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I’m re-engaging in the political process after taking a long break since the last election cycle. Over the last couple of years, I switched from being a lifelong news junky who wrote letters to the editor frequently, to a podcast fanatic who was trying to figure out her own mindset and how to go forward in the midst of personal crisis. This happened because, more often than not, the news of the day didn’t help me maintain my usually optimistic mindset, and I had enough pulling on it already.

There are times when the micro of our own lives takes over the macro of the bigger world.

I have certainly been through that scenario over the last few years. But, i was raised to care, to participate, and to give back. Lately, I have found myself in some interesting conversation and debate and am feeling the pull back into the orbit of public policy. A big reason for this is because I believe that just because something is less than perfect or even has some glaring flaws, it shouldn’t be abandoned by people who have the capacity to improve the situation. I also believe that because my free thinking self does not paint party lines or come down on the anticipated side of every issue, my mindset is helpful in the modern day policy arena. As with a lot of things about me, my answers about many issues could surprise more than a few people. I’m also a believer that discourse sharpens our minds and gives us the ability to learn from new perspectives. I was raised in a home where opinions didn’t offend the way they do so often in the world today and am continually grateful for that.

The quest for power without a moral consciousness creates a void in leadership.

When I attended John McCain’s memorial service a few months back this was my thought regarding what we are dealing with in Washington today. As far as the leaders we are looking to today, I can’t think of any with a character defining story as heroic as Sen. McCain’s. In short, we don’t know where our leaders are coming from and what led them to want to govern?

As I listen to podcasts on leadership and growth mindset, I can’t help but think that our elected officials could benefit from some of these words and I have hoped I might find at least one or two of them sharing their wisdom over these particular airwaves. When I can’t, it makes me think that the skill set to rise in the political world today isn’t grounded in the character or mindset that I believe produces the best results. Newscasts shell us with information, but wouldn’t it be interesting to get the backstory and thought process on important votes or decisions? Tell us elected leaders, what inspires you, what are your guiding principles? I would be interested in the answers regardless of political party, or whether I agreed with the opinion. Give us something to bridge the gap that feels so wide between the elected and the electors.

As I freelance through my interests, looking for interesting interviews and story lines, politics is a glaring void because it feels almost impossible to generate an authentic story. People aren’t willing to open their mouths and share without a lot of conditions and understandings up front. But voting citizens would be well served by a leader’s transparency. We want to see that your goals are bigger than your own personal ambition, that they are for us and our normal lives. That was my example growing up.

Over the last couple of days, I watched the movie, Mary Queen Of Scots (highly recommend to any adult for a movie going experience) and read this essay from the Niskanen Center that is embedded in this article by David Brooks, one of my favorite columns as of late.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/20/opinion/centrism-moderate-capitalism-welfare.html

The movie made me think about why our democracy was born and, while far from perfect, how grateful I am to live in a country where power is not defined by lineage, marital status, religion or the ability to have a child. I do wish that I got to ride a horse up the cliffs of Scotland like that though.

The essay I read dissects, in a very intelligent and logical way, what we can do to bring our process from the more fanatical views of today to a more pragmatic approach that challenges our ability to think critically and not be so dogmatic in any of our judgments. I highly encourage the read if you have a political mind...the rest of you may start it and see what a political geek I really am. 

As I see it, our country is only as good as the sum of it’s parts, and I see myself as a strong one. To borrow an old phrase from back in the day...think globally, act locally. I have no desire to go to Washington, but every intention of making my own corner of the world as good as it can be, and let it grow from there. Here’s to tuning in and applying growth mindset to some pretty formidable issues. At least there is a lot of ground to gain in front of us.

My dad and I had the opportunity to celebrate our birthdays together for the first time in many years. Twelve days late for me and two days late for him but, nonetheless, totally worth the wait. When we get together, I can feel the power and purpose of generational learning (our ability to tell our stories and pass them down to the generations that come after us) in such a strong way.  He has the ability to set such a strong example of strength and selflessness at the same time…excellent qualities in a leader and a dad.

When we take the time to tell our stories, they have the chance to impart to younger generations what we have learned through life’s ups and downs. This is only part of the benefit of storytelling though because there is no guarantee that the knowledge sinks in, as so much in life is learned through our own experiences. However, one of my greater realizations about telling our stories is the ability it gives us to work through our own feelings from our life circumstances and sort through the effect they have on us. 

It can be difficult to process our perceived  negative emotions such as anger, sadness or rejection but, when we push these experiences away, they end up causing us even greater pain that manifests in addictions and insecurities. We almost always end up passing that pain on to other people.  You’ve heard the quote: 

“Hurt people hurt people.”

That experience has been proven to be true in so many circumstances in my life.

I watched this TED Talk 

https://www.ted.com/talks/susan_david_the_gift_and_power_of_emotional_courage/transcript?language=en#t-21778

on “bad emotions” and it made me think deeper about what it means to be real about the difficult situations that life presents and yet keep an optimists lens on life.

As an optimist and growth mindset believer, I believe in our ability to reframe occurrences in our lives that seem negative or bad, into opportunities to learn and grow. As we move though our lives, we encounter heartbreak, loss and other pain that comes with the experience of a full life. When this happens, we can choose to dig deep and wrestle with the discomfort, or let those lessons become blows to our ego and security and give them the power to take over the best parts of us.  When we choose the route of avoidance, we become cynical, negative, or even look to criticize or belittle others, in an attempt to put out the flame of our own insecurity.  We become easily threatened by other peoples points of view and our world begins to shrink..a sad fact being that we all have so much to learn from each others perspectives. Little by little, comments sneak out and soon we are scratching away at the people we love the most, often because they are loyal and will take it from us.  In fact though, these are the very people we should be honoring with our words and deeds because of their unwavering loyalty.

