you away from great goals. Most “good enough” tasks arrive on your doorstep without proactive decisions on your part.

So how do you break out?

Step one is to define your goals if you have not done so. If you want my help on the goal setting effort, visit http://www.gungholife.com. Then, once you have some clear and concise goals in mind, start making daily decisions to make steps toward achieving one great goal in the next three months and another great goal within the next year. Don’t tackle everything at once but rather build momentum slowly and steadily this year.

If you expect more out of yourself, if you expect more for yourself and your family, and you spring into decisive action with dogged tenacity, you will not fail, no matter the obstacles you will encounter on the journey.

Expect more. Expect greatness. Turn off auto-pilot.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jun 292013
 

Greatness requires optimism.

A lot of self-appointed “smart” people spend a lot of our time discussing the terribly difficult issues of the day. Every time you turn on the television, some pundit is explaining how it will never work, or how a company will certainty fail, or how the market will crash. Pessimism is everywhere, often disguised under the banner of realism. Whenever a sentence starts with “It is not realistic to…” it is wise to listen with a cautious ear.

Why do people position themselves as realists? Because fear, uncertainty, and doubt “sell” — as the saying goes, good news doesn’t sell newspapers.

Few — if any — great achievements have come from pessimists. You have to be optimistic, you have to be an action-oriented believer, willing to take risks, to create anything truly great.

Need proof? Consider this example case:

 Could a pessimist / realist have created Disney World?

Case closed.

Will it be easy? Of course not. Here is what Walt Disney observed:

“You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

I have been up against tough competition all my life. I wouldn’t know how to get along without it.”

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

Decide to be an optimist and don’t think small. Optimism + decisive action + tenacity can lead to greatness if you are willing to set your sights high enough.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jun 022013
 

Power is what the world wants. Specifically, power in the form of electricity, because it is efficiently transported and applied to nearly any required purpose. While the world’s 1 B greatest consumers are starting to worry about green power, conserving power, and the possibilities of running out of fossil fuel power, the other 6+ B of earth’s human inhabitants simply want more power and an affordable price.

Why are 6B people so power hungry? Because power transforms daily life for the better in so many ways. We take the empowerment for granted, just as our kids take the internet and Googling something for granted. Hans Rosling sums up the why in ten fantastic minutes here:

So, what happens when we run low on oil and the price of electricity rockets higher? What happens when solar power comes into its own, at a steep price too? Fracking and nat gas isn’t a permanent solution, although it helps the near-term energy independence outlook for the USA. Will the pessimists who are predicting the end of civilization as we know it, actually win? I think not, not if we embrace the young, new Optimistic Few, a generation of optimists who want funding to pursue new answers.

Consider Taylor Wilson’s ideas. He is one of the OptFew worth listening to:

To the Optimistic Few, there are always ideas, limitless opportunities, and plenty of silver linings. I believe that my kids — our kids and grandkids — will lead a much better, more promising lives than we enjoy today. Stop listening to the critics, naysayers, and doomsday gang. They are wrong, and it is worth the effort to speak up and correct them when you can.

Life is good.

I.M. Optimism Man

Mar 282013
 

Optimism is necessary for success. Unfortunately, sometimes we find ourselves less than optimistic when facing a challenge.

There is a simple step that we often forget. We are not alone. Say a prayer and you will find new peace, new confidence, new strength, and new optimism to persevere. Belief is incredibly important.

This comes more naturally to some folks than others. If you wonder what prayer to say, you don’t need to complicate things, for Jesus gave us some pretty explicit directions:

Matthew 6

5 “And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.[b]

7 “When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 “Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread.[c]
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us to the time of trial,[d]
but rescue us from the evil one.[e]
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

It is easier than you think. Give it a shot.

I.M. Optimism Man