April 20, 2017


Sometimes I wonder why I care so much about Optimism. That's Optimism with a big O - Optimist Clubs - as opposed to the little o - the emotion. You see, today I saw in my Facebook feed that people were headed to St. Louis for a 2017-2018 international committee meeting. Hooray for them and hooray for holding the meeting in a more timely manner than has been done in the past. It usually takes place in September or October which doesn't necessarily allow for the smoothest handoff between administrations.

However, on the downside, this  also means rejection for me as I am not on my way to participate. Until seeing this gathering take place, I could still hold out hope that I might be asked to join the team; but now, that hope is waning.

So that brings me to a big soul-searching question. If I can't share my experiences, knowledge and drive with the organization, why do I continue to try?
I guess the answer comes down to one reason, and one reason only. I continue to share optimism because it is the right thing to do. On the journey we call life, optimism is the one way to happiness. Positive thoughts and actions lead us to a better place. If that place is an Optimist Club, then so be it.

If it is somewhere else, the importance is to enjoy the journey and to follow the signs to your true place of belonging, satisfaction and service.

April 11, 2017

Stop the busy-ness

experience optimism
Early in my membership, I learned that people are too busy to join an Optimist Club. At least that is what they say. Often they promise that when their schedule lightens up, they'll think about it, only to find that their schedule never lightens up at all.

So to overcome that excuse, a real optimist will typically say, "Busy members make the best members because they know how to prioritize their time."

That works. Sometimes.

But let's face it, busy people are not always the most productive because they often glorify their busy-ness. What do I mean?

In between work, chauffering children, eating dinner with the family, taking time for elderly parents, going to church, completing housework and yardwork, and a million and one other tasks that consume our days, we often find that we are focused on the action and not on the results. We have to go here, go there, do this, do that, and then start it all over again, day after day.

Caught up in all that busy-ness, multitasking becomes the norm and causes busy people to lose their focus. This message is meant to sound an alarm. Focus is good; it brings clarity before action and allows one to choose their next steps with a desired result in mind.  There is a saying that the proof is in the pudding. That means, results will do the talking; i.e., don't tell me what you are going to do. Show me.

My message today: STOP the busy-ness in your life.

Take time to make a difference in your life, your community and with youth by joining an Optimist Club.

Devoting one hour per week, or less, as an Optimist Volunteer will lead to positive thoughts and actions. And with clarity of focus, it will lead to a positive life.

Click to find an Optimist Club near you or send me a message and I will help you start one in your community.

March 25, 2017

Every day is a day of service

lions club week of service
In the story of Bambi, Thumper said, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."

Sorry, Thumper. I tried very hard to see this effort as a good thing for all service clubs because it encourages collaboration and is an effort to raise awareness of the impact such organizations have on the communities they serve.

Next, I tried to ignore it because my opinion is just my opinion and in the grand scheme of things, it matters very little.

However, I would not be true to myself or my efforts of helping raise the awareness and relevance of Optimist Clubs if I let the International Week of Service slip by without commenting that it is not the best idea to come out of the international office.

The International Week of Service is a program of Lions Clubs International. With staff-level coordination and acceptance, the Lions invited other service organizations, Optimist International, Rotary International, Sertoma, Kiwanis, Soroptimist, and others, to participate and many accepted. Lions Clubs International developed a website and a Facebook page and included links for individuals to get involved. It also included a link for participating organizations to submit their story of service.

Sounds simple, innocent and perhaps even benevolent, doesn't it?

But here is the rub: Optimist International already has an activity that is similar. Optimists in Action was designed for Optimist Clubs to engage others, non-members, other organizations and service clubs, in a joint activity on one day, any day in May. Why is this activity not the one being promoted?

Here is the concern: Lions Clubs International, the largest service organization of all, has been given carte blanche to interact at a club level as it collects not only stories of the community service efforts, but also the contact information of the most active members in all brands of service clubs around the world.

Okay, some might think I sound paranoid, but it sounds like a potential membership recruitment strategy to me. Why would we ever want to give our stories or our valued members away?

As I have stated many times on this website and other forums, Optimist International must develop an integrated marketing communications strategy and it should hire a professional to do it right. Service organizations like Lions, Rotary and Kiwanis have already done this.