It takes courage to process feelings instead of stonewalling, which only causes us to become more calloused and less vulnerable (which means less of the connection that we as humans are wired for) every time we decide to sweep something under the proverbial rug.  These days my ability to be transparent about my emotions is something I consider very important, whether in the form of tears, words or any other respectful communication. When we fail to deal with our feelings and emotions honestly, we create a situation in our own life where mediocrity is accepted and our ability to be transparent and know ourselves declines. Since self awareness is a top trait for a meaningful life, we leave ourselves in quite a bind.

I know that the only way I can teach my kids to handle their lives with honesty and connection is to tackle my own insecurities head on and stand strongly on my own two feet. Better out than in I tell them…we certainly aren’t there yet, but this is a topic that won’t fade for me, and I hope that future generations of my family will be able to thank me for it.  Clarity, courage and respectful confrontation…good goals to have for 2019. 

“Let’s dig into the fresh bucket of optimism and if we fail we fail.” - Casey Jennings

Optimism has been mentioned in every podcast I have listened to lately. Whether it’s Bobbi Brown on Finding Mastery, Kai-Fu Lee on Impact Theory, or Casey Jennings on The Net Live, it seems the world is in need of an optimistic lens. In the first few pages of pro beach volleyball player Travis Mewhirter’s new book, We Were Kings, he too talks about the benefit of optimism in sports and life. It is even the message in my younger kids flag ceremony at school today. 

There is joy in being an optimist, but to remain one throughout life’s ups and downs, or to transform our outlook to become an optimist, our days must be grounded in discipline and hard work. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy yourself, or even take a day off once in awhile, but on the whole, we must define and honor our unique process. The process is what sets real optimism (which some like to call realism, I disagree) apart from just wearing rose colored glasses and believing that everything will just “work out” no matter what.

In my kitchen last night sat my daughter, less than one year out from being a college beach volleyball player, chatting with her friend, home on break, who is a current college beach athlete. In walks my son from practice, who, despite his effort and love for the indoor game, told his sister, “you guys are so lucky to have the beach opportunities you do, I love playing beach, it’s so fun.” I can’t help but wonder if part of the joy of beach for him is that it sits far away from the pressure of recruiting and grades and rosters that may or may not have your name on them. All of these things make us tougher and are part of what we learn as athletes when we rise through the ranks of our sport. Most athletes don’t forget the day they learned that there is someone out there better than them, whether that’s in 8th grade, at the Olympics, or somewhere in between. It’s real, we learn it, hopefully work harder, and move on. But real joy and love for any game is intoxicating and sits far apart from medals, accolades, recruiting, and the pressure that I see so many young athletes experience. I say that, and this is not negative self talk, because I have gained so much joy from sport, and don’t have any major accolades to speak of. I’ve learned so much about myself when I’m trying to race to the wall and want to take one more breath, but don’t. The adrenaline I get from a good block or kill, the conversations that happen in between races and games uncover some of the best, tough minded, dig deep realizations; I’ve discovered all of this without having even a dollar on the line. Now I’m 44, past my prime, but far from giving up what i love to do. Play volleyball, swim, do yoga, be active. Endorphins lead to optimism too.

The world my kids are growing up in is full of first world problems, privilege, pressure and instant gratification. It’s about SAT scores, medals and GPA’s, not whether there is food on the table or money for gifts at Christmas. They have been blessed with talents and resources, but it’s their reality, they don’t know any different, so it’s from that vantage point that I teach them. As a parent, the reason I have always come back to training character is because character isn’t relative. The fruits of love, kindness, resilience, forgiveness and yes, optimism translate no matter what life situation is in front of us.

Watching p1440, Kerri Walsh Jennings and team’s professional volleyball/health & wellness tour, role out their inaugural season is a lesson to younger generations of athletes and entrepreneurs on how to dig deep, learn as you go, and use the spirit of optimism to chart a strong course to success. I was one who downloaded the app, watched the live stream, and attended events. None disappointed. Is there room for improvement? Always...and they’ve asked. Do good business people make choices based on market conditions and what they learned from each event held and opportunity given? Yes, that’s what gives them a chance to survive and thrive. Adapt or perish, it works in business and in life. 

I don’t live like Kerri, I live like me. But I look to learn from people who have reached the top of their game, whatever that game may be. I ask them questions, see what they intake and include in their day, and it has helped me rise through my own personal struggles. I also understand firsthand what it’s like to be part of a start up, and want to see it succeed more than anything. I’ve been blessed to see that success happen once in my life before, and understand the blood, sweat, tears and sleepless nights that are part of turning a dream into a reality. When you are in the zone, risking capital and hours of sweat equity, there is no room for naysayers, they suck your energy...action and optimism are what give the goal a fighting chance of being accomplished. 

The knowledge I have taken in along the way is not always from famous people. There are plenty of everyday hero’s that none of us will ever read about in any large scale format that I learn from everyday...like the one that a friend of mind quoted in a birthday card she sent to me this week that came from a retired army sergeant:

“I learned through experience that adversity doesn’t create character, adversity reveals character.”

Truth. I love that my mindset attracts friends who will write me cards like the one that included this quote.  Growth mindset allows the playground of life to have infinite space for anyone who wants to work and risk failure. What I have learned from the masters, and choose to incorporate into my own life, has made the world a much bigger and exciting place. There is always more to learn and so much to experience. My take away is this...the thoughts of leaders matter, so if you consider yourself a leader, choose your words carefully, because they have influence on so many. If you don’t have the inside look and a deep reason to disbelieve, why not be an optimist?

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