“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so." –Noam Chomsky
I love this quote because it articulates the reasoning behind “being positive” which turns off so many people, likely because they feel accused of being negative, as though this is the source of their problem(s). I can’t speak to that, really. I just know for myself that I’ve been lucky. Lucky to have good things happen to me (like moving to New York City at age 20) and that has continually made me positive about the future, despite life’s ups and downs.
A few years ago, my friend Robert Valentine –the amazing and influential art director – got in touch with me to do a mural for an innovative agency in Boston called Toth. Named after its founder, Mike Toth, Robert was crafting a new image for them and commissioned me to this mural for their lobby. Mike at the time had throat cancer and was unable to speak, but we exchanged email and when he proposed Optimism as the subject and text of the painting. I sent him the above quote which he loved. You can see it has a bluebird in it (happiness) and Mike loved the other imagery in my mock-up. I saw the pic below when it was installed and was thrilled it was the inspiration for a creative headquarters. To an artist, this is major validation from your peers, not press or critics or your friends.
I just learned the other day that Mike had passed away at the beginning of December. Looking at the agency’s Facebook page, I saw that Mike had put the Chomsky quote on the wall of their offices too. I didn’t know Mike, but I’m sorry he’s gone. And I am inspired by his optimism in the face of death. But we are no different than Mike. We are all facing death, not knowing when it will come. But it doesn’t matter. If it happens to all of us, it’s not the WORST thing that happens, it’s just the LAST THING that happens. What really matters is doing your best and encouraging others to do the same, right? Inspire one or a million, but use your days to look forward. That’s what a new year is good for. But you can do it whenever you like. Use today to renew your optimistic license.
Below is my New Year’s message… I really hope your future was better.