Aug 302011

As we get older, we forget some simple tricks that work astonishingly well.

All my readers are familiar with my belief in the magic of pale ink. I believe that anything worth reading, anything worth remembering, anything worth doing, is worth jotting down. There is magic in making the notes.

Back in grade school, we were asked to read books and then produce book reports to summarize what we read and learned. The small effort of summarizing did wonders on our memory. Many of us could remember these first books years later.

Today, I find that when I read an interesting article, essay, or book, it is well worth jotting just a few paragraphs down in my daily journal or in an email to myself. Even jotting just a few lines helps a lot. Pale ink is magical for learning and retention. I rarely go back and look at my notes, but I find that I can remember an article far more vividly if I did take the notes than if I just read it and moved on.

Try this experiment for one month. Buy a small journal and jot down what you learned from each and every news story and book you read during those four weeks. If you are a technology lover, check out, which basically offers unlimited notes space and is accessible from PC, Mac, or smartphone (and is free for anyone that uses it for text notes most of the time because they only charge the people that take a lot of pictures use a lot of bandwidth). I believe you will have a small revelation as to the wisdom of book reports. Pale ink is the key that unlocks a better memory.

If its worth reading, its worth remembering. Our seemingly aging memory is not as much aging, as it is overwhelmed by distractions. Pale ink helps turn the tide. A great memory leads to better ideas and a better, more optimistic life.

I.M. Optimism Man

Aug 242011

The market has cratered recently in a classic “toss the baby out with the bath water” scenario.

My belief is that the future of American innovation and American success is very much software-centric.  I was planning on writing a post on this theory but then stumbled into this excellent essay in the Wall Street Journal that echoes my sentiments.

I highly recommend reading it here at the Journal.

If you are not familiar with Marc, here is his bio:

I.M. Optimism Man

Aug 222011

There is a phenomenon in medical school called Medical Student Syndrome. Students that study certain, often frightening deseases wind up often feeling the same symptoms that the desease gives to the genuine patients. This happens more often than most people realize, highlighting how our minds are incredibly powerful sponges, absorbing thoughts and influences that surround us.  The power of suggestion is far stronger than people realize.

Yet, we choose to surround ourselves with pessimistic people, many of whom are dominated by jealousy, lack of integrity, and lack of confidence. We choose to watch TV shows and movies full of broken families, broken promises, steamy infidelity, backstabbing, and murder.  We choose to read all the newspaper stories about kidnapped kids, crashing investments, growing national debt, and sleazy politicos caught with their hand in the cookie jar. People find a lot of this very entertaining, without realizing the downside it has on their personal attitude.

I believe this mist of negativity surrounding us has a much larger effect than we realize — we start feeling the symptoms of pessimism just like those medical students feel the symptoms of the desease they study each week. Your attitude is determined by what you think about the most.

There are simple fixes, if you decide to make some choices. Improve the quality of the friends and associates that you hang out with, one friend at a time. Do you have a friend with a constant negative undercurrent, the person that you would rank as the least positive friend that you have? Make the choice to talk to him or her far less often. Find a new positive friend. In the longer run, trade out the negative people for positive people until you have surround yourself with positive, optimistic people. This will have a profound effect on your attitude.

Skip the next Desperate Housewives TV series and start writing that first novel instead. Stop reading news that has no positive effect on your life. Start going to the gym and working out — the gym tends to contain a lot of optimists.

These are simple steps that make a huge difference.  Garbage in produces garbage thinking and garbage out. Quality begets quality.

I. M. Optimism Man

Aug 192011

Standard & Poors downgraded the United States of America last week. The stock markets have been on a roller coaster ride ever since, as one would expect given a never-before-happened event. On the surface of a downgrade of U.S. sovereign debt, one would expect money to flee US Treasuries and head to other S&P AAA rated countries like the UK.

That is not what happened. Investors vote with their money. The market has more common sense than Standard and Poors. Money actually ran INTO treasuries as a safe haven, downgrade be damned.

