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

Nov 172012

People with little hope can get hope, get recharged a bit, if they use their imagination and dare to dream. Unfortunately, “take a goals workshop” is advice that doesn’t exactly get it done in neighborhoods where the struggle for one’s daily bread remains front and center.

Check out this great idea by Candy Chang of New Orleans, LA. She manages to combine the power of a community / social experience with the power of hope that having goals, or just one goal, has.

Fabulous idea!

I. M. Optimism Man

PS. More info about Candy and her ideas is found here: http://candychang.com/

Oct 302012

There is a lot more to success and happiness than simply having a God-given great computational noggin. It is easy to see that our companies and our communities are not often led by rocket scientists sporting 160+ IQs.

Why is that?

Well, I think the reality of it all is is summed up eloquently by this one quote:

But the person who scored well on an SAT will not necessarily be the best doctor or the best lawyer or the best businessman. These tests do not measure character, leadership, creativity, perseverance.

— Dr. William Julius Wilson

I personally would add a few more qualities, such as emotional IQ, empathy, experience, faith, optimism, and taking decisive action, to the recipe for success.

When your kid comes home from school, discouraged because she just earned a bad grade on a test, please embrace the opportunity and teach her of what it really takes to succeed, starting with perseverance above all.

I.M. Optimism Man


Sep 132012

I’m a value oriented investor, or more specifically, a growth at a reasonable price investor. Pure value guys tend to look at really desperate companies that need a turn around, but I rarely buy those names. Investing is not as hard as some people think. Its about finding a value priced company when compared to the overall universe of publicly traded companies.

Here is a fantastic summation about value investing – 120 seconds well worth watching twice – because it says so much with so few words:

Invest in companies like Apple, companies that are priced at a discount to the market yet are growing faster than the market, and you will find that you will do very well over the next decades.

I.M. Optimism Man

Sep 042012

Many people spend their lives wishing that they were dealt a different hand of cards to play. In doing so, they waste valuable time or even waste their entire life. You must play your hand in life’s game of poker, no matter if you hold a lowly pair of deuces, three kings, a full house, or nothing more than one ace.

This video is well worth watching. It runs a little over an hour. I promise you that it is an 76 minutes well spent. Randy Pausch might just change your life for the better.

After you have watched Randy’s lecture, I have a small challenge for you to think about.

Have you written a letter to your spouse and kids in case you get run over by an 18-wheeler on the way to the work today? Or recorded an audio file? Or taped a video? It is worth doing. Randy has left something truly great for his kids. And it has a side benefit — it might help you play the cards you have been dealt better too. Remember that pale ink helps you think clearly.

Rest in peace Randy.

I.M. Optimism Man 

Jul 242012

Sometimes indelible lessons are found in unexpected places.


Jack Palance played the weathered and wise cowboy Curly Washburn in City Slickers. Few who have seen the movie can forget:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is?

Curly: This. [holds up one finger]

Mitch: Your finger?

Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean shit.

Mitch: But what is the “one thing?”

Curly: [smiles] That’s what you have to find out.

Life is not hard, goals in life are not hard, accomplishing great things is not hard, being happy is not hard — if you figure out the one thing that matters most to you.

Do you have your one thing figured out? Do you have your one thing written down? Do you read your one thing before you start each day?

I.M. Optimism Man

May 252012

I believe that choosing to embrace optimism leads to success and happiness. What many people do not realize is that, scientifically speaking, we are born optimists, with a clear and measurable bias toward optimism.

Optimism can cure your life, but, as with medicine, optimism has some potentially negative side-effects. There is no doubt that the benefits are huge. There is also no doubt that we must accurately consider the risk/reward of any endeavor if we are to succeed. A wise person must become aware for his or her “optimism bias” and factor this bias into their analysis to make wise bets and take prudent risks.

Please watch this video to gain better perspective on the neuroscience of optimism:

The key, in the end, is to take lots of calculated risks and decisive actions. Reward must be likely and risk must be minimized. One’s bias for optimism must be factored into the equation.

