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Reframing The Optimism of Dissent

It's overcast and cool today--perfect for a visit to the cafe to read the Sunday papers. It was an interesting weekend--I saw 5 really good bands, got some work done, and got divorced.

The letter came yesterday, and it made me sad and introspective, so I've been spending some of today thinking through my flaws (or, charitably, challenges), and strengths and opportunities (dear God I'm doing a SWOT analysis on myself! now I feel nauseous :)  ).

I'm really thinking a lot about conflict, and what drives me to be a vocal critic.

Van Jones said in a brilliant speech that followed mine (less brilliant or interesting) "Martin Luther King never said, not once, I have a complaint!".
And that's instructive.

The critic focuses on the problem. The optimist, the visionary focuses on the desired outcome or state of things.

The criticism is not blame, it's really identifying a desire to see things improve, or change; it's actually positive.

I call it the "optimism of dissent".

But offer enough dissent instead of the vision it represents, and you become, in the eyes of those who know you, a negative person.

No I'm not. :)

Sometimes I forget the vision. I might have tired of expressing a better way and having the true naysayers dismiss it as impossible, or difficult, and what they are saying is that they lack the will, or commitment, or energy, or desire, or understanding that things are possible by simply doing them.

There is optimism in my dissent when I say that funding schools through property taxes is insane, unfair, and inequitable (and unsustainable at this rate). I'm optimistic that we will see the error of our ways and design a new way to fund schools, and here are four simple ideas:
  • increase the state personal income tax, 
  • tax on our natural gas pulled from our Commonwealth (note "common" and "wealth")
  • cut the national Defense budget in half
  • tax imports from countries that violate trade agreements, like, say, China
I see the optimism in my dissent about my weight; what I mean is I'm looking forward to continuing to lose weight, get healthier, and enjoy the process along the way.

I feel the optimism in my dissent when I say to a startup founder "you should be fully committed and you're not and you won't make it". What I mean to say is "you have a great idea, smarts, and gumption and you really should go for it".

Positioning is an art. Framing ideas, concepts, complaints, hope, and optimism in a way that elevates and propels you is the discipline needed for the art to have lasting impact.

People will back vision, hope, and the path to get there. That's not my intent here--to get people to back me--it's to live a richer life. To have better relationships. To preserve and expand friendships. Maybe even to recover some.

I'm instructing myself here. I'm hoping to be more mindful of my positioning, my framing of my optimism, and pledging to do so more from the optimism and less from the dissent.  

He never said that, not once, that Martin Luther King. And would you look at that--the sun just peeked through...


  1. Wow Charlie. Sorry to hear about your divorce. Hope it all is for the better in the end


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