Organizations with more professional images will not suffer from this potential membership grab that I fear is in the making, and we can be fairly assured that long-time members passionate to the mission of Optimist International won't be tempted to jump ship. However, those newer members, the ones who are more accustomed to robust online relationships, may find it more interesting to volunteer with an organization that "gets it."

I'm not really tempted to move on; but sometimes, when I see efforts like this one, I wonder, doesn't Optimist International understand what Optimist Clubs do every day? Every day, Optimist Clubs reach out to their communities - other service clubs included - to make a difference.

Why? Because, together they can.

March 17, 2017

Friends are the pot of gold you seek

new optimist club

Holidays, real and imagined, bring Optimist Club members out to party. Sometimes it's with children, like Christmas, and sometimes it's an adults-only activity, like St. Patrick's Day.

In Idaho, two Optimist Clubs are fundraising on this day of wearing o'the green. In McCall, Idaho, there will be a bingo game with cash prizes. "Do you feel lucky?" the Optimist Club asks. Dress up in green and lucky players might win a special prize in addition to their potential bingo winnings!

In Meridian, Idaho, the Optimist Club will host its Luck o'the Irish Casino Night. No cash prizes are available at this one, but there is plenty of fun in the casino-style game night, plus door prizes and raffle items to boot.  The Meridian Fire District Drum and Bugle Pipes and Drum Corps are partners in this 9th annual event.

These events have more in common than their green themes. Both are good examples of how the Optimist Club raises money and sparks fellowship at the same time. Optimist Club members will tell you that putting on a program or carrying out a project builds a team spirit and helps our members get to know one another better. Club membership - fellowship - leads not only to good deeds for the community; it leads to friendship for all.

Join an Optimist Club and you'll find that pot of gold known as friendship.

Click here to find an Optimist Club near you.

If you would like to start a new Optimist Club, click here and I'll lend you a hand.

Or, click here to be a Friend of Optimists.

March 8, 2017


"In the future, there will be no female leaders. There will just be leaders." - Sheryl Sandberg

Women are making progress. We are making headlines for our feminism and no, I don't mean that we are being memorialized for glamour and compassion. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. Women, and sometimes men, are taking part in organized activity in support of women's rights and interests. We are making our voices heard in pursuit of equality.

international women's day experience optimism
We shouldn't have to march for these rights; however, sometimes the best way to bring immediate attention to anything is to make a big noise and even then, the going is slow. But progress is progress, no matter the pace; we must keep moving forward. We must #BeBoldForChange.

Thank you to the women who who have come before me. Thank you to those who are fighting the good fight today and will continue to do so tomorrow. 

I send my respect to all in honor of International Women's Day 2017.

February 25, 2017

May your name lead us to peace

I was governor of the Pacific Northwest District in 2009-2010. It was my observation at the time that our members were not welcoming to strangers. Optimist Clubs, and other groups, get caught in a routine and if you are part of the group, you know what's going on including the inside jokes and calendar of events. I encouraged the clubs to change their ways; I advised, open the doors, put out the welcome sign, mix up the seating arrangements and get rid of the questionable jokes so that others might feel like they want to be a part of the Optimist Club. It worked. The PNW District saw almost 8% net growth that administrative year.

Surprisingly, in 2010, Optimist International stumbled on the same idea and they introduced Hello, my name is Scott to our groups.

If you remember, Scott is the guy who wears a nametag 24/7/365. He says that one day, leaving a seminar, he saw the wastebasket full of the nametags that people had discarded and he thought how sad that looked. Our names mean more than something to throw away. Right then, Scott began wearing his nametag and he found people to be friendlier, and more open to conversation simply because he was wearing his name on the outside, loud and proud. He made the first move to be open to conversation and others, not all, but many, took the second step to engage.

Unfortunately, Optimist International did not see the marked growth from the effort as we did in the PNW District. We could make many speculations on why that was so, but I wonder if it doesn't have something to do with the fact that most people seem to be comfortable with who they are and who they know and have little room for those who are different.

It's been six years since those experiments. The United States has changed since then, especially with the politics, rhetoric and policies being set forth by a new Republican administration. There are more sideways glances than ever being given to those who look different from us and the media, driven by the actions of the President of the United States, are reporting the most negative stereotypes on a daily basis.