Often the difference between a successful man and a failure is not one’s better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his ideas, to take a calculated risk, and to act.
— Maxwell Maltz

In all thy getting, get understanding,

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. Want more from Tali? Here is her book: The Optimism Bias

May 072012

Make each day a masterpiece.

When is the last time you made your day a masterpiece day? Why so long ago, if at all? Tomorrow is a gift from God — don’t waste it. Plan how you will take advantage of tomorrow, tonight. Stick to the plan from dawn until dusk. Does it not feel great to have such a good day? For one person it might be a day of awesome strategic progress on key initiatives. For another, it might be taking the time to smell the roses and sit in the sun during lunch, the ringing phone and pinging email be damned. For a third, it might be taking the kids out of school and playing hooky while ice skating at the Galleria.

The key is that you decided, and therefore, it is so. Your masterpiece day is not up to the unpredictable winds of your boss, work associates, and customers. Your masterpiece day is not up to the unpredictable ocean currents of your family. You can set the sails, you can use the rudder, and you can steer how this day goes.

Make each day a masterpiece are words to live by. Once you live such a day, a day you forged from your own planning and will, you find you want to create another such perfect day, and then another. You learn you are free from other people’s urgency conspiracies and that those urgencies are usually man-made and mostly meaningless. Not every day will work out as planned, but most shall, if you have the will. Paul’s smile above comes from a life well lived. You need such a smile.

We live in the greatest time in the greatest country in the world. Don’t let other people’s urgencies shackle your horizon of what is possible. You are free to live as many extraordinary days as you desire. All it takes is pre-planning, courage, and the discipline to stick to your plans.

I.M. Optimism Man

Apr 272012

It is easy to fall into a rut of not helping others. “I’ve got too much on my plate already!”

Help one person this week, someone that doesn’t expect it, someone who will never know that you did. How does it make you feel to have made a little difference?

If you have never read about Mother Teresa, it is well worth the five minutes. Click here for the Wikipedia entry on this extraordinary woman.

Little things add up. Few people on earth make as big an impact as Mother Teresa. But what if you made one good little thing happen every week for the rest of your life? Would it touch some people’s lives? Would it make a difference for some number of people? I think it would.

Helping others is a key step on the road to your own fulfillment and happiness.

I.M. Optimism Man

Apr 042012

There are a lot of doomsday people. It sells magazines. It sells newspapers. It sells on T.V. and in the movies. Unfortunately, our minds pay rapt attention to the doom and gloom because we are wired from birth to stay alert to danger.

Sure, we have some short-term problems, some of them serious enough, but they will be solved. I don’t believe all the progress we have enjoyed in the last 100 years will reverse — I believe progress will accelerate. I don’t believe we will run out of energy — I believe we will have abundant energy and that the price of Kilowatts will actually go down. We won’t destroy capitalism with too many regulations — and sooner than later, Washington will remember that a strong private sector is critical to having a strong country. We won’t abandon our seniors without income or medical care. Our country will not be destroyed by socialism, excessive taxation, terrorists, or even nuclear-tipped rogue nations. I don’t believe that my kids will live in a world that runs out of oil while the polar caps melt, flooding vast parts of an Earth that is too hot to bear from all the smog. We are not about to get hit by some huge asteriod.  I believe my kids will have a longer, better life than I will have — no matter if we are talking about health, opportunity, or wealth.

Here is a 15 minute presentation from Peter Diamandis that shines the light on our future of abundance, not scarcity — optimism, not pessimism. Peter is the founder and chair of the X Prize Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is simply “to bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity.” By offering a big cash prize for a specific accomplishment, the X Prize stimulates competition and excitement around some of the planet’s most important goals.

I believe.

I.M. Optimism Man

Mar 222012

If you read any paper or magazine, few writers find anything good about the United States economy and its financial system. The election year has every candidate saying that this car wreck of a country has to be fixed.

But is America really a car wreck?

Yes, we endured a scary, stormy night. The United States financial system had dark days a few years ago, and we survived the difficult test. Today, banks and corporations have greatly reduced their risk exposure to derivatives while adding lots of cash to their balance sheets. They are much better prepared for another stormy night. America is capitalism and capitalism adapted and is moving forward.

