Friday, February 26, 2010

Embrace It

Hello Optimists,

Believe it or not, Philadelphia is again covered in snow. I thought the worst of it was over after our last 25" blast, but apparently not. I should probably expect this weather, considering I do live in the northeastern part of the country... but this is excessive! I know you've heard me voice my disgust over this white stuff before, so I won't bore you with it again.

But it did get me thinking about how I'm facing things. Like I said, I should expect this. If I was living in California and we got this amount of snow, I think I would be justified in my frustration. But I live in Pennsylvania for Pete's sake....snow is nothing new here. So I really shouldn't be against it if it's a commonplace.
I realized all of this after I read today's featured quote. It really opened up my eyes and made me realize that we've got to learn to cope with what's going on, whether we like it or not. We have to be able to live in our surroundings, to take the cards that are dealt to us. I hope you can realize the same thing after reading the quote...
To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow. -William Faulkner
The only thing that would make this one better is if it said " like living in Alaska (or Philadelphia) and being against snow." But I think this version will suffice.

Anyway, the real meaning behind this quote is quite important. In today's world, there's not room for inequalities, no room for prejudices, no room for discrimination. After all, we're surrounded by diversity every single day, and it is because of that diversity that the world is such a beautiful place. We can't turn our backs to those in the "minority" because there really is no minority anymore. We are all people, all living on one earth, all deserving of the same respect and treatment. At least for those living in Alaska, if you don't like the snow, you can move somewhere warmer. But there's nowhere for those to go who don't treat people equally, so we've got to learn to put aside our negative feelings and be open to equality for all.

So take today's quote to heart and make sure that you realize it's importance. We're surrounded by a great diversity of people in the world, and it is a wonderful embrace it.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Come Again!

Hello Optimists,

I always think about how super-successful people and businesses got the word out about what they were doing and how that word spread from one person to another. I guess that's why I chose to study marketing! But I think this is something we all think about- How did Facebook and Twitter blow up to be this decade's social media phenomenon? How did McDonald's get their Golden Arches to be instantly recognizable to anyone aged 3 years and up? Why has Starbucks outshined all other coffee companies in the last few years?

Surely it was smart advertising, promotion and good ol' word of mouth. But we're talking world wide success here...not just a business mentioned on the side of our local newspaper. Things like this really interest me. The reason for great success in the business world is a combination of many different factors; it takes a lot of time, money and hard work to be successful and to be recognized in any industry. And if you want to make it on a global scale, the thought of the tasks at hand can be quite overwhelming.

Lucky for us, I found this great quote by someone who has really "made it" on a global scale and has retained that status for many many years. The secret to his success lies in the quote and I think it's a key idea for anyone looking to do something great.

Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.        -Walt Disney

Now this is the key. But what's important to remember is that this applies to anything we want to do in doesn't just have to be about creating a global brand and theme parks around the world. No matter what it is that we're out to do, we've got to make sure that once people have experienced what we have to offer, they're so inspired by what they've seen that they want to relive that experience and spread the word. (That's why as you're leaving the corner bakery, you see that little sign posted on the door reminding you to Come Again!) And what's just as important is that they tell their friends. I learned in a class one time that people who have a negative experience at a business are likely to tell 7 others about it, as opposed to telling only 3 others of a good experience they've had. So obviously it takes some work to get recognized, but what's important is that people are talking.

I'm hoping to follow Disney's words in my every day life, and definitely while writing this blog. I hope that my words continue to inspire and motivate so that you'll want to keep reading and tell your friends about it. Maybe you are making a promise to yourself to be in a positive mood everyday. It's guaranteed that if you do it well, others will appreciate it, want to see it all the time, and possibly be inspired to do the same and pass it on to their friends. So you may not be scheming up a multi-million dollar business plan in your head, but that's ok. Walt Disney's words are relevant for everyone and should be followed. So it's your turn- go out and do what you do so well that others will want to see it again and bring their friends.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Think Big

Hello Optimists,

Hear the words, "You're Fired!", and whose face do you immediately imagine? That's right, The Donald. I'm not really a fan of The Apprentice - I guess I just never really got into watching it. And I'm not totally convinced that I'm a fan of The Donald either...he's ok. I think it's the hair that throws me off. It's very distracting. I imagine that if I were to ever see him in person, he would be a very confident man, sitting with some very powerful people while holding his classic expression of slightly squinted eyes and pursed lips. This is the image I have of him in my head..something I've conjured up as a mix of his TV persona and the style of his Palm Beach, mansion.

So I don't know that if we met we'd have much to talk about. He is no doubt a very smart man, and I like to consider myself a smart woman, but where do you even begin a conversation with a person like this? Well, that's what I thought, anyway. Then I came across this quote that really struck a chord with me. So maybe he's more than just a man with some weird hair and a love for all things gold...

As long as you're going to be thinking, think big. -Donald Trump

Well thank you, Mr. Trump. This is quite good advice! And he has certainly been thinking big, real big, for the past few decades. I think he's on to something here with this quote...we need to be thinking as big as we can. Our ideas and imaginations are limitless, so don't put a roof on your thoughts. Instead, let them burst through the cieling and into the never know what can come from one measly "little" thought. I bet the reason why The Donald is "The Donald" is because he is always thinking big, always looking for a new improvement, always pushing to find a better answer. So as long as you're going to put the effort into a thought, might as well make it great.