I believe this is a hugely optimistic sign that common sense prevailed, and Standard and Poors was shown to lack common sense and optimism in America. Am I the only person that wonders why Standard and Poors should be held in high regard, given the role of rating agencies in the whole credit market financial crisis that is still fresh in everyone’s mind? S&P is not impressive.

The good news is that I expect the markets to settle down and continue to move up.  The fear of global recession will subside. Corporate earnings will continue to improve.  Stock prices will improve because few people want to park their funds in accounts that earn 1% or 0.01%. Fears always hit hard, while confidence grows slowly. But the fact that money ran into Treasuries can’t be overlooked. This is a sign of confidence in capitalism and America… people are simply trying to let the storm abate.

Don’t miss the sale in equities!

I.M. Optimism Man

Aug 122011

People really fear cancer. Cancer is the uncontrolled division of abnormal cells in a part of the body, which tends to grow and grow until it destroys healthy cells and ultimately one’s body. Given a choice, sane people avoid known carcinogens like Asbestos insulation.

The habit of complaining is a lot more like cancer than people realize. The more one complains, the more the complaints multiply. The dark side of pessimism, the seeds of depression, the viruses of frustration and depression invade one’s brain on the backs of daily complaints. People believe less and less is possible with their life. Complaints are the “Asbestos-like” carcinogen for your mental attitude, and your attitude determines your happiness and success during your life.

Yet few people sincerely try to avoid complaining. It seems harmless to whine about the weather, your spouse, your kids, and your neighbor’s barking dog. It seems harmless to always say things like “I’m fat”, “I’m poor”, “I’m cold”, “I’m hot”, or have an occasional road rage moment, fuming about the idiots in front of you on the interstate. The truth is that it is not harmless at all — complaining is a mental irritant that is growing a cancer within your psyche, one day at a time.

If you want a great life, start with choosing to have a great optimistic attitude. One amazing important step is to stop complaining about everything — and yes, that includes your aching back, the democrats, the republicans, your boss, and your in-laws.

Only a couple of guys have been able to take complaints and monetize them into extreme happiness and financial success and you are not one of them (see above).

Getting out of the complaint cancer habit is not hard to do. Buy a super-tiny little Moleskine booklet at Barnes and Noble or Amazon. Put it in your pocket every day and then jot down what you complained about every time you catch yourself expressing one. I know that before you fill up that one tiny book, your complaining habit will be reduced by 95% and your attitude will be at least twice as positive. Its the magic of pale ink.

“It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.”
— Confucius

Stay thirsty and optimistic, my friends,

I.M. Optimism Man

Aug 022011

Not long ago, it was considered critical that values were one of the most important focus areas of schools.

Not any more.

The generation of “personal choice” and legislation from the bench have changed this, diligently ensuring that kids are not taught right from wrong. Rather, kids are taught that almost anything goes in the land of personal choice. Our nation, founded with a belief in God and with a population that overwhelming believes in the Almighty (94%) is suddenly in a situation where any mention of God brings the wrath of the all-too-powerful 6% minority and the courts.

Here’s an all-too-obvious news flash: knowing how to find the square root of 256 is far less important than discerning and living personal values such as integrity, honesty, determination, and optimism.

Whenever the debate starts on “fixing education”, most of the conversation is about budgets, testing for minimum levels of basic knowledge, and retaining good teachers. While each of these topics has merit, no one even brings up teaching the importance of great personal values. A person’s values are his personal foundation, his spine that holds him steady when facing inevitable adversity. One must know where he stands. America will never be as strong as it once was if our society bends to the agenda of groups such as the ACLU, preventing any mention of right and wrong during kid’s formative years.

The Optimistic Few must find ways to bring this key issue back into the agenda. Today, too many have simply give up and send their kids to private schools where these topics are not dead and buried. We must realize that the majority of each generation graduate from the public system and it is up to us to fix this issue before it weakens our America even more.

I.M. Optimism Man