How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Guest articles > Um Hi
by: Doug Martin
“Um Hi. My name is Doug … and I’m … an Optimist”. “Hi Doug”, the group says in unison.
Deep down, I always knew the day would come. An optimist intervention. You cannot be so out of step with the world and expect no one to notice. My optimism started early, somewhere around my 4th birthday, so you could say I’ve been a lifer of sorts. I’m not blaming my parents for always encouraging me, challenging me to do my best, letting me explore and learn. They didn’t know better, it was a different time.
If you nip “Early Optimism” in the bud, like so many caring parents are able to do, well then, your kids have a great chance at conformity. I vaguely remember the other parents calling to their children, as we ran around like mini-maniacs on someone’s beaten down front lawn playing tag, hide and go seek or some other form of potentially destructive behavior to “Simmer Down” or “OK Jerry, let’s take a time out”. One by one, the other kids got picked off and had their enthusiasm neutered.
It was for the best actually. Because as kids move from being regular kids to being school kids, diminished enthusiasm fits perfectly into the system’s plan. It takes some 12 or so years of pretty intense effort to breed out the banshee in us, but clearly it can be done. And for the most part, applying negative consequences to excitable behavior, or open expression of thought and action, eventually nets the systems desired result, docile little robots.
Of course this can’t be done completely alone and during the invariable parent/teacher meetings where it will be suggested that added at-home attention will be needed to help curb such spinning out of control situations as running through the playground, or squeals of delight in reaction to an announced field trip. It’s a team effort after all. My folks, bless their hearts, simply didn’t have the discipline to stifle me completely. Sure we had little chats about disrupting others and not getting them involved in my excitement, maybe stop organizing running races, that sort of thing. But they just didn’t have the skills to beat out my optimistic habit.
In truth, I liked how it felt. Sure there was the crash at the end of the day, when I’d fall exhausted into my bed and dream about doing it all again tomorrow. But I honestly, didn’t see the damage I was doing to myself. As I got older, I began figuring out that my optimism didn’t impress the good folks at the schools I was attending. And naturally, by my mid-teens, I knew I had to conceal it, for the good of eventually getting out of the system. I had to play ball, and play ball I did. For the most part, I appeared to be like most everyone else. But in truth, I had become a closet optimist. There, I said it.
It wasn’t easy concealing it either. Man, I tell you, once the optimism bug is in; it is really hard to hide. I found myself sneaking off to parks or the base of tree trunks and just letting my brain envelop ideas, schemes, concepts, and other dreams of great achievement. Playing out each idea in my mind, unconfined to their meaning. Unorganized random thoughts of adventures in business, travel or change.
Although I can admit it now, I even got part-time jobs. That was a little brazen actually; someone might notice that, so I got three and sometimes four jobs, just so people wouldn’t see me too dedicated to one. If they saw me at one of my jobs, they’d just think it wasn’t too much and leave me alone.
As I look back, I see my dad particularly, was an enabler. He simply didn’t have the strength to say no to me when I asked for a rare ride to work, or some advice about what to do with the cash I was making. Not once did he raise his hands and say, “Stop this insanity” as I sat with him in my early 20’s jabbering on about some great new business idea I had. Not once. He’d just sit there, smiling, asking me logical questions and then always end with some nutty saying like “If anyone can do it, you can Doug. You can do anything”. He was a crazy dad, but I loved him anyway.
Once you become an adult, of course, you go unchecked. You are free to dream and believe and pursue any ridiculous idea that crosses your mind. I quickly became oblivious to just how bad the world was around me. Living in my little fog of optimism. And naturally, happiness loves company, and so over the years, you ferret out other optimists. You get together and form little groups, like the Chamber of Commerce. You sneak out and meet each other of for coffees in the morning and share ideas. Oh yeah, you do that. All the while, looking over your shoulder. You know they are there, watching … waiting for just the right time to swoop in with pessimism. To set you straight, shake some reality into you.
Over time, you simply stop caring what they think and do what you do anyway. But they are always watching you. They watch you get all those undeserved promotions, they watch you move into different neighborhoods, they watch you drive better cars and they watch with utter distain, at your complete lack of parenting skills while you encourage the cycle to continue by letting your kids express their inner optimist.
It took fifty-five years, but concerned friends finally were able to bring clarity to my otherwise optimistic world. I’m embarrassed to say, I had no idea how bad the economy was, how corrupt the political system, how opportunity had vanished. And you can imagine how stunned I was to learn that all these things and many many more, have apparently been plaguing my life for years and years. I just didn’t know. Or didn’t care, I guess.
So as I looked into the eyes of my new group, so filled with concern as I took my first steps toward understanding or even embracing pessimism, a rush of my life as an optimist washed through my mind, all the highs and of course, all the highs. I realized, I couldn’t be cured. There is no solution for me. I’m too deep into it. I wrecked my kids with selfish doses of encouragement, so deeply ingrained they will never surface from the abyss of optimism, and I am probably guilty of sucking a few others in, along my winding and sorted path.
So as their harmonic “Hi Doug” still reverberated in the air, I spoke softly and humbly “I’m an optimist, my dad was an optimist, my kids are optimists, most people I cherish in my life are optimists. Let me be. Find others to enlighten about the crazy state of reality. I need to be with my people.”
We may be few, we may be delirious, and we may be kidding ourselves. But I wouldn’t want it any other way.
If you are secretly an optimist and know others, send them this story.
Copyright The Weekly Sales Beast http://theweeklysalesbeast.blogspot.com
About the Author: Douglas Martin is a Professional Corporate Sales Trainer featuring his trademarked seminar program EPIG™ Customer Relationship Architecture and purveyor of The Weekly Sales Beast. http://theweeklysalesbeast.blogspot.com/ where his lighter side of heavy selling musings are syndicated worldwide.
Contributor: Douglas Martin
Published here on: 02-Jan-10
Classification: Sales, Development
MSWord: Um Hi.doc