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

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

Sep 272011
 

Fortunate is the person who has developed the self-control to steer a straight course towards his objective in life, without being swayed from his purpose by either commendation or condemnation.
— Napoleon Hill

If you have decided to be a gung-ho optimist who takes decisive daily action, odds are very good that you will have a successful life’s journey. Along the way, you will encounter subversive critics who sow the seeds of pessimism, fear, uncertainty, and doubt. The pessimistic little statements are the mental version of viruses and bacteria. Most optimists eventually build up immunities against the condemnation: they learn to ignore people that say “you can’t” or “it will never work” and just take action and prove the critics wrong.

I believe that the other side of the coin, “commendation” from Napoleon Hill’s fantastic quote above, is a much more insidious virus. It invades many an optimist covertly, ultimately causing lots of problems. There is a fine-line between having confidence or being over-confident, having admirers or having associates that secretly want you to trip and fall. Compliments and flattery often go to peoples’ heads and they start to suffer from Big Head Syndrome or BHS.

A person with BHS is easy to spot — he or she starts at least half his or her sentences with “I” and loses perspective as to the team effort behind the scenes — one of the most famous BHS quotes/career-ending moves ever happened when Al Gore told America that he was the key player in the invention of the internet. (Yes, he mispoke, but you can’t watch this 90 second video and not realize that BHS is the virus that ended his political ambitions).

Today, anyone who earns quick promotions or wins accolades can get infected with BHS in a hurry. BHS sneaks up quietly and unexpectedly. After years of seeing yourself as a pretty successful professional, something clicks and you find yourself transformed, believing that you are God’s gift to your company and acting as arrogant as Maverick in Top Gun. The higher one rises in the org chart, the more money one makes, the more accolades one receives, the greater one’s span of management control, the more people solicit one’s advice, the more corporate dinners one attends at the imaginary head of the table, the more he or she is surrounded with yes-men and yes-women who pour on the commendation and flattery. Steering a straight course becomes very hard when you feel like Tom Cruise.

Staying humble, both publicly and in one’s heart, is incredibly important. If BHS infects you, painful lessons are surely coming in your future. Your team may begin to hope that you stumble, and they have the subtle power to help that happen. You may find yourself jumping at opportunities that are not a good fit for you, because you are overconfident. You might find yourself living for work and ignoring the family. You may start living a extravagant lifestyle as your subconscious tries to match your prideful inner vision. These self-destructive scenarios (and many more) are often the result of Big Head Syndrome.

Here are three quotes worth considering:

You can have everything in life you want,
if you will just help other people get what they want.

— Zig Ziglar

There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go
if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.

— Ronald Reagan

Humility is not thinking less of yourself,
it’s thinking of yourself less.

— Rick Warren

So what can you do to help inoculate yourself from the insidious commendation virus?

First, read OptimismMan.com and recommend it to at least three others each week 🙂

Then, search, find, and develop several sincere close friends that will
a) honestly tell you like it is,
b) stay optimistic “can do” people in the face of long odds, encouraging you when things look bleak, and
c) will make the time when you need help.

Many people I talk to often say they can’t find such friends. Don’t look for good friends, but rather look to be a good friend. Find moments to help people. Talking less and listening more is the key. You will be pleasantly surprised.

After you are fortunate enough to earn several core friends, don’t forget to ask for their advice, often. Take the time and energy to keep those valuable friendships alive and healthy.

If you stay humble and optimistic, giving public credit to all those that help you and thanking God for His blessings and help daily, you will avoid the BHS commendation trap and keep the success momentum going.

I.M. Optimism Man

Sep 202011
 

Some things never change. Critics are some of the most pessimistic people on earth, promoting themselves by trying to bring down the person who is making a sincere attempt to succeed. All too often, we fall into the critics’ trap and listen to these self-important bystanders, letting them demoralize us and others.

I suggest that each of us stand up and oppose a critic at least once each week. Declare a subtle war against these agents of pessimism. It does not have to be an aggressive encounter: simply point out, publicly if possible, that it is far easier to criticize than to accept the risk and take action. Every time we succeed at dampening the enthusiasm of a critic, we help many people over time.