What’s the state of our best corporations?

Strong companies make for a strong America, lest the Occupy people forget. Corporate earnings are solid and growing. Price / Earnings ratios are very low by historical standards. Yes, stock prices are up, but generally not because stocks have gotten more expensive as measured by P/E multiple expansion. Prices are up because business is solid. Prices are up because markets tend to predict the future.

The government is still a mess, but that’s not new news.

There are numerous challenges and our elected representatives seem unwilling to make any tough calls, choosing to procrastinate and defer all decisions time and again. No elected official wants to  fix the country if it means losing the votes of some constituents. The burgeoning deficit is a top topic and the politicians are all falling over each other with ideas to tax our way out of the hole. Higher and higher taxation doesn’t work. Few are willing to admit that the government simply spends way way too much and borrows $4 of every $10 that it spends. The budget “Supercommittee” is the poster child of everything that ails Washington D.C.

A friend of mine who is nearing retirement (not that I personally believe in retirement — my must-read post on that subject is here) approached me to discuss “where to invest” after he read numerous articles tearing down the prospects for the U.S. stock market. The market has been on a great run since the financial subprime uglies of late 2008 and all the pessimists are scratching their heads.

After thinking about it for several weeks, I have come to the one logical conclusion: right now, the U.S. stock market is the single best place on Earth to invest one’s money.  That is why the market is going up. I am comfortable that it should continue to outperform other investments for this decade to come.

To understand my optimism, you must first take a global view of rich individuals and organizations. There are many trillions of dollars in many countries around the world that must be invested if the capital is to be preserved. Wealthy individuals hire plenty of investment professionals to help them invest these trillions, so these funds know no borders.

Imagine that you are an investment manager with $20 B to invest, residing in oil producing Saudi Arabia. Where would you put the funds? Lets compare the countries that are viable options.

Invest in China? Well, China is looking to stave off a housing collapse. The economy is slowing. The Chinese stock market does not have a stellar record over the last few decades. Chinese companies do not do a good job reporting factual numbers. Government oversight is lacking and there is favoritism. The government is communist. No, investing the money in China is too much like gambling.

Invest in Japan? No, Japan has been struggling for decades and on life support. There is little reason to believe that a sustainable decade of investment growth is about to start.

Invest in Europe? Europe is in worse shape than the U.S.  The hangover from Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Ireland is not likely to go away soon, even though Germany is flourishing. But Germany is tied to the common currency and they must keep it that way, as it favors their export-centric economy.

What about Great Britain? England is outside the Eurozone currency-wise, but its economy is just not growing at all. No, not there.

Invest in emerging markets? Well, Russia has corruption and the Kremlin to run off investors. If there is a place where you face the risk of investment confiscation, Russia is the place. Brazil has a lot of people, but now faces slowdown issues. They are just starting to cut rates so an instant turnaround is not in the cards.  India?  India has inflation problems and government controls up the wazoo. Australia? Australia is rich in natural resources, but it heavily linked to China and its current slowdown issue.

Compared to the rest, the United States has a stable government, low inflation, an economy that is improving, a housing crisis that is unwinding, corporate balance sheets that are strengthened, and better transparency and oversight than everywhere else.

The USA is the best choice, given the alternatives. Nothing else comes close.

Here is the U.S., the choice then comes down to stocks vs. bonds vs. cash. Keeping the money in cash is a fools game unless everything else melts down, and even then, cash is not a for sure winner. Bonds are paying so little that it makes the next decision simple. Real estate is now very affordable but not liquid or flexible — you have to have time and patience. U.S. Equities win. This is why the U.S. stock market continues to climb. If you have serious money to invest, you are far more likely to invest in America than any of the other usual suspects until conditions change dramatically. It is not that we don’t have issues, but that the alternatives are far worse, and our companies are definitely performing well.

Don’t listen to the pessimism of the writers. They are missing the big picture story. Few writers are good investors anyway. Buy good companies with low P/E’s and excellent growth prospects and strong competitive advantage / barriers of entry to competitors. Times are much better than Main Street believes.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jan 112012

There is a lot of books and articles preaching about what it takes to succeed in life — I add my words to that pile readily enough — but most of those words and formulas and methodologies forget that true success in not just about work.  Balance matters.