A Canadian friend shared this Tedx talk with me from the Mile High City, Denver, Colorado. In it, a charming young lady, Amal Kassir, shares a story she calls "The Muslim on the airplane." Among other things, she says we must share our names because our names tell an individual's story as only they can tell it.

We can't allow others to look at us and assign our names because they may very likely get it wrong.

The presentation is quite wonderful and much more profound than the Nametag Guy; but really, it's the same story. Be open to others. Embrace their differences and share yours. Your shared actions will lead to understanding and understanding will lead to peace.

February 21, 2017

Celebrations inspire membership retention

Over the years, some districts and/or governors in Optimist International have decided to forego the second quarter district meeting in favor of smaller zone-style meetings.  I am sad to report that my home district is one of those. The thought put forward by some is that by bringing the district leaders to the zone, more members will participate in the meeting.

In a district that covers more than 1,500 miles from the eastern-most club in Idaho to the western-most club in Alaska, there might be some truth to such reasoning. However, in reality, the same people tend to come, whether it is at a near or far location. Sure, there might be a few extra members at the  host location, but I question whether that is enough benefit to warrant the governor and secretary-treasurer, in the PNW District's case, to be on the road for four weekends. This year, those four weekends started January 28 and end on March 18!

Alternatively,  on Facebook, I have noticed some Optimist International districts, WEMO, AMSNW, and OK, among others, were holding full district meetings and hosting big celebrations to recognize the Honor and Distinguished Clubs from the prior year.  What a great idea!

Celebrations are an important part of member retention. As humans, we need to feel that someone appreciates what we've done and as a team, by recognizing the high achieving Optimist Clubs, we will inspire others to do what it takes to be recognized too.

This message is to encourage all districts to make a big deal out of Honor and Distinguished Clubs. When an Optimist Club earns Honor Club, they have proved their value to their members and community by showing excellence in administration and community service. When an Optimist Club earns Distinguished Club, they have also shown another community the impact of optimism for they have started a new Optimist Club. Both Honor and Distinguished Clubs have extended the reach of Optimist International by adding three, five or fifteen or more net members consecutively. All of which deserves a large celebration indeed.

On March 4, 2017, the Caribbean District will host a Hall of Fame Plus One Awards Show to recognize their high achieving Optimist Clubs.  In addition to the awards presentation, there will be general sessions featuring education to inspire achievement this year and a business session to manage the fiduciary matters and strategic direction of the district. Of course, fellowship will be enjoyed by all.

Now that's what district meetings are supposed to be about. And for me, I hope to see the full district meeting model, with awards show to boot, returned to the Pacific Northwest District.

February 2, 2017

Celebrate #OptimistDay today, February 2

I wish there had been a little more advance notice and I wish there had been a little more direction; however, my wishes are not going to stop me from celebrating Optimist Day today, February 2, 2017.

It's a good idea. Wear your Optimist apparel and show your Optimist Club pride. It may be a hat, shirt, jacket or pin - whatever - Optimist International simply asks that you wear something with the Optimist International logo and celebrate your style by posting a picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social platforms with the hashtag #OptimistDay.

Sounds pretty simple. Be an Optimist and do it, okay?

Next year, Optimist International, please get the word out in time to be included in a planning calendar for our clubs and districts. I might even suggest that the organization set a goal. What will we achieve by wearing Optimist-branded apparel on one day? It's rather tough to make an impact if we aren't measuring what we are doing and providing our members, and others, with the why.

January 23, 2017

Here's your chance for a $500 membership incentive

I'm not crazy about this idea; however, it is an incentive being offered by Optimist International and therefore I feel a responsibility to share.

Announced on its Facebook page, Optimist International says when a member recruits a new member into their Optimist Club, the sponsor will be entered into a drawing to win $500. If it is the sponsor's first new member, they will be entered into two drawings for $500 each.

The drawings will be held on a quarterly basis. There will be two winners in the members sponsoring their first new member category each quarter. There will be one winner in the all member category.

So why am I ambivalent? I do not believe that cash awards are an appropriate reward for a membership organization to offer as a recruitment tool. It incentivizes membership for the wrong reason.