Full conversion of a critic is more difficult but it is possible too. Imagine if you convert just one critic into a person that inspires others — what is the longterm effect if the converted one then inspires dozens of people over the next ten years? The effect on dozens of lives can be profound. I personally feel especially good when I know I’m spreading the gospel of the Optimistic Few. Interestingly, the converted-critic-now-optimist is better off and happier too.

Here are words worth memorizing:

It’s not the critic who counts,
Not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled,
Or where the doer of deeds
Could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man in the arena,
Whose face is marred by dust and sweat, and blood,
Who strives valiantly,
Who errs and comes short, again and again.

Who knows the great enthusiasm,
The great devotions,
Who spends himself in a worthy cause.
Who, at best, knows in the end
The triumph of high achievement,
And who, at the worse, if he fails,
At least fails while daring greatly

So that his peace shall never be with the timid souls
Who know neither victory nor defeat!

– Teddy Roosevelt

Fight the critics. Be subtle but effective. Be a secret agent of the Optimistic Few — it makes your day more exciting to target your next pessimist. Don’t let them tear down the optimists that dare to act. It is a fight worth fighting.

I.M. Optimism Man

May 182011
 

Henry Ford once said “If you think you can do it, or you think you can’t do it, you are right”.

This is a great quote and is easy to say, but few really live the phrase to its utmost. Too many critics jump up and tell people what they can and can’t accomplish in life. No where is this more obvious than in sports such as the NFL and the NBA.  There are many supremely talented players in the world, but undersized athletes are told that they can’t possibly compete in the professional leagues given their size.

Yet, once in a while, belief and optimism proves everyone wrong.

I watched the Dallas Mavericks beat the Oklahoma City Thunder last night in the Western Conference Finals of the NBA.  It was an extraordinary game, fast, furious, and a clash of titans — Dirk Nowitski put up 48 points for Dallas while Kevin Durant dropped 40 for the Thunder. But the smallest optimist on the floor stole the show.  JJ Berea was the difference that pushed Dallas to victory, a 5′ 8″ blur of competitive spirit and belief.

I am so very glad that JJ’s parents always told him that he can achieve his goals and dreams. His level of “I think I can” is higher than anyone else I have seen in professional sports in many years. Every parent can learn a lesson. Tell your kids that they can!

I.M. Optimism Man

Mar 112011
 

There is a simple reason all of us are surrounded by unlimited opportunity to succeed:

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

Ann Landers

Mar 012011
 

Albert Einstein, a pretty thoughtful guy, defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”  Yet many people do exactly this, with their careers, their parenting, their relationships with others, falling into a rut of wishful thinking with little connection to reality.

Your daily decisions pave the road of your life. Each day, you can make decisions that will change your future outcome. Each and every day, some small step, some action on your part can adjust your life’s course.

All you have to do is realize that change is good, that change is a tool, and that change is a must. The problem is that people perceive risk in change so they often avoid it.

If you feel stagnant in your career, you must make decisions and take actions to change things, if you want your outlook to improve. If you continue to do the same things each day, things will not change much. End of story. If you have a pessimistic and cranky boss, change your approach with him. Most people tend to avoid and withdraw from engaging such managers. Take advantage of this reality. Overwhelm him with your energy for a month. Go hyper-proactive. See what happens… I suspect something will if you do. If that doesn’t work, try Plan C, but try something different or expect nothing to change.

If you feel you have tried everything and are out of ideas, seek the advice of three wise people you know. Take each one to lunch or for a coffee on the Starbucks patio – most people really thrive on being asked for their advice, and a free lunch is usually welcomed as well. I’ll bet you come back with three ideas to try from each, plus a better relationship with a wise friend. If you try a dozen tactics and nothing else, decide to change jobs. Life is too short and there is too much opportunity to live under a black cloud. From personal experience, it is best to find a job before you quit the current one.

The same “crazy to expect progress without change” equation is true of all facets of life. Let’s look at parenting. If your kid is not motivated by your current motivation/discipline tactics, change them and see what happens. Don’t fall into a rut. Some parents yell at the kids to clean up their rooms, but the rooms still look like bomb went off day in and day out. The parent yells more, but there is no change. Time to try Plan B. Perhaps clean up the room, but take away all privileges like TV, iPhone, and other assorted electronics for three days. Explain that each time you have to clean up the room, that will be the price/result. See what happens. If that doesn’t work, there is always Plan C.

