Optimism: The Cure for What Ails Us

Is there anything you and I can do about the morass in Washington? Sorry Charlie, you and I are just a couple of powerless tuna swimming through the sea of confusion. We need to focus our effort on the things we can control.


You and I are the ones who can start the change in our nation, just not on the larger scale that makes the evening news broadcast. You and I need to inject a dose of optimism into the world. Now this will not be an easy task, given the ongoing partisan battles in Congress and the bitter Presidential contest which is looming in front of us. These are hogging the headlines and hurting our psyches.

In addition to the normal political battles, many different battles for the bucks at the local level have injected a new level of anxiety into our world. We are being asked to do more with less. I am here to tell you that the only thing you can do with less is less.

Let me be brutally honest at this point, because that is what you expect from me. I do not care how efficient you are able to become. I do not care how hard you try to do more with less. It is people who perform the services which our public expects from us. Having less people means you will be providing less in the way of services. I do not care if you are career or volunteer, the equation is the same. The only thing you can do with less is less.

However, you do not need to be a grumpy Gus about it as you slog your way through the endless budgetary battles. Heck gang, we are still in the fire service and as an old U.S. Air Force mentor once told me, on your worst day you will still be doing the best job on the face of the planet. You will be a member of the fire service. Keep a smile on your lips and a song in your heart. It won't be easy, but it will put you ahead of all the angry people around you.

What I am going to suggest may sound a bit weird, but stay with me. We need to get to the point where we face the reality of the world around us. Is there anything you and I can do about the morass in Washington? Other than vote our individual consciences, there is not much we can do. What might you and I do about illegal immigration, or the national debt? Sorry Charlie, you and I are just a couple of powerless tuna swimming through the sea of confusion known as 21st Century America.

We need to focus our effort on the things we can control and begin to remove those things we cannot control from our memory bank. Let me suggest the following to you. Make two lists. On the first one I want you to list all of the concerns you see at work in the world around you. I am thinking at every level: world, nation, state, county, town, township village, or city.

I am sure it will be a long list indeed. Let me also suggest that it will be quite personal indeed. Things which are important to you may not be important to other people. But that is not your problem. Just create the list in all of its negative glory. Do not skip anything. As you might imagine, this will take quite a bit of time to accomplish. Just do it, please.

Once you have completed the first list, set it down on your desk and go out to have a cup of coffee (tea, ice water, soda, or in my case, a cigar). Just get away from the list and clear your mind. After a period of time (hours, or days) go back to the list and read down it. Here is where I want you to begin the creation of the second list.

As you read down the first list, check off those things about which you think you can do something. If budgets are a problem, can you talk to someone about them? If so, check that item off. If poor apparatus is a problem, can you work with someone to improve the condition of your fleet? If that is the case check that off. Let me assure you that world peace should not be checked off on your list. However, is it possible that you can have an impact on local peace by improving your attitude and your outlook on life? If so check that off.

Now that you have a number of items checked off on your first list, it is time to create the second list. Write all of the checked items on a clean sheet of paper. I guess you could do this on a computer, but the actual act of writing things out can be a relaxation tool in and of itself. It is my hunch that the second list will be much shorter indeed.

Once the second list is finished, tape it to the wall near your computer screen, or in some other prominent place. Admire it, because you have done something many other people have not or cannot do. For you see, you have created your plan to attack the things you can influence. You now have your plan to inject your version of optimism into the world around you ready for implementation.