One does not join an Optimist Club to make money for themselves. Sure, some may hope to build relationships that may lead to business transactions in the future; but ask any member and they will tell you that they work together with their fellow club members in fundraising and service for a purpose higher than their own pocketbook. They work for the betterment of youth and community.

Creating a monetary recruitment award is rather a disincentive for me. How about that new member? I wonder what they might think of their sponsor receiving $500 for their commitment to join?

Money being a disincentive has been studied by scientists and overwhelmingly, they have concluded that for cognitive tasks that require creativity, money has led to worse performance. Why? Two basic reasons were cited by Dan Pink in his book Drive*:

  1. Once the task is reached, the individual stops the behavior that the incentive is meant to produce. 
  2. The amount of money is not an appropriate exchange for something a motivated person is willing to do for free. 
I don't know about you, but for me, I fall into the second category. I don't care to gamble on whether or not someone wants to join an Optimist Club. Good luck to you, if you do. 


*Pink, D. H. (2009). Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us. New York, NY: Riverhead Books.

January 16, 2017

Service is our message, our mission

Today is Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday. In the US, it is a day to celebrate his life and
accomplishments and to acknowledge the importance of inclusion and the civil rights movement. It has also become a day of service and an opportunity to encourage people to get involved in their communities. Many of King's inspirational speeches have been reduced to memorable quotes. Among them are some of my favorites:

  • Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'
  • Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
  • The time is always right to do what is right.
  • Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

This year, I've added another to my list of favorites. For me, it explains why we get involved in our community by joining with others in a service club. King said, 
"Everyone can be great because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve...You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."
experience optimism

Service above self sets the tone for all I strive to accomplish as a club, district and international leader for Optimist International. It is my hope to inspire others to organize and make a positive impact on their communities by analyzing needs and making plans to satisfy those needs. As citizens, it is our responsibility to make our communities better.

In his farewell address to the nation, US President Barack Obama expressed the same idea. He spoke of the most important office in a democracy: Citizen. He said,
"It falls to each of us to be those those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we've been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we, in fact, all share the same proud title, the most important office in a democracy: Citizen.  Citizen. 
So, you see, that's what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there's an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime. If you're tired of arguing with strangers on the Internet, try talking with one of them in real life.  If something needs fixing, then lace up your shoes and do some organizing.  If you're disappointed by your elected officials, grab a clipboard, get some signatures, and run for office yourself.  Show up. Dive in. Stay at it.
Sometimes you'll win. Sometimes you'll lose. Presuming a reservoir of goodness in other people, that can be a risk, and there will be times when the process will disappoint you. But for those of us fortunate enough to have been a part of this work, and to see it up close, let me tell you, it can energize and inspire."

President Obama's message was, of course, aimed at the citizens of the United States. I believe his message, and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s message before him, apply to the world. We must be involved in our communities. We must take responsibility for our own well-being.We must help make the world better for others.

I recommend sharing that service with friends as part of an Optimist Club. Together we can. Together we will.

Click here to find an Optimist Club near you and join.

January 10, 2017

A healthy head start

Is your Optimist Club, or other service organization, looking for a new project for the new year? How about this one? Develop and distribute baby boxes!

According to the video, Scotland and Finland are two countries that are providing boxes for babies and the result is a lower infant mortality rate. You may look at this and say, "Why would a baby sleep in a box?"

I agree with the project developers, sleeping in a box will keep the baby warm and safe in areas where it may not be.

To get the full impact of the project, you need to also look at what is in the box: diapers, blankets, formula, among other things. Some might say that providing resources for children, along with awareness for a healthy head start in life, are just what being an Optimist Club member is all about.

Please click here to find an Optimist Club near you and join.


January 1, 2017

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2017

share optimism experience optimism
What's the best resolution you can make for the new year?

You guessed it:
Resolve to join an Optimist Club.

When you join an Optimist Club, you come together with like-minded people to make a difference in the lives of others. Most important, you will make a difference in your life.

It's true; Optimist Clubs bring out the best in youth, community and ourselves. We see challenges and work to make them better. We see progress and celebrate success. We provide hope.

Optimist is in our name for a reason. This is your invitation to be an Optimist Club member and bring optimism into your life for good.

Click here to find an Optimist Club near you.

Click here if I might help you start a new Optimist Club in your community.

Click here to be a Friend of Optimists.

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2017.

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