If you play on a sports team but ride the bench far too often, change what you do. Sometimes the coach says one thing but really wants something else. Not every coach is a great communicator. Ask more questions, and jot down the answers after practice. Look for trends. Search for what you can do differently. Do different things than expected – some attempts may work, some may not, but avoid the crazy expectation of better results without changing what you are doing. There is always something that will change the chemistry. Experiment.

If you are a student but your current lifestyle and study habits are getting you mostly C’s with a few B’s, time to change your methods. Maybe a lot of your college friends study in the quiet of the library but you find yourself falling asleep there. Move to the student union, or perhaps the back of the cafeteria where few people sit. If that doesn’t work, try something else like studying early in the morning before the campus wakes up. Be determined to find the system that will work for you. Above all, don’t procrastinate – that never works well.

If fishing with minnows for hours without getting a bite, the wise fisherman will change to worms, then later to crawdads, and then to something else, until something works.

Take this change/experiment approach to all facets of life. There is a magical aspect to coming up with Plan A, Plan B, and Plan C. Not only is does change logical, it also dramatically improves one’s optimism, reduces stress and frustration, and treats failures as small obstacles to overcome, not major dead-ends without hope. Never forget that optimism tends to help you succeed.

The Optimistic Few don’t get frustrated, but rather embrace change as a great tool to help them succeed.

Jan 292011
 

Choosing and developing great habits puts you on the road to achieving and maintaining excellence in your life.

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Aristotle

Jan 192011
 

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.

Jim Rohn

Jan 112011
 

Do you believe you could make a decision tomorrow that changes your life a lot?  Could you quit the job?  Could you get on shiny 757 for Vienna or Toronto or Seattle and be there before the sun rises again, assuming you have some paperwork in place and a credit card with at least a grand of room on it?  Could you decide to stay there and do something different for a year?  Would this decision change things a lot?  Is it possible?

The answer is yes of course.  We have the power to make any decision we want, although some may be wiser than others.

Each decision, even decisions to keep the status quo and change nothing, determine our life, chapter by chapter.  If you decide to do something different — lets say enroll in an art class at the local community college — it will in some way have a downstream effect on the canvas you are painting with your life.

I believe the single most important decision you can make tomorrow is 100% commitment to be an Optimist.  If you decide to be an optimist, a world of exciting possibilities reveals itself.  It is the only way to live large, to “live life out loud” as Rob Thomas sings in Someday.

Decide tomorrow to become a crazy over-the-top optimist and your difficulties will become opportunities.

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.
— Winston Churchill

Your God given talent won’t change tomorrow.  Your abilities will remain the same tomorrow.  The skills you have developed will still have their limits, until you have time to improve them.  But the opportunities will multiply instantly.  Magically!  Simply because you decide to believe extraordinary success is possible and believe it will work out.

Does any quarterback win the big game if they do not believe they can and they will?  Does any pro golfer sink the 28′ putt on 18 @ Augusta to wear the green jacket if they don’t think it will go in?  Does a doctor save the brain aneurysm patient on the operating table without faith in herself?  Believe it can happen — will happen — and you will live your life out loud.

The only logical choice is to choose optimism and faith.  The alternatives quoted by many — pessimism & realism — are easier on the psyche but horribly self-defeating.  The pessimist or realist makes it easy on themselves.  They will choose to never-start, or choose to quit before they see it through, and they will transfer blame to the “reality” of it all.

Choose optimism as your unwavering way.  Optimism makes every decision different.  The next time someone asks ‘how’s it going’, the only acceptable answer is Great!  Couldn’t be better! This all important decision — day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year — paves the way for an extraordinary life.

Never ever again say “I’m a realist” — its the surest step to nothing special.

Join the Optimistic Few.

Jan 032011
 

Enthusiasm is the yeast that makes your hopes shine to the stars. Enthusiasm is the sparkle in your eyes, the swing in your gait. The grip of your hand, the irresistible surge of will and energy to execute your ideas.

Henry Ford