Dec 282013
 

Christmas Day 2013 has come and gone. New Year’s Day is just around the corner. People are starting to think about the bright promise a new year brings. The new year seems to give all of us the courage to make a few changes, to adjust the course of our life. I think all of us should draw a new card annually at the poker table of life.

Unfortunately, people often make a feeble attempt at new resolutions, all the while doubting that they will see their goal through. They recall how they failed last year, and the year before, and the year before that. Many give up and wave the white flag.

As all my friends know, I am a fervent believer in the power of goals. Goals keep you young. Goals keep you learning. Goals give you courage. But I’ve come to realize that what many people need are not new goals, but rather a new found discipline to see them through.

My suggestion is to only pick the one goal you really want to nail in 2014. Just one (for now). Pick a goal that you can accomplish by July 4th. Write it down in, followed by the words “whatever it takes” and then post the message everywhere — on your fridge, in your car, in your wallet, on your screensaver — everywhere. Then commit wholeheartedly to do “whatever it takes.

Tenacity at its best.

Kerri Strug in 1996 – Unforgettable Moment

Whatever it takes is a magical phrase. You can do it — it is only one goal. Chase this goal with all your heart and all your might. Go all in. Aim for June. It will be the best July 4th you ever had, because you will have conquered, you will have proven that you have the right stuff, you have what it takes.

Knowing that you can do “whatever it takes” is empowering. Positive changes, big or small, add up. Don’t waste this opportunity. Make your resolution proving that you have greater tenacity than the average guy or gal. You can, if you believe you can. Commit wholeheartedly to the pursuit.

Tenacity matters. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. A few quotes to consider:

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.”
― Mary Anne Radmacher

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
― Thomas A. Edison

“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure , the process is its own reward.”
― Amelia Earhart

 

Dec 092013
 

I listen to so many talking heads, all talking incessantly on talk shows on talk channels, news channels, satellite radios, and streaming internet feeds. Everybody sounds smart.

stern

Here is a point to ponder:

All of us are smart enough to know there are problems. Most of us are smart enough to point out specific problems in an eloquent way. Some of us are smart enough to ask the right questions to understand the true, underlying causes of a problem better. Few — very few — of us are smart enough to ask the right questions, at the right time, in the right way, so that the people who are in the position to act come to the right, logical conclusion, fueled with the motivation to move forward and solve the true problem.

McKinsey & Co is well regarded as the smartest guys in the room when it comes to business strategy consulting. McKinsey teams often propose “brilliant” solutions that can’t be, or are not, implemented, given a company’s situation, personnel, and organizational culture.

It is only brilliant when the smart solution makes it to the finish line and helps as designed.

Smart guys, like the bright stars at McKinsey hired from the best Ivy League schools, often don’t get the essence of the lesson. Solutions that get implemented are worth much more than solutions proposed but abandoned. It often comes down to asking the right questions, not telling people the solution to their problem.

Think for just a minute about the federal government in DC. Is anyone asking the right questions or is everyone, on both sides, simply trumpeting their “we should do this and we should do that” messages?

I.M. Optimism Man

Nov 252013
 

Jim Rohn is one of my favorites. His philosophies and mine are most often in harmony.

In my opinion, Jim is the perfect guy to listen to when you decide a three day retreat to some lonely, beautiful mountain top cabin would do you a lot of good. Mr. Rohn was not the most succinct, but his message was absolutely outstanding. Here are my choices for a Jim Rohn Top Ten Quotes of all time.

jim-rohn

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.

I would argue that discipline and execution are where most of us fail. We all have ideas. Few ideas are ever converted into written goals, a failure of discipline right out of the gate. Those written goals then need to be distilled into written missions with due dates, missions are distilled into projects (with due dates), and projects into readily achievable tasks (with due dates). Tasks need to be managed on the calendar, and discipline is needed every step of the way.  That is execution.

We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment.