If you don’t stop and smell the roses with great regularity, you are in great risk of missing what life is all about. It does not make sense to work every minute of every day, relentless in the pursuit, to then “enjoy” the fruits of your labor when you are too old and too tired to play in earnest.

Do you work hard? Do you then have an “off” switch? Do you play hard? When is the last time you played around, completely carefree? Do you enjoy quiet moments of peace and tranquility in the sun, smartphone out of sight and out of mind? How often? Be honest with yourself…

When is the last time you went to a music festival? Had a few beers with really good friends? Played paintball? Read a book in a shady hammock? Ice skated at the Galleria? Fell in the deep powder of Utah’s slopes? Walked the dog because you wanted to? Had family game night without the T.V. on? Laughed out loud until your side hurt?

I’m as guilty as many others — my smartphone interrupts meals with the family, while I’m reading a good book, and during my kid’s soccer match. I look at my calendar and realize it has been way too long since my wife and I had a fun date night. I realize I must improve this equation, and realization is important. There is no time like the present.

My readers know I’m a freakish believer in planning my life on a calendar, ahead of living it — I believe your day is far more likely to turn out as you wish, if you design it ahead of time — and then taking notes on how I did in relation to my plans. I have learned that the human memory has convenient lapses when you don’t really want to know that you have not had a carefree fun event in weeks or months. But the calendar/paper/journal doesn’t lie — and facing reality does inspire a person to change their ways.

I’m going to improve on my “off” switch in 2012. I’m hoping you consider doing so too.

I.M. Optimism Man

Dec 202011

My weekly readers realize that I believe one’s daily optimism is directly correlated to the level of one’s success in life. Anything that negatively impacts your optimistic attitude must be removed or corrected if you want to achieve your true potential.

I promised to expand on today’s topic back in early October. The topic is a tricky one, hard to put in succinct words — but I believe it is an important consideration as you continue to work on your personal Black Belt in Optimism.

Take a few moments and think of a person that you feel seriously wronged you. It might be someone from recent memory or from far in the past, maybe even someone who is now passed. Please don’t continue reading until you have that name and face in your mind’s eye.

One area inside one’s own mind that is really tough to conquer is genuine forgiveness, especially in our current society. Media has an outsized impact on our society’s “values” and Hollywood continues to pump out films that send the wrong messages. One area where they have it so very wrong is the “revenge is cool / forgiveness is not” theme. Hollywood has released at least one major movie every year for several decades using this money-making mold — Payback with Mel Gibson and Taken with Liam Neeson come to mind, but there are many.

The inability to truly forgive starts with the fact that most people have never been taught by their parents or by schools to forgive while they are growing up — most parents unfortunately don’t forgive other people and therefore set a poor example for their kids. It has become a normal state of affairs, even though lack of forgiveness is a cancer that eats away at a person’s soul. Hollywood’s great misdeed is that they, more than anyone else, are teaching the world to rejoice in revenge.

Yet forgiveness is a cornerstone to achieving a life marked by peace, tranquility of soul, optimism, and happiness. As with nearly everything in our lives, forgiveness is a choice and not a feeling, a skill that can be learned, practiced, and mastered.

You must train yourself and choose to forgive for a number of reasons. Here are three good ones:

  • It is the right thing to do. There is true right and wrong, and being on the side of right, matters. When you know you are doing the right thing, you are at peace.
  • Only through forgiveness can we proactively help ourselves. Forgiveness is the bedrock for peace and a positive attitude in one’s life. Without it, it becomes impossible to live a wildly successful life because lack of forgiveness weakens your mental state. If you choose not to forgive someone that has harmed you, the sad result is that you enable that person’s past actions to continue to hurt you in the present. The past is the past, yet a person that chooses to hold on to a grudge thinks about the past and wastes the present. Your weakness, your inability to forgive hurts your life, not the person that offended you. That person has moved on.
  • There is mounting evidence that harboring ill feelings actually impacts your physical health. It shows up as damaging stress, which leads to a host of health problems such as hypertension, reduced immunity, and high blood pressure. Nothing will crush your chances of success more completely than failing health.