Ok, so maybe I've reconsidered what my meeting with him would be like. I do know for certain that he would still have that squinty-eyed, pursed-lip expression, but maybe he could lend a few big thoughts or words of advice that could acutally be helpful. Maybe on my next trip to NYC I'll make a pit stop in Trump Towers and see if he's available for a chat. But if not, I'll certainly remember his quote, and I think you should too. So go ahead- you heard the man, think big!

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Education Investment?

Hello Optimists,

I read an article recently about this woman racking up some major student debt. Granted, she let the interest pile up on her charges and that added a significant amount on to her balance, but still, the amount was astronomical. The costs of college tuitions go up almost every year- education is a serious expense. It's almost a disincentive to further your education, and though sometimes people want to get a higher degree to enhance their career or just for personal satisfaction, they often opt not to because of the huge price tag attached to it.  I know some European countries have very low tuition, if not free, and it is quite easy for students there to "go to university" as they say. But here in America, unfortunately it doesn't work that way... and I'm not about to get into the politics of this whole thing because there is much room for debate among this mess. But what I will say is that students are faced with an enormous amount of debt usually before they can earn enough money to pay it off, and once they do start earning an income, it takes years to pay off the balance.

So why do we put ourselves in this situation, you ask? Well, I was thinking the same thing. Thank goodness I came across this quote before I started reconsidering my future plans...

An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest. -Ben Franklin

This is certainly true, and unless you're like this lady in the article who didn't manage her finances too well, spending money on an education will eventually pay off. Studies have shown that those with higher degrees earn significantly higher salaries. But education can provide more benefits than just a solid income. We should be getting a good education in a field we are interested in so we can increase not only the size of our wallets but also our personal knowledge. But knowledge doesn't only come from higher education. It also comes from experience, personal growth, and our natural curiosity toward new things. So whether you get a raise after getting a higher degree, or buy a new book on a subject of your interest and are able to answer a few more questions on Jeopardy, you are constantly reaping the benefits from your investment in knowledge. Just don't be like the lady in this article...obviously she racked up those charges on some other courses besides accounting and finance!

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Monday, February 22, 2010

Mark Your Calendar

Hello Optimists,

I just found out that last week was Random Act of Kindness Week... too bad I'm a bit late in finding out, but I think this is one holiday that can be celebrated no matter what the time of year is. I spotted an ad for it in the gym, and after leaving, I knew I had to Google it. Random Act of Kindness Week, huh? Well, as it turns out, I couldn't have stumbled upon a greater find.

This week was sponsored by The Random Act of Kindness Foundation, a not for profit organization and resource for people committed to spreading kindness. According to their mission statement, they set out to "inspire people to practice kindness and 'pass it on' to others". Their website it chalk-full of resources for anyone and everyone to join the movement. It includes lesson plans for teachers, community resources, member's stories, proven health benefits of kindness, and get this, inspirational quotes. As you can probably imagine, I think this is a such a great thing...and I think this is exactly what our world needs.

So in light of my most recent discovery, I just had to feature a quote that I found from the website. One that really captured it's message and the essence of kindness.

Be kind. It's hardly ever the wrong thing to do. 

You know, this is quite true. Being kind is hardly ever the wrong thing to do. You never hear about anyone being "too kind" and I can bet there is not anyone out there who wouldn't like to see others being more friendly, generous and considerate. So even though the official week of celebration is over,  I think we should all celebrate it anyway and do a random act of kindness for someone (and mark your calendars for next year!). If you don't believe me, I encourage you to go on the website and check it out for yourself. You never know what ideas you may get or what stories may inspire you, and I bet you'll leave feeling refreshed and ready to spread some kindness around. You don't have to wait until next February to roll around to celebrate's always the perfect time to celebrate kindness. Let's all join the movement.

Do you have any stories or random acts of kindness to share? Leave me a comment...I'd love to hear them!

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Perfect Toss

Hello Optimists,

It's Friday...and we all know what that means: Pizza night!!!! Well, at least that's how it is in my family anyway. For as long as I can remember, we have always gone out for pizza on Fridays. I think it's a regional thing though, as I don't know of many other people outside of Northeastern Pennsylvania that  follow this rule as religiously as we do. I don't even notice it here in Philadelphia. But you can't blame us, this area is the (self proclaimed) pizza capital of the world- there are literally 10 Italian restaurants with some delicious food and pizza all within a hundred yard strip on the main street. Now it may not really be the pizza capital of the world, but I do know that a bunch of the restaurants ship their pizza all over the nation, so I'd say that calls for some recognition.

Well with all of this thought about the pizza that I crave on a daily basis, I started to think about all of the hard work that must go into it. The rolling of the dough, the careful stirring of the sauce, the grating of the prefect amount of cheese overtop...phew, I'm glad I'm not in those kitchens on a Friday night! Then a pizza quote came to mind - one that was introduced to me by mia mamma, a cook that could give all of those restaurants a run for their money.