I would rather suffer the pain of discipline. Let’s take staying in shape as one small example. Staying in shape takes a discipline of eating well and keeping a fitness routine. Yes, there is pain to get up a bit early and fight the bitter wind to get to the gym. But would you rather lose your mobility at 70, and spend your golden years stuck in a senior center? I’d bet the pain of regret is worse than the pain of fitness.

Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.

Never stop learning. Too many folks stop learning after school. Yet, all the people that knock it out of the park have three things in common:

  • they have the discipline to set written goals and plans while driving toward accomplishment,
  • they prefer to suffer the pain of discipline over the pain of regret, and
  • they embrace learning new things, seeking out knowledge at every life’s turn.

If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.

Prudent risks must be taken. This one element stops 99% of people on this planet. Choose to be one of the one percent.

Failure is not a single, cataclysmic event. You don’t fail overnight. Instead, failure is a few errors in judgement, repeated every day.

If you are not making mistakes, you are not taking risks. All progress involves failing forward, never giving up while taking chances. The US Marines teach the idea of adapt and overcome, and they are dead-on right. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

You cannot change your destination overnight, but you can change your direction overnight.

People think they can’t change. Change involves a decision made in a millisecond. If you don’t believe you are shackled, you are not.

Character isn’t something you were born with and can’t change, like your fingerprints. It’s something you weren’t born with and must take responsibility for forming.

Becoming a remarkable person is your responsibility and your duty. Read my previous article here.

You don’t get paid for the hour. You get paid for the value you bring to the hour.

Few people understand this simple economic truth. I would add that supply and demand of your value-added abilities matters too, because the marketplace is quite efficient. But, in the end, find a way to offer more value than most others, improve yourself in valuable ways, and you will make a lot more income in the end. Financial success is not a mystery.

Make measurable progress in reasonable time.

Too often a week goes by, and I don’t make a first down that matters. Sometimes a month goes by. Sometimes a year… Keep a log, keep a diary. Measurement requires pale ink to stay honest with yourself. Make sure that you are making meaningful, measurable progress. No one will worry too much about your lack of progress except for you.

And my all time favorite Jim Rohn quote:

Let others lead small lives, but not you.
Let others argue over small things, but not you.
Let others cry over small hurts, but not you.
Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.

Rest in peace, Mr. Rohn. Job well done.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS. Taking a three day contemplation weekend — without T.V., without radio, without noise, without crowds —  is something we should all do, at least once every three years, but it is easier said than done.

mountain-cabin-in-winter

Nov 052013
 

I get many great ideas by reading quotes distilled by others. The beauty of quotes (and the people that search for them and give them to us for free) is that they often are the true essence of a big idea.

Jack is no saint, but he is a heck of a businessman. He is a top ten guy in the big business Hall of Fame. Here are ten great quotes from one of the most passionate and successful corporate leaders America has ever had:

  1. An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.
  2. Control your own destiny or someone else will.
  3. Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.
  4. Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do. Because then they will act.
  5. Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.
  6. If you don’t have a competitive advantage, don’t compete.
  7. You’ve got to eat while you dream. You’ve got to deliver on short-range commitments, while you develop a long-range strategy and vision and implement it. The success of doing both. Walking and chewing gum if you will. Getting it done in the short-range, and delivering a long-range plan, and executing on that.
  8. You measure your people and you take action on those that don’t measure up.
  9. The biggest cowards are managers who don’t let people know where they stand.
  10. The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important – and then get out of their way while they do it.

This brings me to another question – why does America never manage to elect a president with serious experience at running an complex enterprise with hundreds of thousands of employees? It seems that we should — someday soon — give it a try. Experience matters. But, that’s a topic for another day.

I.M. Optimism Man

 

Nov 032013
 

Fall back. Standard Time is here. My favorite month or two of the year.

Why? Because it is now far easier to get up early and get great things done while others still sleep.

One of the most common excuses we often hear is “I wish I had more time each day… I would write a book… I would start a company… I would, I would, I would…

There is more time. Through a side-effect of an idea that many credit to Benjamin Franklin to save energy (although others claim it was invented by George Vernon Hudson or William Willett), we get a great gift each fall. Clocks are adjusted one hour backwards. All you have to do is continue to get up at the same time you have been getting up. You gain a pristine, quiet, free-of-interruptions hour each morning. Ben’s “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise” still applies in the age of the internet.

