Does it feel like Earth is spiraling out of control, that poverty, disease and climate change are bound to overwhelm us?
When I was born, more than half of the world’s people lived in extreme poverty; today fewer than 10 percent do.
No one on the planet has had smallpox in two generations. Only 22 people were paralyzed by polio last year. All we’ve learned from eradicating smallpox and polio is being used to fight malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis.
Climate change remains a threat, but there is reason to hope. In 2016, for the first time, the world produced less carbon than the year before despite a growing global economy; that trend continues.
But we can’t relax.
We should build purpose-driven enterprises that don’t extract value from low-income countries or communities but that create value for them.
We can fund schools that educate children, especially girls–who are too often excluded–so that everyone has an opportunity to prosper.
As consumers, we can insist that companies we support with our purchases are behaving responsibly toward the planet, their employees, customers and their communities.
As investors, we should purge our portfolios of investments in companies that harm the planet or people. Instead, we need to invest in companies that are improving global health and prosperity while protecting the environment.
I am deeply optimistic that by working together we can largely eliminate the threat of climate change and live in a more prosperous, healthier world.
Our solutions are greater than our problems.
People often ask, “are you a glass is half full or half empty kind of person?”
Entrepreneurs I’ve known can look at a virtually empty glass and see it as full. For a long time, I figured that they all must suffer from some shared psychosis, but I’ve come to appreciate that entrepreneurs aren’t blind optimists or mentally ill—they know something others don’t: they know where to get the water.
For most of my career, I have worked with entrepreneurs. For the past seven years, I’ve worked primarily with mission-driven business owners who are focused on solving a social problem, not just an economic one.
Now, I see an entrepreneur’s view as “deep optimism.”
This is not about believing today is going to be a good day nor even about having confidence in your solution to a big problem. And it isn’t only about knowing where the water is.
To the contrary, it starts with a recognition that action trumps attitude. Nothing is as likely to make today great as doing something great.
Picture a beach covered with crude oil after an oil spill. A good attitude and cheerleaders won’t clean it up. It will require hundreds, perhaps thousands of hours of careful scraping and scooping to remove the layer of muck and return the beach to its pristine condition.
Your book won’t write itself because you have a good attitude; you have to sit down and put words on the page. Your business won’t grow because you will it to; it will grow only when you do the work required.
Deep optimism, you see, isn’t about seeing the glass as half full, it’s about knowing where the water is and then fetching it.
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