Ideas are like pizza dough, made to be tossed around. -Anna Quindlen

I've never really thought about a connection between ideas and pizza dough before...they don't seem like two things that have much in common. But after reading this quote, it really makes sense. Both ideas and pizza dough are meant to be tossed around, but finding the right balance is the key. Toss it too much and you've got an overworked, holey mess- not enough substance to allow it to rise to the perfect thickness and a texture that my dad would describe as "roofing paper". Toss it too little and you're left with a tough, chewy piece whose middle is still raw. Not good. You need to find that delicate balance to make the perfect pie...or idea.

So I know that making the perfect pizza is an art, but so too is the creation and implementation of our ideas. There's a lot of preparation, a lot of different ingredients that go into them, and of course, the perfect toss in the air that makes the final product. Finding that perfect combination is what keeps people coming back for more... so toss wisely.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Your Greatest Fear

Hello Optimists,

I was talking with some friends the other day about watching scary movies. We talked about The Grudge, Paranormal Activity, and of course, The Exorcist. I did not have much to contribute to the conversation, as I try to limit my scary movie intake to once a year- appropriately on Halloween. But as I was saying, I am not the biggest fan of curling up in a ball with nervous tears rolling down my face, waiting for the inevitable shriek that will involuntarily escape my mouth in movie theaters, so I was mainly a listener for this conversation. Though all of this talk about these movies will probably keep me up for the next few nights, it did get me thinking about the being scared of the dangers we face in life.

And as you probably know, it's a dangerous world out there, so it's natural that we be scared of some things. I know people that are afraid to fly- so they choose to remain on the ground and travel long distances by car or train. I know some people that are scared of snakes- we're talking deathly afraid - so don't even show them a picture of one or else you'll be in trouble. Some people are scared of bridges- convinced that it could collapse right at the moment they're crossing. Others fear failure in their jobs: whether their position will be secure, whether or not they can produce the work that is expected, or sometimes people just fear the possibility of not reaching their goals. These are all pretty understandable phobias...these people see the possibility of danger and believe in their mind that it's imminent. And then there's me, scared to watch a horror flick alone in the dark. Pathetic. But I can't help it. Anyway, this all reminded me of a quote I once read about danger and I thought I would feature it for today's assured, there is no mention of snakes, monsters, or ghosts, so I think we'll all be ok!

The greatest danger for most is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that our aim is too low and we reach it. -Michaelangelo

Out of all of the dangers and fears that I described above, I think Michaelangelo trumped me with this one. He pointed out the one thing that we all should be "scared" of, the one "danger" that applies to us all. We shouldn't be shuddering at the thought of a ghost in our room, or at the snake that lives in our garden- these are the little things in life. What we should be worried about is facing a danger that can come about when we don't give ourselves the opportunity to be our best. We shouldn't worry about what failure might come of reaching for the stars, but what failure might come of not reaching higher. Great achievements come in small steps, but they only become great when we continue to push towards new small steps. The good part is- this is a fear or danger that we have complete control of.

So next time your friend hosts a scary movie night, take the blanket down from over your eyes. We don't need to fear the little things in life. But steer clear of the danger that lurks around the corner...the danger that comes from not believing in yourself and your abilities.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Half Empty or Half Full?

Hello Optimists,

Are you someone that sees the glass half empty or half full? I would hope that as optimists, you would see it half full- or if not, I would hope that you're working on it. This idiom is one that has been around for a long time and is often used to determine someone's overall attitude toward life or how one views tough situations. It's sometimes hard to always see the glass half full, I will admit, but it's something that we should always strive for.

This phrase came to mind when I saw today's featured quote. The quote itself has an entirely different meaning than the glass phrase, but it uses similar words...hence my connection. However, I think that despite their differing meanings, this quote has an incredibly important message. Here is one time where being "empty" might actually be better than being "full"...

There are none so empty as those that are full of themselves. -Ben Franklin

I suppose Ben was always quite clever with his words, but this one stands out to me because I think it is absolutely true. Being full of yourself does not necessarily make you full of anything else- no special abilities, not intelligence, not even confidence. Now I know that some of you might be thinking that confidence usually goes along with being full of oneself, but that is not necessarily true. Confidence implies a firm belief or trust in something; cockiness implies a definitive self-righteousness that comes whether or not one is truly correct in believing so. The air that is given off by someone that is full of themselves is not very attractive- people usually can pick up on it quickly and are immediately turned off by it. We all know that hidden deep inside of that person that thinks they're "the best" is a part that is empty, a part that is insecure and unsure of how to act...a part that they feel needs to be covered by a hard, outer shell that exudes "confidence" (or what they think is confidence) and authority.

I know it's a fine line to walk- but try to make the clear distinction between being self-assured and being self-indulged. I guarantee that those around you will respect you more and be supportive of all of your efforts if you steer clear of an egotistic and cocky attitude.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

We Are The World

Hello Optimists,

This weekend I came across the video for the new remake of We Are the World and I must say, I was very impressed. I read that it was premiered right before the Olympics ceremony, but unfortunately, I missed that, so I was catching up with it online. There are critics out there who say that this new version is nowhere near as good as the original (isn't that always the case) but I disagree. I had never before seen the original, so I decided I would have to see it for myself before I started believing all of the other opinions floating around out there. Now, I must put out a disclaimer because I am no way musically inclined..I don't play any instruments nor can I read sheet music, and my singing is limited to in-car (alone!) only. So to the untrained ear, the new version sounded great!