So how do you learn to forgive? There are seven steps:

  1. You must figure out exactly what happened and why, without personal bias, and learn to articulate the situation accurately. It helps to tell a couple of trusted optimistic friends or far-off-to-the-side advisors about the situation.
  2. Make a commitment to yourself that you will do what it takes to feel better and put the past behind you. This commitment invariably leads to forgiveness as the answer.
  3. Realize that that your lingering angst is all about hurt feelings, not current events. You are the one choosing to make your feelings an issue in the present. It has transformed from being about the actual event to emotions alone. When you see it for what it is, and the damage it does, it becomes easier to understand that all this pent up worry is not worth it.
  4. Realize that forgiveness is not the same as forgetting. You can forgive someone without going back for more. Those are two separate choices.
  5. Say a prayer to God and ask for His help. God can help with all things, especially with cleansing away feelings that are inspired by the dark side.
  6. Remember that all choices are your own. When you choose to forgive, you choose to live an extraordinary life. It is never too late to decide to forgive for even if it took you too much time, the day you do is the day you succeed, the  day you set yourself free.
  7. Learn a lesson from the situation. As with every test in life, learning from setbacks and hurdles is the only way not to waste them. Learn so that you can handle yourself smarter the next time something similar happens.

So far, we have talked about forgiving others but in fact, we are all human, which means we all make mistakes from time to time. Some people don’t forgive themselves. It is incredibly important that we forgive ourselves, learn from mistakes, put yesterday in the past, get back up and try again with all the hope and passion that we can muster.

The trick is to forgive yourself, to adapt and overcome, to learn, and to maintain peace and tranquility in your soul and a blazing fire of hope in your heart through it all. Becoming an optimism master requires forgiveness of all others and of self.

“To forgive is the highest, most beautiful form of love. In return, you will receive untold happiness and peace.”
—Robert Mueller

Today is the day to forgive that person you thought of at the beginning of this article, once and for all. Take a deep breath and decide to truly and permanently forgive him or her, right now. The next time this topic comes up, that person will no longer come to mind.

In summary, only the strong can forgive—the weak cannot. Lack of forgiveness imprisons one’s own life. Be strong. Be confident. Forgive quickly. Forgive others and forgive yourself, and you will take a major step toward stronger optimism and a life of true success. Lastly, teach your kids to forgive. It will help their lives immeasurably.

I.M. Optimism Man

Dec 112011

It is way too easy to settle in life. Steve Jobs never settled.

Never-settling means is that you are signing up for a life that will have more challenges, more potholes, and more road bumps along the way. It will require more energy, more optimism, and more passion. It will have higher highs and the potential for lower lows. But, that is the way it should be.

Watch Steve’s commencement speech at Stanford — it is well worth the 15 minutes of time investment:

Why settle?

I.M. Optimism Man

Dec 052011

Lots of people rely on excuses to explain to themselves and others “why their lives are as they are” — usually average rather than extraordinary.

Excuses transfer blame. They make the person using the excuse feel powerless to change. Excuses become your chosen reality. Excuses hold you back.

There are a number of excuses that are self-limiting, including “I’m overweight because of my genetics“, “I tried that before (marriage, stock market, writing) and it didn’t work out so it will never work out for me“, or “I’m this way because of how my parents raised me.” One of the most frequent excuses I hear that drives me absolutely crazy is variants of “I didn’t go to or finish college so that’s why I have less opportunity” to succeed in life. Whenever a person blames moments from the past or factors-outside-one’s-control for his or her current state, the seeds of pessimism sprout as though you doused Miracle Grow fertilizer on them.

Let’s put college in accurate perspective.  For the vast majority of people, college gives them a well-rounded education.  This oft-used phrase sounds good, but what it really means is that four or five years of time and money was invested to fills a person’s head with a finite amount of generally-available knowledge and very little, if any, specific knowledge. Yet specific knowledge, not general knowledge, is what is invariably needed to succeed financially in life.