One of the formulas for success often cited is to burn the midnight oil, to work while others are in bed. I agree. If you want to get more done, you ultimately need to spend more time working on your ideas than the average guy. But instead of late nights (that I should say do work well for some individuals), my theory is to get up early, because you are fresh and the worries of the day haven’t yet overwhelmed your mind.

Too often, people say that they are not morning people. Being a morning person is a choice, a decision, not a genetic excuse.

You have been getting up at 6 am. Starting today, get up at 5 am. It is the same time your body is used to. You can do it because you have been doing it. I have been getting up at 4:55. Now, I will go for 4:00 straight up. Ben has given me 55 great minutes if I use them wisely. Start working out if you have not been. Starting writing that book, or that software, if you have one or both of those goals. Start planning your day before checking your e-mail — you will be amazed at how this simple concept changes everything. Use the quiet, magic hours of the morning to make something great happen. You do have the time to change your trajectory. Do you have the will power?

Never miss a sunrise.

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

Dec 102012
 

Few people understand the magic of persistence. Most people will take one shot, maybe two, at something at some point in their lives, and then quickly retreat back to the safety of their everyday rut. Why is the everyday rut such a draw? I think it’s because it is mental-state-of-mind safe… when you are in your daily rut, you don’t have to evaluate whether you are succeeding or struggling, winning or losing. You don’t have to make any truly difficult decisions where there are no clear-cut answers. You can do the same’ole things without ever thinking about your personal scorecard.

The truth is that there is no failure, if you get up each morning and try again, giving it your best effort. There is only success in your future, with the only unknown being “when” the breakthrough will happen. Those independent souls who decide to believe, to go for it, to remain positive, to adapt and overcome, do win in the end.

Here is a fantastic truth that all of us should remember and take to heart:

 

Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

— Winston Churchill

 

 

 

Becoming unstoppable — and remaining enthusiastic during the ever-present struggles — are choices each of us can make.

I.M. Optimism Man

Nov 302012
 

Be kind.

How often do we give this advice to our kids as we send them off to school or to win the big game? Not often I’ll bet. Do we, as a society, admire the kind CEO, the kind football coach, the kind Hollywood superstar? Do we, as parents, insist that our kid help the other kid up after a foul in sport? Do we let the person in a hurry cut in front of us in traffic or do we block his path, enjoying the moment of silly triumph? Are there any reality T.V. shows following the lives of kind stars, or just Kardasians and tyrannical Abby Lee Millers of the world?

Should we then be surprised that kindness and respect for others seems to be disappearing in our society?

I believe kindness, to be kind and considerate, is very important to becoming a well developed member of a family, a community, and society as a whole. At the root of it all, I think there is a misguided perception that kindness and respect somehow leads to weakness and failure. This is not true. I wish to be kind this year, and kinder the next. Ultimately, I will be a very kind old man, not a cranky one yelling about the kids cutting across my grass.

Consider these five observations about kindness:

Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.
Franklin D. Roosevelt

As much as we need a prosperous economy, we also need a prosperity of kindness and decency.
Caroline Kennedy

To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.
Confucius

And as I’ve gotten older, I’ve had more of a tendency to look for people who live by kindness, tolerance, compassion, a gentler way of looking at things.
Martin Scorcese

There is overwhelming evidence that the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will be to treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity.
Nathaniel Branden

A great idea would be to decide to have a personal quota of just one kind act each day, and record what you did in your journal. Great habits start with small daily steps.

I.M. Optimism Man

Jun 172012
 

Ideas are perishable. They quickly expire and go limp, like lettuce in the fridge. It is inevitable that you will lose enthusiasm and momentum, if you wait until a better time to start.

If you waited until all the lights turned green, you would never make it across town. Don’t wait. Start now.

Persistent, unstoppable, determined action is far more important than brilliant forethought.

Don’t let your fantastic idea wilt!

Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.
— Victor Kiam

The rewards in business go to the man who does something with an idea.
— William Benton

The way to get ahead is to start now.
— William Feather

If you don’t place your foot on the rope, you will never cross the chasm.
— Anonymous

Optimism, unaccompanied by personal effort, is merely a state of mind, and not fruitful.
— Edward L. Curtis

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

Apr 302012
 

We all lose momentum on our endeavors. It is intoxicatingly easy to get excited with a sparkling new idea. It is often easy enough to plunge in headfirst and get started. But most — if not all — of our important projects will hit a wall, where part of our beautiful vision transforms into hard work and drudgery right before our eyes.

There is no magic pill to take to overcome that moment where you don’t want to continue. It simply takes persistence and will power. Don’t forget that. Believe that you can persist, and you can. Don’t give yourself an option of stopping until you get to that first finish line. Don’t forget that no project’s first finish line really turns out to be the final one. There will be an unanticipated phase two, and phase three, and phase four.

Here are a few quotes to consider and remember:

Success is almost totally dependent upon drive and persistence. The extra energy required to make another effort or try another approach is the secret of winning.
— Denis Waitley

The majority of men meet with failure because of their lack of persistence in creating new plans to take the place of those which fail.
— Napoleon Hill

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated failures. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
— Calvin Coolidge

Zero to overnight success in seven short years.
— Optimism Man

All of us sometimes lose momentum on a worthy endeavor. Regaining the excitement and gaining momentum from a dead stop is very hard. I think the trick to get started again is to go to your personal fortress of solitude (mine is Starbucks because I just don’t have a nearby mountain peak to climb) and create a very detailed action task list to make a couple of first downs. Then pick a day to focus only on this one project and knock the tasks out in order, as though the deadline was just 24 hours away. Although I’m a big believer in the tortoise-wins-the-race formula, a big burst of action in one superhuman day is like a defibrillator that restarts the heartbeat of your project and establishes new momentum.

Stay Optimistic and Persistent, My Friends!

I.M. Optimism Man

Mar 272012
 

The world is full of wishful dreamers. They dream of their first book, their first product, their first business, their first million, their tenth million.

Within this vast multitude of dreamers are a minority of people who are both optimistic and action-oriented. These two qualities, more than any others, ignite the engine of achievement. Starting something is far easier to do than finishing a project with gusto. I’ve personally have plenty of experience at starting without finishing. I have outlined nearly a dozen great book ideas but only finished two. I’ve wasted dozens of business ideas without getting nearly all of them to first base, watching others create successful enterprises that I had imagined years earlier. We tend to regret what we did not do, what we did not finish. Finishing is priceless.

Our society rewards those select few who create something real, not just dream about it on a bar napkin. This one of the most  famous bar napkins of all time because it became real.

If you want to succeed more, start less projects — a lot less — but finish everything that you start. Nike made “Just Do It” famous, but I personally like “Just Finish It” better.

“We rate ability in men by what they finish, not by what they attempt”

Before you turn over a new leaf, forgive yourself and forget the past. All of us have started a lot of things that we did not finish in our past. Don’t regret. Learn and move on. Yesterday doesn’t matter. You must believe that you can and will become a finisher. Decide that you are a finisher. When you look in the mirror, you must see a finisher. If you can forgive yourself, you have seen the light.

You must become highly selective. Evaluate every idea and decide against nearly all of them. There are always many more worthy projects than a person can tackle. Opportunities are everywhere.

Less is truly more. The trick is not to start more projects. Don’t multi-task when you are chasing your dream — multi-tasking is over-rated while focusing is under-appreciated.  Refuse to procrastinate — procrastination makes simple tasks much more difficult.  Choose where you will invest your best time carefully — there are only a few hours of high-quality, sharp-mental-state time in each of our days. Get obsessed about finishing whatever you started like your life depends on it.