Both are filled with the big names of music, belting it out like they never have before to raise awareness for the challenges our world is facing. For the original in 1985, it was a project for relief in Africa; today it is a project for relief in Haiti. No doubt, the first version is a wonderful piece filled with the voices of Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Willie Nelson, Ray Charles, and Diana Ross - just to name a few, along with their big hair and crazy outfits of the '80s. The new version, which included more than 70 artists who did not have a role in the first version, are some of today's biggest stars like Celine Dion, Barbra Streisand, Will.I.Am and Fergie,  Lil Wayne, and Janet Jackson, who looked eerily identical to her brother Michael in a side-by-side in the video. All criticisms aside, they were both incredibly moving, and what mattered most to me is that I got goosebumps while watching both videos. It just goes to show what great things can come about if we all work together. The power of music is truly amazing, no matter who the big names are or in which decade it was made.

So I thought for today's featured quote I would use a line from the song in hopes that it would be as inspiring to you as it was for me.

"When you're down and out, there seems no hope at all, but if you just believe, there's no way we can fall" -We Are The World

What a truly inspiring song. If you happened to miss the debut of the new version before the Olympics like me, I encourage you to check it out. I have included the links above- one for the original and one for the newest version-so you can compare for yourself. But no matter which version you prefer, there's no doubt that the inspirational words sung by some of the world's greatest artists hits a soft spot in everyone's heart. We need to listen to the lyrics, take them to heart, and offer what we can to help those in need- not only in Haiti, but all those who maybe just need a little help or a little "pick-me-up". It's never too late and there's always an opportunity to help. We are the world.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Monday, February 15, 2010

Love For All

Hello Optimists,

I thought since yesterday was Valentine's Day I should feature a quote about love. Can you hear the birds chirping overhead? Thoughts of Nicholas Sparks books floated through my mind and I had the sudden urge to watch The Notebook or Titanic. Then I thought, maybe I'm not the best person to be writing about this since I am flying solo this year. But then I thought about it and realized that love isn't just meant to be shared with only that "one special someone", but should be shared with all of those people and things that are special to us. So though I admit I may have momentarily joined the haters side on this one (V-Day is a sappy "holiday" filled with picky roses and fat-inducing chocolates...Cupid should go shove it), I really do like this holiday. And, in an article I read about the history of Valentine's Day I learned that a lot of others do too; an estimated 1 billion valentine cards are sent out for this holiday....that's a whole lotta lovin'.

So I may have a slightly negative ping in my thoughts about this holiday, but I do whole heartedly support love. Love, like laughter, is common ground between all human beings, it is one of the few things that you can share with others no matter what language you speak, where you live, or what you do for a living. Love is universal, and today's picture really shows that love reaches even the smallest corners of the earth. I searched quite a bit for a quote to feature today...some were too "lovey-dovey" while others were not quite right. But, after a little hard work, I found one that I really like; one that will appeal to everyone, whether you have a valentine or not.

For it was not into my ear that you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul. -Judy Garland

This really is a beautiful quote and one that I believe truly captures the essence of love. Besides the whole 'lips you kissed' part, this can be true of anyone or anything we love- it doesn't necessarily have to be about your boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife. We should all be looking for love that touches our hearts and our souls, love that enriches our lives. Maybe it's not even another person we love, but a thing in life that makes us smile, that fills up a place inside that we never knew had room to grow, or that fills us with that feeling that words cannot even describe. Now that's true love.

So after all of this, I'm feeling a bit better about this holiday because I realize that love should be shared with all those people and things in our lives that fill our hearts and souls with...well, love. I hope that no matter if you're single, taken, not quite sure, or whatever, you think about today's quote and find the things in your life that make you feel the love in the air.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

P.S. I may just have read the best news ever and I had to post a link to it so you could all enjoy healthy foods that taste goodI thought I would never see an article including ice cream, pizza, and chocolate with this title, but alas, here it is! So go ahead, tear into that heart shaped box of chocolates that's been staring at you since yesterday, and enjoy the sweets from your sweet. 

Friday, February 12, 2010

Silver and Gold

Hello Optimists,

Remember that song well all learned in pre-school "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other's gold..."? Well, I think it's been permanently stuck in my head since I was five years old, and no matter what, I can't get it out. Don't even ask how it popped into my head this time- I don't even know! So after my last unsuccessful attempt to remove that torturing jingle from my head, I realized that maybe it's not such a bad song to have stuck up there. Normally, I find songs that get stuck in my mind to be the ultimate distraction and the biggest annoyance, but for some reason, this one seemed to have a different effect on me. For once, I set aside the jingle and I actually thought about the lyrics behind the music- and what a wonderful message it sends.

