We live in troubled times. The news is filled with violence, economic turmoil, political gridlock, and, it seems, the almost total abandonment of fundamental values such as courtesy, integrity, respect, modesty, accountability, cooperation, and optimism. Are we on a slippery slope to total chaos? Is there any hope for our children to live in a peaceful, civilized society? Is there anything you and I can do?
I’ll let you in on a secret: in the entire history of the world, the future has seldom ever looked brighter than it does right now.
What?! What about all of the bad news? What about riots and falling stocks, and incivility?
The truth is that we have always had trouble of one kind or another. That is the nature of human existence. Charles Dickens summed up our days as well as his with the classic phrase: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” True heroes, past and present, are not defined by the circumstances in which they find themselves. They are heroes because of what they do in spite of their circumstances—because of how they improve, build, and lift themselves and others. They refuse to be simply swept along with the tide of pessimism. Instead, they see opportunities, bolster hope, and provide vision.
We truly live in amazing times. I remember distinctly the day that my father purchased one of the first hand-held calculators that came on the market in the early 1970’s. It was about the size of a pack of 3X5 cards. It could add, subtract, multiply and divide. That’s it. At the time, it seemed like a modern miracle. Today, I can reach into my pocket and pull out a device that is smaller than that original calculator. Not only can it add, subtract, multiply and divide, I can use it to carry on a conversation with any of my friends, virtually anywhere, at the push of a button. But that’s not all. I can use the device to record audio and video with resolutions unheard of in 1970. I can ask any question or search for any fact and receive immediate answers through the world wide web. I can purchase a book and instantly read it on my device. I can put the equivalent of 1000 LP records full of songs or other audio recordings on the device and instantly retrieve the specific item I want to listen to. I can keep my calendar, address book, to-do list, and personal reminders on the device and have it remind me of important events. I can watch movies, pay bills, instantly send and receive electronic mail, and even hold a video conference with someone on the other side of the world—and, I can do all this while walking around unhindered by wires or cords.
We live in a day of astounding technological wonders, and we’ve made similar advances in medicine, exploration, science, and social equality over the past 40 years. Generally speaking, we live at a higher standard of living, have more freedom, and have more educational opportunities than ever in the history of the world. What will the next 40 years bring? The future has never looked brighter. So, why aren’t we hearing about this from the news media? Because their job is to search out and expose things in our society that need to change. The mistake people make is assuming that what is on the news is all the news there is. Not true. There are plenty of amazing, wonderful, positive things going on if we’ll just watch for them.
How can you be one of the heroes of our day? Look for good news, for it is all around you. Search for opportunities to better your neighborhood and society. Incorporate fundamental virtues such as honesty, respect, kindness, and positive expectation into your own life. Be an example of the kind of person you hope to see in others. Soon people will follow your lead. For just as pessimism and incivility can infect and drag our society down, so likewise can your vision of a bright future coupled with integrity, responsibility, and courtesy tend to elevate and improve those around you.
we really make a difference? Yes! The combined efforts of each of us—building hope, providing vision, encouraging civility—can have a lasting and powerful impact.
Success Tip: Be a modern hero. Go against the grain of pessimistic whining. Visualize a bright future. Spread good news. Become the person you want to see in others. Build, lift, encourage—and change the world.