There’s a story about the legendary Marine, Lewis Berwell “Chesty” Puller that demonstrates an incredible level of optimism, swagger and leadership. It takes place during the Korean War. The Chinese had overrun the Yalu River at the China/Korea boarder, and Colonel Puller’s 1st Marine division was in a running fight with them to reach the coast.
The Marines were surrounded by ten Chinese divisions. Ten. But instead of expressing panic, concern or even doubt in the face of an overwhelming, opposition force, Chesty announced to his Marines, “Those poor bastards,” he said. “They’ve got us right where we want them. We can fire in any direction now!”
Puller was a Marine’s Marine – a genuine leader, a man who insisted his enlisted men eat first, and the most decorated Marine in America’s history. Puller was defiantly optimistic, no matter what he faced, and his men responded to that leadership. During another battle, Puller was quoted as saying, “All right. They’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us….they can’t get away this time.”
I share a few lines about Lt. General Chesty Puller for two reasons: first, because I believe that his was the kind of optimistic leadership that our country needs today: confident, proud, and uncompromising. Wouldn’t it be encouraging to have a U.S. President that believed the United States was exceptional– and backed up that belief with visible, identifiable actions to strengthen and protect our nation? I believe it is possible for America to reclaim its position as the world leader, but that won’t come until we elect a leader who is strong enough to address the issues that are holding our country back.
Second, it’s easy to become frustrated by our nations “leaders” and disheartened by the events happening in our nation and around the world. The despicably evil actions by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS), the terrorist killings by their followers, the murderous attack on Dallas police officers, and countless other acts of violence are broadcast through our electronic media like a flood of horror, pain and sadness.
Consuming too much of that media content is both alarming and depressing. It can be overwhelming. So, instead of focusing too much attention on problems that fall outside of our “sphere of influence” (as labeled by Dr. Stephen Covey), I would encourage you to be mindful of how an overdose of bad news is affecting your perspective of the world – and your spirit.
I’m not telling you to stick your head in the sand… and strive to achieve global ignorance.
I am telling you that we should be confident that good will triumph over evil…that eventually, America and its allies will get it right…and that there is reason to be optimistic. Why? Because I’m convinced that the American people are too intelligent, too caring, and too proud to accept defeat. And also because, as Winston Churchill said, “For myself, I am an optimist- it does not seem to be much use to be anything else.”
A friend of mine is bright, energetic, mass of optimism. She speaks to groups with the unwavering purpose of spreading hope to parents, counselors, teachers and other influencers of at-risk youth. She told me the other day that she began a recent workshop by asking her audience to write on a sheet of paper the things that might possibly distract them from paying attention and getting everything possible from her presentation.
During a break in the workshop, she read through the 60+ individual “reasons” why the attendees might become inattentive to her message. She became choked up as her eyes moved from page to page, absorbing the emotional, tragic, devastating details provided by her audience. Their responses included:
“My husband is cheating on me and wants a divorce.”
“I just learned my best friend has inoperable brain cancer.”
“My teenage son caused a car accident where a grandmother lost her life.”
After the break was over, my friend the instructor, shared with the group some of the pain that her audience members were enduring – and yet, they had the guts carry on for the sole purpose of bringing hope to others. In spite of their pain, they were committed to helping at-risk kids. These people were selfless, dedicated to making something good happen. And our nation is filled with them.
Be optimistic, and demonstrate it to others, especially when things are extra challenging. You’ll inspire those around you, and the positive energy you generate will help drive you to a solution. As Thomas Edison said:
“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always try just one more time.”