I was thinking about it so much that it reminded me of a quote that I once read about friends. There are a lot of great ones out there, and rightfully so, because friends are some of the most important people in our lives. Anyway, the quote I remembered is a really great one and I hope we can all learn something from its message...

Since there is nothing so well worth having as friends, never lose a chance to make them. -Francesco Guicciardini 

Ahh bellisimo, Francesco! Despite the fact that part of the reason I like this quote is because the man who spoke it has a really awesome name, the most important part about it is that it does in fact have really great meaning. Prime example of those who could use a lesson from Francesco: high school cliques. And while we can all roll our eyes or shudder at the mere thought of them (or maybe not, if you were "one of them"), we know that only a few select people were in that one else was going in, and no one would dare leave. Though we may not all have been like that or are like that now, it is true that we all have a special group that we associate with. Nothing wrong with that, but sometimes we feel too comfortable with these close friends and don't feel the need to branch out, to meet new people, to rekindle a long lost friendship, or to take a chance to make new friends. But we certainly should! Like that song says, "make new friends, but keep the old". I'm not saying to ditch everyone in your current gang and revamp your social scene, but never pass up an opportunity to meet someone new or to welcome someone else into "the group".

Though some of you may be many moons away from your high school days or maybe just a few years out, we all still have those high school tendencies. Just don't let "the clique" be one of them. Invite new people in, go out and mingle with someone you've never met before- you never know what long lasting friendships and memories you may form. It is true that there is nothing so well worth having as friends, so never lose a chance to make them.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Paddle Your Own Canoe

Hello Optimists,

I hate to even bring this up again, but we've received another blast of winter weather here...and it's pretty serious- blizzard-like winds, power outages, schools and businesses closed...Mother Nature sure isn't fooling around. So I think the snow total outside of my window is around 25+ inches but I think the worst is over. I haven't even left the apartment since Tuesday night. Talk about cabin fever!

But all of this got me thinking: What if all of this snow was rain? We'd be in a serious flood right now. I think we would all have to toss aside our pants and sweaters and zip up our wetsuits as we hop in our canoes for the ride to work. Hmm, that doesn't seem like something I'd like to do, so maybe I am ok with this snow...Anyway, thinking about all of us paddling our own canoes, it reminded me of a quote that I once read that offered some really great advice. (And no, it has nothing to do with the weather, thank goodness).

Love many, trust few, and learn to paddle your own canoe. 

Besides being a cute little rhyme, I think these words hold a lot of weight. Who knew such great advice could come from a short little phrase like this? Well, I think we've got the proof for that right here. To me, these three little things are important factors in finding true happiness.

So let's start with the first piece: Love many. It's a given that you love your family members (hopefully): husbands, wives, parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles.. but love shouldn't stop there. What about your friends, your neighbors and others that you admire? There's nothing wrong with spreading some love, and the more love you send out, the more love you'll have coming in. Like The Beatles said, "All we need is love, love- love is all we need" and I think they're absolutely right. So don't be afraid of the "L word", but instead, embrace it and offer it to those in your life that really deserve it. If you think about it, we all love love, so much so that we invented a holiday (that's coming up very soon) just so we can show someone how much we really love them! Or in my case, it's just a good excuse to go buy chocolate. But I think that this year if you don't have a "special someone" to be your Valentine (don't worry, that includes me too!), instead of sulking about not getting roses or chocolates, we should all spread our love around to everyone that is special to us.

Second: Trust few. Now we all know about the crazy world we live in and that it is just too easy to get duped into just about anything. There is no room to be naive or trustworthy of those we hardly know (or think we know). It's sad, but true. We should all take a cue from Robert DeNiro in Meet the Fockers when his character establishes his "circle of trust". So while we must be able to rely on those closest to us, be careful about your willingness to extend out that circle to others who may not have the best intentions.

And last, but most important: Learn to paddle your own canoe. This, to me, is the most important part of this quote. I think it is so important for us all to learn to be ourselves- after all, this is our life to live. After all is said and done, what matters in the end is that you've been true to yourself and can truly say that you're "one of a kind". You've read about how I feel concerning this subject in my post "Copy Cats" but I feel like I can't stress it enough. We all really do need to learn to paddle our own canoe, because no matter who else joins us in a ride down the stream, in the end, we're the one who can make sure it doesn't fall over the dam.

So today, take some time to think about this quote. It's a pretty easy one to remember, and I hope you will, because it really sums up great the advice we're always looking for.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

You'll be Astounded

Hello Optimists,

I sometimes think about all of the things we're capable of and it truly amazes me. If you just stop and really consider all of the great things that man has created or achieved throughout history, it will boggle your mind. Take, for instance, the fact that we've built machines that can take us anywhere in the world in a matter of hours, that we can talk with friends and family across the globe just as quickly and easily as we can talk to our next door neighbors, and we have people who are developing vaccines and medicines that prevent people from illnesses that may kill them. We have people that complete the Iron Man triathlon- running, swimming, and biking for miles, we have people lifting up cars to save others- really just doing incredible things that leave me looking as surprised as the little cutie in the picture above. It's pretty amazing....almost unbelievable. 

