Who better than Helen Keller to write about optimism? Helen Keller became blind when she was nineteen months old. At the time children who were deaf and blind were simply given up on. But Helen's mother read that a deaf blind person had been educated and decided to explore that possibility for her daughter. As a result of this Helen Keller was the first deaf blind person tWho better than Helen Keller to write about optimism? Helen Keller became blind when she was nineteen months old. At the time children who were deaf and blind were simply given up on. But Helen's mother read that a deaf blind person had been educated and decided to explore that possibility for her daughter. As a result of this Helen Keller was the first deaf blind person to earn a bachelor of Arts degree and she went on to be one of the most celebrated women of the twentieth century....more
Paperback, 84 pages
Published July 13th 2006 by Book Jungle (first published 1903)
“The desire and will to work is optimism itself,” writes Helen Keller in Optimism: An Essay (1903). “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement; nothing can be done without hope.”
In our world where the gray, 9-5 cubicle represents the antithesis of hope – the promise of dreary, monotonous, dull days to come – we seem to have lost the connection between optimism and work that Keller speaks of. So what was she talking about?
The desire and motivation to work, she says, are fueled by the fundamental belief that you can have an impact; that your efforts mean something and can change the world for the better. You can take fragments of ideas or materials and turn them into something orderly, meaningful.
“The optimist believes, attempts, achieves. He stands always in the sunlight,” she writes. “Some day the wonderful, the inexpressible, arrives and shines upon him, and he is there to welcome it. His soul meets his own and beats a glad march to every new discovery, every fresh victory over difficulties, every addition to human knowledge and happiness.”
Keller says that the doers of the world are all optimists. An example close to her heart: those brave teachers who first taught the deaf and blind proved to a doubtful public that it could be done. She herself would go on to become the first deaf-blind person to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree, something previously unimaginable.
“No pessimist ever discovered the secrets of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new heaven to the human spirit,” she writes.
And not only is a dedication to work optimistic, but it inspires optimism in those around us. Seeing others do good work reassures us that “the true and the good will stand sure.” Keller observes civilization moving forward thanks to the efforts of such heroic workers, but also the efforts of little guys like herself.
“I long to accomplish a great and noble task,” she writes. “But it is my chief duty and joy to accomplish humble tasks as though they were great and noble. It is my service to think how I can best fulfill the demands that each day makes upon me, and to rejoice that others can do what I cannot.”
In my book, the ability to write such a poignant essay is already a great and noble task. Because the lesson is a profound one: when we become demotivated or unengaged in work, it means we’ve become pessimistic. For some reason, we no longer believe that we can change the world. Is it because we don’t think we’ll succeed? Or perhaps we’ve lost the passion for our company’s mission? Either way, we can shift from the difficult question of “Why aren’t I more motivated?” to the simpler question of “What am I pessimistic about?” – and then find a way to rekindle our optimism and step back into the “sunlight.”