Plan to overcome. Count on every project requiring more time and effort than you imagined. Then there is pesky Murphy and his unescapable law: whatever can go wrong usually does, in fact, go wrong. You have to plan for things to be difficult. You have to decide to adapt, persist, and overcome. You have to anticipate that you will lose momentum but you must not stop until you finish. Become relentless.

If you have not been finishing in recent years, the trick is to start small. Pick small baby step milestones. Write them down and review them daily. Keep your promises to yourself. Be flexible. Setbacks are not failures but lessons along the road to final success. Your momentum will grow. Pretty soon, your bar napkin might turn one of the most profitable airlines in the world.

Don’t be one of the dreamers… the many who spend their life starting without finishing. Successful people get the job done after the excitement and the novelty have worn off. They get the job done when it is no longer fun. They get the job done when they run into roadblocks. They don’t use excuses. They don’t give up.

A few posts back, I mentioned that the gates of opportunity are often overlooked because three fierce guard dogs scare people away. Those guard dogs are risk, sacrifice, and faith. Perseverance is not easy. You will have to sacrifice to finish projects. You will have to put off things that you want. You will miss events that you will wish to attend. You will have to choose to work long hours and burn the midnight oil to finish what you start. Success only comes before work in the dictionary.

Optimism is the secret ingredient. It is optimism that sparks the successful, the extra energy that helps people get over the hump, even when it looks too difficult to see it through.

Believe in yourself, believe in your ideas, start less, always err to the side of action, always finish what you start, follow the commandments of financial success, and you will be rewarded with an awesome life.

I.M. Optimism Man

PS> Here is a great quote from one of the authors of the bar napkin above. Herb is one of the most optimistic, action-first, business leaders that I have ever met:

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Mar 112012
 

Here is a fact of life that is obvious, but it seems that few remember it: No one gets rich following the herd.

Don’t let the opinions of the average man sway you. Dream, and he thinks you’re crazy. Succeed, and he thinks you’re lucky. Acquire wealth, and he thinks you’re greedy. Pay no attention. He simply doesn’t understand.

Robert G. Allen

Mar 042012
 

Dreams are so very important. Dreams of a better future can create that future. There is nothing more powerful than the human imagination when combined with the extraordinary power to communicate and the amazing ability to inspire dreams in others. A dream well-conceived, well-timed, and well-communicated transcends one man’s life and can carry on for many generations to come.

Do you have a dream for your family and the future of your grand kids and great grand kids? You might want to plant those seeds with your kids now, so that there is time for the seeds to sprout and get watered while you have unlimited energy.

 

The words below are well worth reading once each year. Not only is the dream right for America, and right for the world, it illuminates how powerful a dream can be. It shows why you must communicate your dreams. The potential of dreaming is extraordinary.

I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

Martin Luther King Jr.

 

Anything that you can envision is possible.

I.M. Optimism Man

Feb 282012
 

Is your company designed so that its managers and associates will be happy at work?

Probably not.  The executives that build companies tend to focus almost exclusively on financial results.  “we have to make the quarterly earnings or heads will roll…”

But is that smart? Do stressed-out people produce better results?

+++

Is your kid’s select club soccer team, basketball team, or volleyball team designed and concerned about player happiness?

Probably not. Most teams that cost parents big bucks and travel to out-of-town tournaments focus on those win/loss results. “Our team has to win — I’m not paying $3 grand a year to play in Division 2!”

But is that smart? Do stressed kids of stressed, minutes-played-monitoring parents learn and play sports better than happy, relaxed kids?

+++

Is your kid’s school designed to keep kids happy while they are learning and maturing?

Probably not. Results darn it, results! “We must get the grades up to ensure our federal funding.”

But is that smart?

+++

When will leaders, when will companies, when will institutions, when will we — finally realize that happiness is a critical ingredient that leads to above average results and success, not a by product that comes after the struggle?

Start with that which is in your own control: Is your family focused on happiness? Are you focused and committed on making it so? Are you planning and doing things to make the family experience happier? What would it take to add a little more happiness into this week? A little happiness goes a long way.