Of course, I could write for days about all of the great things that man has done....but I don't really have that much time on my hands- plus I wouldn't want to bore you. But I think you can get my point. What really sparked all of this thought in my mind was today's featured quote. And after reading it, I realized that we may have just only hit the tip of the iceberg....

If we all did the things we were capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves. -Thomas Edison

It's amazing to think what we are capable of. All the great things that have been done put aside, what about all of the things that have yet to be achieved, created, or imagined? Things are awaiting discovery and invention, and new goals are waiting to be reached. But we will never get there if we don't do what we're capable of and give it all we've got. We have to be willing to push the boundaries and be open to the unimaginable. That's the only way people have ever done great things. It's easy to think that we're not special enough or don't have the right skills, but if we would only give it a chance, we would be astonished. So let's make a promise to do what we're capable of. Sometimes we don't know we have it in us, but sometimes we're just too afraid to let it out....and only by letting go of that fear can we reach our highest potential.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Wise Men

Hello Optimists,

Have you ever been at a meeting, a lecture, or some other gathering and noticed how many people are so eager to voice their opinions about the matter at hand? Everyone wants to be heard. I guess I can understand their position to some extent- we all wish we could have gotten better "class participation" grades in high school, right? Well, sometimes things are better left unsaid. All too often people offer their two cents, and then suddenly, as the last words escape their mouths, they can't quite remember why they thought they had such a brilliant idea in the first place.

I see this all the time. People are so eager to offer their input, but sometimes don't exactly know where they're headed with their idea. But, all that matters to them is that they're speaking while others are listening. They'll just talk their heads off and hope that in the end, something great has come from their speech. I've written before about being a rather quiet person...I'm not the "gabber" of the group, but I don't feel that this is a weakness. I'm not afraid to contribute to a conversation, but I am afraid of being labeled as one who says so much, they say nothing (of relevance) at all.

I was reminded of all of this when I read today's quote- and I think it would be great if we all kept this in mind the next time we find ourselves talking just to talk. 

Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools talk because they have to say something. 

I'm liking this quote not only because it's something I try to live by, but also because it's from a pretty legitimate source. Plato was a pretty awesome guy- aside from being a philosopher, mathematician, and writer, he learned from Socrates and taught I think that suffices as a pretty decent resume. Anyway, keep in mind that your thoughts and ideas will be much more appreciated when they can actually enhance the topic of discussion. It's kind of like The Boy Who Cried one will want to listen to your comments and opinions if you've been talking away about nothing. Of course, I wouldn't go categorizing these poor souls as fools per say, but on the flip side, you can certainly go ahead and consider those others (or yourself) wise men. Oh, and there can be more than three, you know.

So remember today's quote and think about it the next time you find yourself in a situation where your opinion can be valued- just make sure that before you offer any brilliant plans, it's something that really has to be said. So let's all join forces and become wise men. Maybe we can even bring some cool gifts with us to our next office party, too.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Monday, February 8, 2010

Right After the Snow

Hello Optimists,

Well, the weekend brought with it 15" of snow to Philadelphia. I hear my sister down in Baltimore got about 30". So I guess that groundhog wasn't kidding around...or maybe it was karma since I wrote about my skepticism concerning his predictions last week. Okay! Point taken...6 more weeks of winter. Now can we please cool it with the snow? 

I found it quite interesting because as you can probably tell, I am not a big fan of winter, yet I did end up enjoying the weather this weekend. I headed out Saturday night with some friends and we had a great time over dinner, chatting about the latest gossip, and picking up some ice cream for dessert. I know, I hear cream, really?! Didn't she say it just snowed? Well, yes, it was probably only 20 degrees outside, but if it's any consolation, we ate it by a fireplace...and really, in my book, there's no time when ice cream shouldn't be eaten. But I digress....anyway, after a nice long night, we parted ways and I had a short walk back to my apartment. It was pretty late at night, the snowfall had finally ceased, and it was in this moment of almost pure silence that I was able to really appreciate the beauty of it all. There were no cars, no one talking, no other footsteps. It was just me and the crunch of the newly fallen, powdery snow under my boots. It was an odd silence, but I found it to be extremely peaceful and beautiful.

Now, don't get me wrong. I have absolutely no plans of moving to Alaska or anywhere else where snowfall is abundant. But I guess now I just have a new found appreciation for the peace that is found right after a snowfall. I found a quote today that is perfect for today's topic and one that I could not agree more with.

Kindness is like snow- it beautifies everything it covers. 

I think this is a great quote and one we should all definitely remember. And because I had such a great experience last night, I thought I would write a little something to reflect my feelings. So today, you get a 2-for-1 special...what a deal. 

Right After the Snow

This is the best moment,
Right after the snow,
To find peace in the silence
That lingers wherever you go.

This is the best time,
To walk with only you,
To be surrounded by the white cotton
That hasn’t yet been pushed through.

This is the best moment
To clear the air,
To breathe in that gentle breeze
That flows through your hair.

This is the best time
To see the untouched,
To capture a moment
For which everyone must lust.

This is the moment,
The best moment to be.
For this is the time
We must open our eyes and see.

