Archive for the ‘Optimism’ Category

Service of Making the Best

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Photo: news.bbc

Photo: news.bbc

Things work out best for those who make the best of the way things work out,” is credited to three-time All-American basketball player and coach John Wooden. I’ve chosen three examples to illustrate this great quote.

Patrick Donohue

Patrick Donohue

I first heard it at The Christopher Awards last week. If there is one person who took this quote to heart it’s Patrick Donohue who said it in accepting the James Keller Award, named after the organization’s founder. His daughter’s baby nurse shook the infant so violently that she destroyed 60 percent of the rear cortex of the child’s brain. That was 10 years ago. Since then Donohue founded a research initiative as well as the International Academy of Hope—iHope—the first school for kids with brain injuries like Sarah Jane’s and other brain-based disorders. It’s in NYC and he plans to expand to other US cities. 

Father Jonathan Morris, Carol Graham, Major General Mark Graham [retired]

Father Jonathan Morris, Carol Graham, Major General Mark Graham [retired]

Carol Graham and Major General Mark Graham [retired] accepted Yochi Dreazan’s award. Dreazan was honored with a Christopher for his book, “Invisible Front.” The Grahams also illustrate the Wooden quote. The book is about how the Army treated the deaths of their sons. Jeff was hailed a hero after being killed while serving in Iraq and Kevin’s death, by suicide, was met with silence. Today the Grahams work to change the Army’s treatment of soldiers with post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], to erase the stigma that surrounds those with mental illness and to remind active duty, National Guard, Reserve, veterans and family members that seeking help is a sign of strength. This summer General Graham and associates plan to convert two call centers into one which will be supported with private funding: Vetss4Warriors.com @ 855-838-8255 and Vet2Vet Talk @ 855-838-7481. The keys to their crisis prevention telephone program: Trained peers counsel and advise callers, provide referrals and follow up with them. 

Murray Liebowitz

Murray Liebowitz

Murray Liebowitz is the third example in this post. A stranger to us, we attended his memorial concert at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College last Sunday. A passionate music lover with a special appreciation for Gustav Mahler, Liebowitz paid for the concert–Mahler’s Symphony No. 9–so that it was free to the mourners as well as to the community. He made the arrangements with Bard president Leon Botstein before he died. Tributes in the program described Liebowitz as “modest,” “kind,” “direct,” “generous,” “loyal,” “disarmingly unpretentious,” “delightful,” and “warm.” But he wasn’t always successful. This Bard board member went bankrupt when his first business failed. His New Jersey egg farm thrived until supermarket chains put him out of business. He earned his fortune in his second career as a Florida real estate developer.

Botstein wrote in the program, “Murray Liebowitz was a true gentleman. He was a man who enjoyed enormous success in business but one who never let success in life go to his head. We live in an age where money and wealth appear to be valued above all other achievements. They stand uncontested as the proper measure of excellence. To be rich, it seems, means that one might actually be superior to others. This corrosive calculus is one in which Murray never believed. He was without arrogance.”

Many face personal tragedy, devastating business reversals—and even overwhelming success—and make the best of the way things work out. Can you share additional examples?

making the best of bad situation 1

Service of Optimism

Thursday, June 26th, 2014

Optimism

Americans are encouraged—even expected–to be happy and optimistic. Corporate, popular and sports cultures promote a “you can do it, anything’s possible” approach: it’s the Declaration of Independence’s “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” in action.

"Making the Bed," Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

“Making the Bed,” Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

New York Times best-selling authors such as Gretchen Rubin study happiness and travel the world sharing tips encouraging small changes to achieve it. Making your bed daily is one antidote to consider if you can’t correct big things such as a miserable job. Rubin recently addressed The American Society of Journalists & Authors as a result of which David Levine interviewed her for a blog post “Gretchen Rubin: serious about happiness: The bestselling author of The Happiness Project talks about the discipline of happiness – and what you should avoid doing.”

I thought of our culture and of Rubin in reading Walter Russell Mead’s opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal: “For the U.S., a Disappointing World: The chaos in Iraq is just the latest evidence that history doesn’t follow America’s optimistic script.”

The foreign affairs and humanities professor at Bard College pointed out the similarities between Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush in their approach to foreign affairs: “While it is true that both presidents got some important things wrong, it is what unites them rather than what divides them that is the root cause of our troubles. Both Messrs. Bush and Obama, like many of their fellow citizens, radically underestimate the dangers and difficulties in the path of historical progress.

Rosy the Riveter“Americans tend to believe that history is easy and that things usually work out for the best. When the French Revolution began, many Americans followed Thomas Jefferson’s lead in thinking that the overthrow of Louis XVI would lead rapidly to democracy in Europe. Before World War I, most Americans believed that another great European war was unthinkable; when that war ended, President Woodrow Wilson was sure that a global democratic peace was on the way.”

He pointed out that the American standard of living has always been higher than others– starting after the Revolution—and that it affects our rosy attitude. He wrote: “This happy history shapes our thinking about the world more than most of us know. Whether conservative or liberal, Democrat or Republican, Americans tend to think that history doesn’t matter much, that win-win solutions are easily found and that world history is moving inexorably toward a better and more peaceful place.”

Additional excerpts from his thoughtful piece: “The holiday from history came to an end on 9/11, but the Bush administration’s subsequent approach to Iraq and the Middle East dramatically underestimated the difficulty of building stable democracies in a troubled region.”

isolationMead also observed: “Today we see a very different world. We are being forced to remember something we’d rather forget: that history is hard, that the choices it forces on us are sometimes harsh and that not everything ends in win-win.”

Isolation isn’t the answer, he concluded. “What we need instead is realistic goals and historical modesty—perhaps, at last, a foreign policy that is more about preventing catastrophes than constructing utopias.”

Do you think that too much optimism can be problematic and that our eternal search for happiness and peace for all is unrealistic? Does this approach steer our leaders into making inappropriate decisions?

road ahead

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