Do you have influence on the job front? Are you a manager at work? Or are you a leader on your team? What can you do to inspire the spark of happiness within your little sphere of influence? Don’t be too surprised if your group starts out-performing as people smile more — just don’t tell the hard-nosed CEO until you have a one heck of a track record!

“There is no duty so much underrated as the duty of being happy.”
— Robert Louis Stevenson

Change your own world. Be happy to enjoy your life — you will find that success becomes easier when laughter is the norm. Most people are about as happy as they decide to be.  Don’t pursue happiness — Make it instead.

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

Oct 132011
 

People often speak without thinking, becoming bulls in the china shops of human emotions. Others speak with bad intent — they seek to subvert others’ efforts because of jealousy, imaginary competition, and a false belief that there is a scarcity of success to be had. One of the saddest examples of this phenomenon is often seen at the workplace, where insecure managers consistently torpedo their own people, in efforts to polish their own stars. No matter the reason, lasting damage to people’s optimism is often caused with just a few words.

A person can make himself or herself invulnerable when he or she realizes this one simple truth, so well spoken by America’s former First Lady:

No one can make you feel inferior
without your consent.

Eleanor Roosevelt

Oct 112011
 

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
it was beautiful, magical
and all the birds in the trees, well they’d be singing so happily,
joyfully, playfully, watching
me,

But then they sent me away to teach me how to be sensible,
logical, responsible, practical,
And they showed me a world where I could be so dependable,
clinical, intellectual, cynical…

— Richard Davies and Roger Hodgson

For centuries, we have followed this simple pattern of being born with joy and fun only to have society extinguish most of it, as we graduated into adulthood. It should not and does not have to be this way.

Mencius observed:
“Great is the man who has not lost his childlike heart.”

Mencius’ words have stood the test of time as he lived 300 years B.C.

My stepdad was one of the few that did not lose his childlike heart. Even in his 70’s and 80’s, Joe laughed out loud, he got down on the floor and played with my kids every time he could, he enjoyed life with a permanent twinkle in his eye. He was a great man because he never lost his childlike heart. I’m sure Saint Peter swung the gate wide open when he passed away a few weeks ago.

I think we need to take almost everything less seriously and put fun back into our lives. Being fun should not be so foreign a thought when you are north of 35 years old.

Worse yet, we are pushing adulthood seriousness into younger and younger age brackets. Why do parents of 9 year olds take “select club” sports so seriously? They act like every game is critical, coaching her all the way to the field, yelling instructions nonstop every minute played, and then debriefing her all the way home, after calculating the number of minutes she played. In addition to 2 – 3 club practices every week, they take her to special coaches for speed and agility training, and other private coaches for skills that promise to give her an edge. Some even have her practice and play with multiple teams, to keep her options open and to get more “touches” on the ball. Yikes!

These “serious-like-adults” programs are everywhere — soccer, football, softball, gymnastics, academics (after-school Kumon has 300,000+ hopeful future valedictorians enrolled in the U.S., and Kumon is but one of many academic dojos) — our hyper-competitive society is systematically taking the fun out of childhood before it has any chance to blossom. It now starts at 6 years old! Parents are suckers for the sales pitch: you have to give your kid an “edge” if he or she is to be a winner.

By the time kids grow up, fun has been extinguished for almost everyone.

Optimists must take proactive steps to remedy the situation, starting with their own families. Actions speak louder than words. When’s the last time you did anything for the simple fun of it? When is the last time you really engaged and played with your kids — really played their games and got in the middle of the action? It’s a great first step to rediscovering that you too can be fun again. Most importantly, playing with them is real “quality” time — simply watching them play at the park while you read your iPad is not really quality stuff.

If your kids are grown, don’t just meet them for Sunday brunch. Go snow skiing, go sailing, go camping, go fly kites at the beach (yes, adults can fly kites — don’t look at the computer screen so incredulously). Organize some fun for your too-serious-and-intellectual adult friends too — Ultimate Frisbee is a lot more fun than relationships via facebook.

Life’s too short to not have fun. Laugh out loud, for the fun of it.

Here’s to the pursuit of happiness!

I.M. Optimism Man

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