My previous post, Musings of a temporarily despairing optimist, lamented the reluctance of so many people to become part of a solution, preferring instead to complain about the problem, waiting for someone else to find the solution – and then complaining if they don’t like the solution.
There are reasons for this very common human response. For one thing, we live in very stressful times, and people see few options for overcoming these stresses; feeling you don’t have control over your environment leads to inevitable frustration. For another thing, complaining is an easy and well-honed response that we learn when we’re very young, especially if we have siblings. How many of us remember complaining, “Mom, it’s my turn to use the _____________ (fill in the blank) and ______________ won’t give it to me.” We probably come out of the womb expecting the person in charge (Mom) to find the right solution (the one we want), and then whining until we get the solution we like.
One thing I have had to accept time and time again is that we as a species are motivated by self-interest. The common good only wins out, as the experts tell us, when what is best for the common good is also in our own best interest. So much for altruism! And that is why if one is so fortunate to be more of a glass half full person than a glass half empty person, it is REALLY important to work hard every day to stay that way. That’s what I’m working on, as we speak.
On that note, I’d like to share some inspiring words of wisdom from a friend and former student of mine (we won’t say from when, right, Keith?!), founder-CEO of a successful IT company in our region, and active supporter of community outreach. Keith McIntosh posted this as a comment to my unusually despondent previous blog post; he says it all and says it very well:
There was a headline of a story in the October 26 1986 edition of the Boston Herald that I have never forgotten – “Losing hurts worse than winning feels good”. Being from the New York area, Jane, you might not have felt the same as I did that day. But I think a lot of people approach life believing that line to be true. It’s hard to lose and it’s hard to make mistakes. And others are more than happy to point out your failures. Why take the chance of having to endure that pain? Wait for someone else to try and join in the fun if they fail. You still get the benefit if they happen to succeed. If they happen to try in the first place.
I wonder why anyone wants to be a leader. A politician who tries to change even the smallest thing can only hope to please half the people. Imagine trying to change something significant and therefore complex. Run a business and there will be someone complaining that you are making a profit, didn’t hire their cousin, weren’t open when they needed you, were open too many hours… Be a teacher and assign too much homework. Be a teacher and don’t assign enough homework.
People don’t lead because failure hurts. The headline was wrong though. Nothing feels better than winning. All the mistakes you make and the times you fail are worth it to win once. Because when you win as a leader you change people’s lives. You make the world a better place. As a teacher do you remember the kids you couldn’t help or couldn’t reach? Or do you remember the kid who grows from what you taught him and goes out and invents something or creates something or becomes a leader. Running a business that is successful and makes a profit gives jobs to people and puts money in their pockets and food on their table and makes their family more secure which lets their kids become confident and become creators and leaders. I am confident that somewhere in this province there is already the next Frank McKenna who will become a politician and make the really tough decisions and stand behind them.
We can’t all be leaders and we can’t all change the world. But we shouldn’t make it harder for the ones that might. I’d suggest we should all try a little harder to look at the glass as half full. We should stand up and applaud everyone who tries. And encourage the ones who fail to try again. We need the risk takers and the optimists more than ever.
Bravo, Keith. And thank you!
Photo credit: http://www.marquette.edu