Okay, so maybe I'm no Robert Frost (Huh, Frost..that's funny!) or Shel Silverstine, but I thought I'd try my hand in some poetry. So today, here's a bunch to think about. First, remember the quote and it's meaning, but most of all, remember that kindness, unlike snow, can't be shoveled away. Though the plows can come through and remove the 15" of white stuff, nothing can remove the memory of kindness from someone that you've touched. And second, remember that even though there may be something in life that you aren't too fond of (think of me and snow!) don't avoid it or be afraid to allow it into your life. Be optimistic about it- you may just find that these are the things that have a way of making a difference in your life. 

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Friday, February 5, 2010

What Outshines the Super Bowl Athletes

Hello Optimists,

Well, it's Super Bowl weekend! Whether your rooting for the Colts or for the Saints, I bet you're gearing up for some partying. Have you done your grocery shopping and picked up the chips and dip, veggies, sandwich platters, and cake?  If not, then get to it! You know the stores are going to be packed with everyone stocking up for the big night, so start early. I'm ready for all of the food and the great new commercials that will debut Sunday as nearly every American's eyes will be glued to the TV. It must be pretty awesome to get some face time on TV during the Super Bowl...can you imagine how many people will be watching?

Professional athletes must be used to that- it's what has made their names so well known across the country. People identify them by their athletic abilities...we all know that McNabb (sometimes) throws great passes that win games, Reggie Bush can outrun the defense and head towards the goal line, and Michael Oher can stop just about anyone from getting to his quarterback. So this got me thinking: is the only reason we know about great people because of their abilities? I guess to some extent, this is true- we do associate people with their skills, whether they be a professional athlete, a famous actor, or a great artist. But my mom introduced me to a quote that allowed me to see that people can be identified by more than just through what we always see from them under the spotlight...

It's our choices that show who we are, far more than our abilities. -J.K. Rowling

After reading this quote and with football still on my mind, I immediately thought of the whole Michael Vick scandal. He was known as a great quarterback until he made the very foolish and terribly wrong choice to get involved with dog fighting. This incident, for obvious reasons, exploded in the media and his image of being a great quarterback quickly faded away. His poor choice is what showed the world who he truly was - out shadowing even his greatest football accomplishments.

Of course, this quote can be true of making positive choices as well. But whether we make good choices or bad, these are the things that will show the world who we really are. What we do for a living or the image that others are exposed to does have an influence on the factors that define us, but remember that we have the power to show the world our true self through a conscious decision of our choices. Think about it: we make thousands of decisions and choices every day, but how often do we consider how others will view them? Sometimes we need to take a step back and try to view what we're about to do from another perspective...and only then can you know if the world will be seeing the real you. So though some may know me for being a pretty decent athlete back in the day or for being able to paint a picture to hang on the wall in the family room, I know that all of those things take a back seat to the factors that define me. I am who I am because of the choices I have made to get me to this point, and that is what shows who I really am. So keep this quote in mind the next time you think being able to make a basket from half court will be the only thing the makes you well known, and be mindful and confident in the choices that face you.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Interview

Hello Optimists,

They say one of the most common interview questions is "What are your weaknesses?"...which I think is bogus because who is really going to be honest about something that could potentially prevent them from getting the job they are interviewing for? And you know that if you give the line of "I am a perfectionist" or "I can't be satisfied until a job is done", they aren't going to believe you. So what's the sense in even asking? Well, despite my opposition to these types of questions, I do think weaknesses are important to recognize. So for this one, I'm siding with the employers.

I think it's important for us to acknowledge our faults or things about us that aren't as "up to par" as we'd like them to be. The only way for us to become better at our jobs, better friends, better in our lives, is to be conscious of what might be holding us back from reaching...dare I say it, perfection. And yes, I do realize perfection is hardly something we should expect from ourselves all the time, but hey, it doesn't hurt to aim high. Anyway, I thought about all of this after I read today's featured quote. I must say that this is one that I find to be right on target and applicable to everyone.

The greatest of all faults, I would say, is to be conscious of none. -Thomas Carlyle

So this guy really knows what he's talking about. This may very well be the greatest of all faults. There is no one out there who is lacking a fault or two... no, not even you. Or me. And if you're thinking that you may be one of the select few blessed with this disposition, I think you just found your "first" fault. But this quote should really be an inspiration and motivation for us to truly acknowledge our being and work on the things that aren't quite at 100% yet. Living your best life (I feel like Oprah saying that!) comes from being able to know yourself- the good things and the bad. In being conscious of what you may consider to be a weakness, you're eliminating another one that could potentially be on your list. So, if nothing else comes from this post, be true to yourself and be true to others, and live each day trying to be the best person that you can be...and maybe now you might have a better idea of what to say when an employer asks that dreaded question.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

That Damn Groundhog

Hello Optimists,

Did you all hear the depressing news yesterday from our local meteorologist,  Punxsutawney Phil? That's right, that damn groundhog saw his shadow, so we're in for six more weeks of winter! Depending on how trustworthy our little furry friend is, that can be real bad news. Has anyone ever done a study on how accurate his predictions have been? Well someone definitely should, and if there is one out there, I'd love to see it- so send me the link! Anyway, I'm not completely convinced about his weather-predicting capabilities, but since I'm a Pennsylvanian, I guess I should show some support...even if it does mean braving this cold for a few more weeks! 

