Friday, May 06, 2005

Optimism & Drive

Shoshana Zuboff in Fast Company

Does he ever feel discouraged? "The weight of the environmental problems we face can be overwhelming," he admits. "But 50 years ago, these issues weren't even on the radar screen. I focus on how I can make a difference. There are so many ways to have an impact. I try to make sure I am moving in the right direction each day."

After college, Namrita Kapur spent three years teaching high school in Sao Paulo, Brazil. "I realized early on that making money wasn't enough," Kapur says. "I needed to be doing something I loved and believed in." Her deeply held commitment to sustainable development eventually led her to graduate school for degrees in forestry and business. She followed a winding road, from land management to environmental lobbying to investment banking with a specialization in alternative energy, until she found the job that put it all together. She now helps lead a firm that provides credit to coffee growers certified for organic and sustainable agricultural practices. "I wouldn't be here had I not pursued my values and my dreams about how I want to live my life," she says. "Our work has a profound impact. We have substantive, respectful relationships with the people to whom we make loans. They're at the center of our business model -- we need each other."

Does she get down? "Of course I get frustrated -- there is so much to do! But then I tap into the roots of my values, and that energy sustains me. I recharge myself when I see the fruits of my effort, and I feel hopeful. When there are obstacles, I am pragmatic: I find new tactics, new directions, and take advantage of unexpected opportunities. Optimism thrives on the art of the possible."

As Olson, Kapur, and many other young men and women prove every day, there is a case for optimism:

These conversations reminded me that optimism is nourished by practicality. Optimists can celebrate the glass half-full in an imperfect world. Optimism is not the same as idealism. In fact, it may be just the opposite.

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