Jul 292011

The Republicans and Democrats are fighting over the U.S. debt ceiling and both sides think they are being smart, making a firm stand ahead of the elections.

They don’t get it.  You cannot put a price of integrity.  Once trust is lost, it is nearly impossible to regain.  If the United States of America starts picking and choosing who it will pay and who it will not pay next month, even though it made a promise to pay, it will no longer be the safe haven many investors and sovereign funds count on for placing their wealth.  If that money starts flowing out, ugly and expensive ramifications follow.

We cannot play around like this — this is not politics as usual.  We must maintain leadership in the world, and leaderships starts and ends with integrity, no matter if you are a person or the greatest superpower nation on earth.

Zillions of bucks of “stimulus” that ran up the deficit are about to be undone.  Zillions of dollars of waste to pay increasing interest expense is lurking like a snake in the weeds.  Far too many in Washington DC are putting their career ambitions ahead of what truly matters: Integrity and Trust are Priceless.

I remain optimistic that common sense will prevail, for this is a stupid and dangerous game the pols are playing with our future.  I hope the electorate remembers the irresponsible behavior during the upcoming elections.

Jul 242011

Success does not happen in one big moment, but rather in thousands and thousands of millisecond decisions. I don’t care if we are talking about career success, marriage success, family success, or friendship / relationships success.  Success happens based on how we react to things that happen, things that are said, events that surprise us.

When someone says something to us, especially in surprising or emotional way, most of us react without thinking. But there is a gap between action and reaction — if we choose to take it — that can put the optimist on a more advantageous path.

Stephen Covey points out that we have the option, the choice, to think before we react. The few people that practice this skill and master it wind up making better decisions. These decisions are like small but very important course corrections as we travel through life.

Let me offer just two examples:

Imagine a salesman, Fred, is approached by  VP of Engineering at one of his customer’s facilities.  The VP, red-faced and obviously agitated,  confronts Fred and tells him that his products “suck” poking a finger at his chest.  Fred has a moment to succeed or fail with how he reacts next.  If he is defensive, he will lose the customer, or worse yet, a promotion when the event winds up on his manager’s lap. This small moment could be the catalyst that changes a promising career into a painful job hunt.

But Fred knows he can decide how he reacts, and choose to take a deep breath before asking “What’s wrong with my products and how can I help make things better?” with sincere concern.  He finds a quality issue, jumps into action, gets replacements expedited, and earns the respect of the red-faced VP.  The VP realizes that Fred is a guy he can count on, and winds up expanding the relationship between the two firms.  All this happens because of a calm choice in the matter of a millisecond.

Here is another scenario.  Imagine Gracie, a soccer player in the waning moments of a championship game, intercepting a poorly struck clearance by the opposing defense. The impulse is to shoot immediately as the defenders rush at her, with the game on the line.  Everyone on the sidelines is screaming for the shot as the last seconds tick off the clock.  Gracie realizes that this will be the last shot and she needs to make it count.  She fakes the shot, pushes the ball wide of the charging defenders, gives herself a superior angle while drawing the goal keeper toward the near post, then calmly sends the ball into the opposite post netting.  In a calm millisecond, she was quick but did not hurry, and that one play wins the championship, wins her scholarship, and changes the fate of many of the teammates on her team.

These millisecond junctures define our relationships, at work, at home, and with friends.  These milliseconds of clear headed thinking are the difference between success and failure in sports, in sales, in school.  The first step to get better at it is to anticipate what might happen before it does.  You can then decide what you will do if X happens, when you have more time.  Learn to think calmly, learn that you do not have to meet anger with anger, learn that you have the choice of answering instantly or after a few seconds of consideration, learn tricks to make a bit of time in the heat of the moment, learn to put yourself in the other person’s shoes, and you will find greater success and optimism in all facets of your life.

Master the Millisecond Gap!

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 182011

This year’s Women’s World Cup tournament was breathtaking.  America, full of optimism, made it to the final.  Japan, the underdog in three games, had the positive attitude that makes all the difference.  The final game did not disappoint, with Japan overcoming all odds after falling behind twice to inspire all that watched.

Here is the story that sums it up from ESPN:

2011 will be remembered as a year for incredible sports drama.  First the Dallas Mavericks conquered Lebron, D-Wade, and the Miami Heat, and now, the best FIFA World Cup we have seen in a long time.

I highly recommend watching the final game while it lasts at ESPN3.com replay (until August 16th I believe – use the dropdown to access 30 days history).  Optimism is the featured player for both teams.  Congratulations to Japan and the USWNT — well done!  Too bad only one team takes home the trophy.

Jul 162011

There is nothing like a plane crash to refocus a person on what matters most.

This is a short, sweet, and laser-focused video well worth watching:

I.M. Optimism Man

Jul 112011

“I always turn to the sports pages first, which records people’s accomplishments. The front page has nothing but man’s failures.”
Earl Warren – Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court

The United States National Women’s Soccer team should have lost their optimism.  Soccer / Football at the highest level is an unforgiving sport. One or two moments, one or two mistakes, one or two bad calls by the ref, tend to be the difference between winning or losing, rejoicing or packing to go home.

Yesterday, the US Women should have lost.  The game plan got trashed when Brazil tied on a penalty kick that should never have been awarded.  The U.S. defender was sent off with a red card, leaving the team short-handed with more than 20 minutes left in the game.  The US Women played on valiantly, surviving through the end of regulation time. Then, at the beginning of overtime, the U.S. fell behind 2 – 1 on another terrible (non) call by the referees as Brazil was off-sides.  What would 99 out of 100 teams do if they were short-handed, down 2 – 1 to supremely talented Brazil with the best player in the world Marta having a great game, and with the referees making critical calls against you?  99 teams out of 100 would roll over and die.

Not America! The U.S. Women stayed optimistic and continued to fight, finally rewarded with one of the most stunning last second goals in world cup history.

The United States optimism prevailed into the penalty kicks. Mental toughness is everything in life. The U.S. Women moved on to the semi-finals while Brazil is packing their bags for a long flight home from Germany.

Here is a great article about this extraordinary game: David Hirshey

The replay of this glorious example of optimism and determination will be on ESPN3.com for a week or two. If you have a daughter that plays soccer and want to inspire her, or if you just want to see a truly great, gritty game, check it out when you are on a fast connection.

Be mentally tough, be optimistic, and the extraordinary will happen. Success is not about the Pre-, During-, and Post-game Gatorade! Do you have optimism “in you?”

Jul 052011

Living with optimism doesn’t require “larger than life” goals or great complexity — what it takes is doing — doing more, trying more, living more.

Here is a great little 4 minute video from my favorite ted.com website:

Play Video

Start small. Starting is what matters. Before you know it, your optimism batteries will become fully charged and you will be living life out loud.

I. M. Optimism Man