There is good reason that companies have specific training programs for their new hires.  Specific knowledge is what is needed.  If you want to create your fortune, the formula looks something like this:  Fortune = [specific knowledge of an industry] + [a strong imagination] + [excellent leadership and people skills] + [good timing] + [initiative] + [optimism]. For most people, college does little in the way of specific knowledge, leadership, imagination, optimism, or people skills.

Most people have never appreciate the depth of meaning found in this famous quote by Albert Einstein:

Imagination is more important than knowledge.

Al knew a thing or two about knowledge.

I’m not saying that the college experience is useless.  All things being equal, definitely go — learning is fun. At its best, college teaches you how to learn efficiently, especially on topics that are not of true interest to you.  It teaches you the value of determination and discipline if you study where you are challenged. A degree proves to many employers that you are a serious young man or young woman, giving middle managers reasons to recommend your hiring. If you earn a degree from a school with good brand-name recognition, you might find opportunities with those that hold such degrees in high regard. There are careers that simply require a degree so if you are passionate about one of these, college is a requirement. Lastly, you will have more general knowledge than the average bloke, preparing you for better small talk at the dinner table or when playing along with Jeopardy game-show reruns on TV.

But here is the most obvious of truths: While the price of college has sky rocketed, the price of general knowledge has absolutely imploded! I can Google virtually anything and have the general (and some quite specific) answers in seconds, from my smartphone, while drinking a Guinness at Buffalo Wild Wings. General knowledge has plummeted to free – you don’t even have to spend the time to trudge down to a library – when Google comes up short, Wikipedia is awesome for most topics or my free library card offers extraordinary access to online academic and business databases.

Whether you have a degree from Harvard, Yale, State U, Community College, or Podunk High, knowledge is now free for anyone that is willing to seek and learn. Many who did graduate and now have the gold leaf diploma hanging on the wall didn’t take away the most important of lessons: What matters is to have a burning desire to never stop learning. You must learn something new every day or you will fall into an excuse-filled rut soon enough.

The day a person realizes that his own excuses are holding him back, shakes the I can’ts and decides that I can, and realizes that only specific knowledge helps secure a bright future, his life and outlook will become simultaneously sobering, exciting, liberating, and optimistic.

One final thought to consider — studies have found that passionate people reach expert status on a topic in just seven years. Experts are people with very specific knowledge on their chosen topic. What subject or topic would you like to become a true expert in? You can easily become just that, by investing 5 – 7 intense years of focused reading, writing, and experimentation.

The no-college-degree-excuse did not hold Mary Kay Ash, Richard Branson, Coco Chanel, Michael Dell, Barry Diller, Walt Disney, Henry Ford, Bill Gates, Milton Hershey, Steve Jobs, Rachael Ray, Stephen Spielberg, Ty Warner, Oprah Winfrey, or Frank Lloyd Wright back. **

Don’t let excuses hold you back! 

I.M. Optimism Man

** Note that some did complete college degrees later in life or were awarded honorary degrees, long after they succeeded.

Oct 072011

Forgiveness, true heartfelt forgiveness, is one of the most difficult aspects of human life. Those that can’t live with a mental cancer that gnaws at their optimism, and optimism — as I have pointed out all year — is the key to happiness and progress.

I will offer a broader discussion regarding forgiveness soon. For now, here is a thought, well worth contemplating: Who is the one person that you have not truly forgiven? The time has come to do so. Forgive him or her today and you will find that “peace be with you” has newfound meaning in your life.

The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.

Mohandas Gandhi

Oct 062011

Pessimists tend to think most everything has already been invented while optimists think we have only scratched the surface of possibility.

I believe that we need to be reminded on a regular basis that there are plenty of serious problems that need simple, inexpensive solutions.  It is far easier to create complex, expensive solutions than it is to engineer simplicity, ease of use, and cost effectiveness.

This short video is an excellent example of optimism in action — and it lasts only 4:46 — you have 5 minutes to spare, right?

There is always room at the table for creative problem solvers that have a vision, ask good questions, keep it simple, take decisive action, and as a result, make great things happen.

I.M. Optimism Man and I find saving babies’ lives inspiring.