Today is Sunday. Two days until the turn of a new year. It is sunny this morning north of Seattle. Just me in a quiet house in a quiet neighborhood and two sleeping dogs. One that looks ‘wolfy’ and one that Embark said is 1.5x more wolfy than most dogs. Naturally he is the smaller one. We are peaceful. We have trust in our safety in a well insulated house, crisp with recent sheets of rain. We are as warm as we wish to be. We are fed and have water.
As the dogs sleep, I laurel in the open calendar and free time to write. To create a report that recounts months of work into digestible chunks that are also palatable. I am enthused while also overwhelmed. A normal feeling that goes with the time of year, the day of the week and generally post any large project.
Yet I would be diverted. There it is the open page of the dog-eared must-read article, albeit from October. Waiting patiently since early last week for me to opt in during a bio break. (This, my latest tactic to try and get through my favorite magazines and it is working quite well.)
“Hope is a sometimes cranky optimism, trust, and confidence that those I love will be OK—that they will come through, whatever life holds in store. Hope is the belief that no matter how dire things look or how long rescue or healing takes, modern science in tandem with people’s goodness and caring will boggle our minds, in the best way.” – Anne Lamott, Oct 2018 Nat Geo
With my self-assurance off the charts, unreasonable optimism and constant energy forward, I feel like I have a fair amount of hope. It is part of the ‘there isn’t anything I can’t tackle’ mantra. I’m often times bewildered, a little irritated and even dismissive when people in my life express sky-is-falling impressions. ‘Of course the sky is going to fall someday but it isn’t falling yet.’ Or ‘What are you doing to help the sky not fall?’ Or ‘What about this Joe? His sky is falling much faster than yours is and he is still pushing upward and forward.’
This year my optimism and hope have been challenged and I have seen others’ challenged as well, even for those of us self-assured and positivity-driven. Anne’s listing of hopeful events stirred thoughts about my own observations of hopefulness. If only to intentionally recognize them. To be hopeful and as a result also grateful. Here are some that have me especially hopeful:
- People are living with cancer. My Dad is one of them. Years of battling Non-hodgkins Lymphoma including nearly a year of C-Diff, he remains humble, kind, caring and as ever, more concerned about others. He has no anger about the likely chemical-based culprit that caused his illness during his many ranching years. He knows that what is unknown is his reality. Yet he hopes. He loves his work of running a commercial-sized excavator. He keeps his average up in bowling and is faithful participant in two local lodges. He loves his partner of many years and he loves the dog he shares with her. His hope is keeping him positively going one day at a time.
- Cancer doctors are patiently and compassionately working with puzzles of options. They are hopeful in how they address the commonly occurring patterns to uniquely presented symptoms and responses. Dr. Bociek at UNMC and Dr. Bjorling at Regional West Health have hope and give Dad hope. They aren’t without realities but as seasoned oncologists are here to keep things in balance while also moving them forward. They are irritatingly patient. They like my Dad too.
- Social Impact endeavors and innovation in civic governance are emerging all around the communities in which I live and work. This gives me hope that awareness, call to action and optimistic change is happening. The Social Enterprise Alliance and the organizations it collaboratively elevates as new models of intersecting social with business, gives me hope. Leaders across these hybrid business models redefined business-as-usual during my time on the local board. They are humbly crafting solutions that empower those lost to a traditional system of systems – the blind, the incarcerated, the homeless and the differently-abled. And have been doing so for decades.
- Empowering people at risk or those teetering in the gap between success and loss, define some of the most innovative solutions in our community. Sue and Roz at What’s Next Washington are building a system to support the formerly incarcerated. One that educates and advances a talent pool completely overlooked by a system constrained by archaic human resource practices. They are giving hope to those at complete dead ends to reinvent themselves – by rewiring the constructs so we can enable talent that has grit, humility, determination and gratitude. How does a young spirit retain the innocent hope they are born with if they don’t have a warm home? Washington Kids in Transition gives homeless kids hope and that gives me piles of hope. This organization is helping to keep hope alive.
