The Energizer

Resilient Insights for Work & Life

The Optics of Optimism - Part 2

by Eileen McDargh, Chief Energy Officer - Monday, March 19, 2018
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Heavy clouds moved across the sky, blocking out Catalina Island that looms some 26 miles west of my California shore.I was reminded that when I first moved to this area, I had HEARD about Catalina but for the first three months, driving up the coast to my office, I gave it no more thought.

And then, one early morning, coming out of Laguna Beach and onto an open stretch of highway, I glanced westward. There, huge and magnificent, was this amazing island with white cliffs pointing south.

My brain flew to a National Geographic article I had read about how islands are sometimes born as a result of an undersea volcano.My heart beat quickly and for a fleeting moment, I thought of eruptions, earthquakes and everything else that can accompany the movement of the earth.

Thankfully, sanity popped in and I realized I was looking at Catalina.I breathed a sigh of relief.

Here is the resiliency lesson:

Imagination can be our best and worst enemy.I expended a lot of emotional energy going first to the worst possible scenario. Because I could not clearly see reality, my brain went to the negative place.

Perhaps this is a throwback from evolutionary times, a precaution against sabre-tooth tigers and mastodons. The limbic system puts us into a flight or fight response. Yet in today’s business world, such a response can be everything from foolish to foolhardy.

When confronted with the unknown, apply the railroad crossing lesson: Stop. Look. Listen. Proceed with caution.


  1. Stop! Cease. Desist. Do nothing. Until you gather some information. Obviously, this does not hold true in times of danger and emergency. But the truth is, many business decisions are made without getting all the facts. I am all too often guilty of jumping into something prematurely because I pride myself on action!Many leaders do.Yet in a world of constant, shifting change, my action can be ill-advised. I own this one.

  2. Look!  There is great value in a 360 degrees vision. Often others see what we do not see. Ask for their input. Today, there are a number of smart leaders who ask their children what they think. They are the future consumers, the future employees.

  3. Listen!  Listening requires courage. Often, we do not want to listen to someone who has a different perspective. We might not value that person’s input. We might disregard whatever they say because of a pre-conceived idea as to their education or position. Yet, their voice can change a negative reaction into one of promise and possibility—all elements of optimism.

  4. Proceed!  I do believe in growing through situations. The steps might be small but the return on those steps can be very rewarding. Taking even small actions give a sense of hope. When the fires roared through Northern California and destroyed so many homes, neighborhood children sold lemonade to raise money for families who had lost everything. They collected clothing, housewares, and whatever might be of use and gave them to the Assistance League.Such action speaks of optimism and hope.


Remember the railroad!  It can help keep us all on track.



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Eileen McDargh Keynote Speaker Blog Author

About Eileen!

Since beginning her consulting and training practice in 1980, Eileen has become noted for her ability to speak the truth with clarity, wisdom, humor and compassion. Long-standing clients and repeat engagements attest to her commitment to make a difference in minds, hearts and spirits of organizations and individuals. She draws upon practical business know-how, life's experiences and years of consulting to major national and international organizations that have ranged from global pharmaceuticals to the US Armed Forces, from health care associations to religious institutions. Executive Excellence magazine selected her as one of the top 100 thought leaders in leadership and among the top ten consultant providers of leadership development.

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