Friday, March 15, 2013

Let's Eradicate Despondency


When I was in college, I returned home one Friday for a long weekend. I met my mom in the afternoon, and she told me about a troubling sight she had seen earlier in the day.  A school bus had stopped beside her, and the faces of sullen and despondent teenagers filled every visible window. 

They’re kids,” she said. “On a Friday afternoon. Going home for a long weekend.” Her voice was soaked in sadness. “This is supposed to be an exciting and optimistic time in their lives. They shouldn’t look like they have the weight of the world on their shoulders.” 

We lived in an affluent town, and although teen angst can run deep and shouldn’t be trivialized, I doubt few on that bus had any want unmet. 

My mom reminisced over the joy she had felt as a young woman, enthusiastic over what each tomorrow held in store for her. She wistfully hinted that bringing a surplus of unbridled exuberance  into adulthood helps because it takes an increasing amount of effort to retain or recapture it after sustaining the random blows life inevitably throws your way.

A quarter of a century has passed since then, and the mournful expression on my mom's face remains seared in my memory. I couldn't articulate it at the time, but on that day a seed was planted that took root and intertwined with my mission to create a movement of leaders, artists and entrepreneurs committed to eradicating despondency from the faces and hearts of the disillusioned.

When you see the sad, slack, bovine expressions of listless figures through a window, or in your bathroom mirror, you're not looking at purposeful people motivated by an exciting and worthwhile goal. You’re seeing disillusionment, worry and fear. These are horrible expressions to have painted across anyone’s face, let alone the young. Discouragement and demoralization do not suddenly appear. They are signs of erosion, put there by constant exposure to negative elements which not only rob people of their faith and ingenuity, but also insidiously subvert fledging talents with ridicule, disdain, or worse, indifference.  

Consider now, the teens who carried those gloomy expressions my mom saw, are today in their early 40s. Some may have recaptured the joy and enthusiasm my mother spoke of, but many, dare I guess most, have not. Today they are your doctors, bankers, teachers and professors perhaps educating you or your children, police officers and city planners, elected officials, and cubicle dwellers who wait in long lines for their first cup of coffee in the morning and lean on the car horn and swear at no one in particular in the early evening.

I have always hated poor leadership, and I’m sure you’d agree, people who are disillusioned, discouraged and chronically disappointed with where they are in life make poor leaders. They can systematically erode the optimistic possibilities held by others. And if they are in a position of influence, they are, through ignorance more than intent, creating a new generation of poor leaders. That cycle must stop.

I believe happiness and purposefulness come about by the active pursuit of a worthy goal, therefore if you want to be happy you should never be without a great goal.

I believe most people know what they want to contribute to society, but lack the confidence to pursue their dreams. 

I believe great listeners create great leaders, artists, and entrepreneurs and when you learn to listen, particularly to yourself, epiphanies become common, and it’s as easy to find the aha within as it is to find a blade of grass. You simply need to know where to look.

I believe accountability raises both your game and your aim. You achieve more when you’re held accountable for your decisions and your actions.

I believe, with your help, we can eradicate despondency from the faces and hearts of the disillusioned and dissipate its corrosive effect on the world at large.

Imagine if every woman, every man, and every child you know had at least one great goal that they were actively working toward every day? The buzz of energy produced from such productivity, collaboration and purposefulness would do more than illuminate cities it would illuminate minds long shrouded under a fog of doubt. It would raise hope, lift spirits, and propel those with a success mindset ever forward. To solve what others thought unsolvable. To achieve what all but a few thought unattainable. To refuse the deferment of dreams long-held, or thoughts long held silent. To try, to fail, to try again, without stigma or scorn.

I believe such a place and time are possible. We won't ever live in a world without conflict, but we can’t call it living if it’s in a world without goals. The best we could do then is exist, and merely existing is not good enough for me, and I doubt it is for you. 

If you have a great goal, I would love to know what it is.
If you're working on a great goal, I’d love to know how it's going.
And if you need help finding or working on a great goal for yourself or your organization I’d love to talk with you.

If you can only take baby steps toward the direction I’m headed, do so by sharing this message with every woman, every man, and every child you know who needs to find one great goal. Tell them it’s possible.

Thank you and may you continue to advance confidently in the direction of your dreams, live the life you’ve imagined for yourself and help others along the way.

Yes, I’m in. Let’s Eradicate Despondency