- Teaching Business Strategy at Presidio infused me with hope. It was the change-making students that challenge everything about everything that gave me hope. Their hunger to hear. Their hunger to learn. Their willingness to develop a growth mindset amidst a sometimes naive but immensely hopeful future view of the world that is vastly different than the one they are living in. The trust they have that they can change the word, the belief they have in themselves all give me hope. I remain hopeful that the three core foundational roots of Pinchot’s legacy will eventually infuse the long-term strategy of the school. Roots of: deep diversity of thought including strategy for conscious impact, bold approaches to learning models, and intensive investment in leadership development.
- Business leaders in non-profit and for-profit organizations who refuse to accept the status quo associated with past models and practices give me hope. As partners to them we can shift the lens on what success means to new sources of value and new measures of value. I have hope that business for good is slowly surpassing business as usual. Our partners in our consulting and their measures of impact give me hope. The potential impact we are on the hook to help our client partners realize, gives me hope.
- Organizations that are integrating this new movement collectively and catalyzing faster connections and more meaningful change give me hope. Conscious Capitalism where my business partner Kori has invested time and leadership and Nation Swell a new space for me to engage in, are both examples of public/private intersections of innovative change.
- The animals in my life ground me in the moment. In their appreciation and joy for life. They give me hope that at the end of the day we can chose to just appreciate those we are with.
- International organizations like OI Pejeta Conservancy, that create awareness, advocacy and conservation for the earth’s animals, many endangered, give me hope. Sudan, the last northern white rhino has left a legacy of daughters and the possibility of raising more in the future. National Geographic is part of this final point of hopefulness I see today. Creating awareness about how people and animals live, thrive, suffer and evolve in all parts of the world.
TENSION OF POSITION
Having hope doesn’t reduce or ignore the crimes on human and animal existence. These are all complicated issues or wicked problems. Projects of possibility and hope create a parallel way forward amidst harsh and heart-breaking realities.
There is a place for protest, for anger, for putting a stake in the ground. It is also crucial we carve a path forward amidst the harsh realities. I’m often in the minority group that wants to innovate the next action, to challenge for all perspectives and to bring light to see the other side so we can more quickly realize shared understanding. Am rarely if ever in the group that is calling out the inaction or the bad action. Spending any time in that critical space depletes my ‘self-assured’ way-forward energy. From this forward energy, hope is released creating connections, possibilities and eventually solutions.
“Shared understanding means that the stakeholders understand each other’s positions well enough to have intelligent dialogue about their different interpretations of the problem, and to exercise collective intelligence about how to solve it. The best way to grasp shared understanding is to consider what happens when it is missing.” – Jeff Conklin, CogNexus Institute
My reader glasses remain at a +1.50 and have for the past decade. I am hopeful this slow pace of decline continues as I can handle incremental increases. Should things continue without life-alteration, I begin a new decade of life on earth this May. As with my readers, I hope to continue to refine and hone my view on living life, incrementally adding a half plus every so often. That the decline is in my pace – to take pause in what gives me hope. To use that path to reconcile all that there is to be grateful for. This list gives me focus for this new year. Maybe you will make your list and continue Anne’s inspiration.
I believe that imagination is stronger than knowledge. That myth is more potent than history. That dreams are more powerful than facts. That hope always triumphs over experience. That laughter is the only cure for grief. And I believe that love is stronger than death. – Robert Fulghum
PostScript #1: While there is always so much to be done, to take time to think, to make connections, to write about those, means that we get time back. We get grounded and that informs all that work that is still there waiting. Make your ideas a priority and your tasks secondary to that. I have struggled with this awaiting the perfect time or the clear calendar. Those two will never arrive and certainly not together!
PostScript #2: I love NatGeo more than ever. The reporting of human and animal life. The stories embedded in the reporting and the photography that brings us closer to every story. Consider sharing a subscription with a neighbor. Or maybe the library is convenient for you. This is a magazine that gives me hope. I can see why there is alignment to Anne’s perspectives she brings the world.