With visions of me huddling next the the fireplace (that I don't have) and bundling up in scarves and gloves well into March, I decided it would probably be best if I stop dwelling on that fact and change my thinking. Honestly, should I really let that little rodent cloud my visions of summer? I don't think so. And just as I was in the middle of converting all of my negativity toward good 'ol Phil to some good thoughts, I came across today's quote that seemed to affirm my new way of thinking.

Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out. -Art Linkletter

Just what I needed to hear. Okayyyy, so I may not be thrilled with the news of a late winter, but what can I do to change it? Things won't be any better for me if I mull over the thoughts of icicles, too many layers of clothing, and that awful screeching noise my car lets out in an attempt to tell me "It's too cold to start the engine!!!!". But things can turn out much better if I just concentrate on getting through these next few weeks, and look forward to the day when I can walk outside without my coat! Now there's reason to celebrate! The only way things can turn out to be great is if I can make the best of the situation at hand.

We all want things to turn out perfectly, but sometimes it just doesn't happen. But after reading this quote, I think we are the ones who can control that. So today, try to make the best out of every situation -even if it doesn't go as planned- and I bet things will work out just fine. In the meantime, I'll be working on visions of sunshine, swimming pools and endless beaches to get me through the day....

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Keeping the Doors Open

Hello Optimists,

I was reading an article the other day about personality types. This particular writer was discussing the 6 traits that she most admires and would like to embody, and after reading it, I thought it was great food for thought. So I started to make a mental list of my own and I found that many of the things I thought of coincided with what was written in that article. As I was thinking about some more personality traits, I wondered if having those traits was enough to make a difference in the world. Sure, it's a great start, but what lies beyond personality that has that extra little something to carry it through?

My answer came in the form of today's quote and I am quite happy to share it with you. There is a little something beyond personality that continues to make one's traits shine through and truly reflect who they are inside. Having a great personality is something we all strive for, but that's just the outer shell. What lies within us, our character, is what allows our personality to be genuine.

Personality has the power to open doors, but character must keep them open. 

This is exactly what I was looking for. Personality is what gets us noticed, and character -our  morals and personal standards- is what gives our personality that extra little shine. We all know people whose personality is completely transparent...we just know they're not being genuine. This is how even a seemingly "good" personality can close doors for you. But a person's true character never lies and will keep the doors open, giving you the opportunity to get all of the great things you deserve in life.

So keep this quote in mind as you go through the day and make sure that while people see your personality, your character is right behind it, pushing it through. I bet you'll find that letting your true character show will bring you, and those you're with, much more happiness.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist

Monday, February 1, 2010

Disney Gets Political

Hello Optimists,

Though I am not usually one to delve into politics, I do like to stay "in the know", especially in times like these when things are a bit shaky. So, I watched the State of the Union address last week, anxious to hear what grandiose plans Obama had in store for us. I was mainly pleased with what he had to say, and there were a few times I quietly cheered on the couch in support of his efforts. It must be tough to be the President right now...they couldn't pay me enough to take on that job. Anyway, through the talks of healthcare and the economy and ever growing unemployment rate, Obama set out to explain how he plans to bring back some jobs while creating revenue for the country; he launched the National Export Initiative which plans to double the amount of exports over the next five years. Hmph, sounds like a good plan...

So then I started thinking about what exactly we'd be exporting, but I'm not so sure this is my area of expertise, so I'll just wait for the next report to come out to learn more about it. But it did remind me of a quote I once read about exports. (I know, sounds so exciting) But seriously, this is a good one, and it really has nothing to do with exports in the political or economic sense...and I bet you're thanking me for that, so you're welcome. Well, here it is...

Laughter is America's best export. -Walt Disney

Oh, Walt, the king of joy and happiness. You must admit, the man does know a thing or two about entertainment. After all, he did create "The Happiest Place On Earth". And I think he's right about this one. While exporting laughter may not help us decrease the national deficit (but at this point, I don't know of anything that would) or bring us closer to finding peace between all the nations at war today, it is something that is common between every single person on earth. Laughter is universal, and no matter what language you speak, you won't need a translator for a laugh. That's what's so great about it. I've written a few posts about laughter, in Be A Laughing Cow and my first post Let's Get It Started because it's something I love to do and something I love to share with others.

Maybe we can take Walt Disney's quote and apply it to our own lives, no just foreign policy. It is our best export as well. We need to spread life, spread love, and spread laughter. Ok, so maybe you don't have some high profile job in D.C. But I bet you do have an important job as someone's friend or family member, and your job is to give what you can to make their lives (and yours!) the best it can be. So I say we join together and export as much laughter to our friends as we can. I bet this policy will receive a standing ovation from everyone, even from the opposing political party who might otherwise feel the obligation to remain seated and show their disdain for your policies. So today, take it from Walt and create your own Happiest Place on Earth- I can guarantee it'll be full of laughter.

Keep Smiling,
Optimal Optimist