One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received was from my friend, mentor and Ph.D. advisor Dr. Gary N. McLean.  Dr. McLean told me that it is easy to be negative about life and the world, but the successful people in the world are positive. Looking back at those leaders who I would want to emulate, I have come to see the truth in Dr. McLean’s statement. There is a time for criticism, but we must always be optimistic and see the potential for greatness in everyone and everything. Criticism without positive action is nihilism and defeatism. The world is deluged with people who are defeatist and can see no positive value in themselves or others.

When we talk about a leader, we are thinking of people who inspire, challenge, motivate and provide a vision.  By practical definition, we are describing someone who must be optimistic. Any pessimism is tempered in a leader by a can do attitude. A leader helps us to see that we can change things and that regardless of how bad things are; there is hope for a better day.  A leader must be an interesting and unique amalgam of positive and negative forces.  I think of the Yin Yang of leadership as being a sort of duality between negativity and positivity. The negativity forces us to see the problems that exist and the positivity forces us to see the potential for changing these problems.

Recently, I attended a “Get Motivated” seminar put on by Peter and Tamara Lowe. I was able to get tickets and I took my entire class. Talk about positive thinking. The day was full of speakers who were exciting and energizing. My students loved hearing the stories of people like Colin Powell, Rudy Giuliani and Rick Belluzzo. The stories heard by these remarkable leaders show us that great leaders have never been handed success on a silver platter. The road to great leadership is steep and full of dangerous drop-offs.  My students learned that while life may be hard for them, it has been even harder for many of the most successful leaders in the world. These are people who overcame hardship and adversity through a positive belief in themselves and their ability to make a difference. There is no truer statement than that every one of us has the power to change the world, both for the better or for the worse.

Before I attended this “motivation” seminar, I was very skeptical about the power of motivation. I thought of “motivation” as a sort of cheap candy. Full of high calories and carbs but with little lasting energy. You hear a great speaker, get pumped and then in three or four hours you are deflated again. You have all heard the comments that these motivational seminars are like Chinese food. You eat it and are hungry three hours later. Then I heard the famous motivational speaker Zig Zigler say: “Well, you will bath and eat today, but if you do them regularly you will live longer and smell better.” How true, I had never realized that being positive, staying motivated, pursuing my vision and making a difference in the world is not something I can be committed to once and forever. Every day, I must recommit to my goals and vision. We will all have ups and downs in the daily struggles of life. The tomorrows of life are simply our next chance. It’s like we get a lottery ticket each day when we get up. Today is your chance to make a difference. Will you use your lottery ticket or will you simply throw it in the garbage pail.