Happy new year. We made it. 2020 is behind us. And what a year it was: a presidential impeachment, COVID claiming the lives of way too many Americans and people around the world, lockdowns, protests over the killing of George Floyd, protests over masks, the rise of QAnon, devastating wildfires in the west, so many hurricanes that we ran out of names and had to start using Greek letters, a nasty election season, a mess of a presidential transition process, and from a personal standpoint, moving all of my classes at DU online.

But as we start the new year, I remain optimistic. Things will get better. Collectively, we’ll get through this and make 2021 a good year. But because this is a career advice column, I want to focus on the importance of optimism for your life and career.

When I was a kid, I participated in the Optimist International oratory contest. The topic that year was “Optimism, Youth’s Greatest Asset,” which is hard enough to say (think of the movie My Cousin Vinny), let alone write and deliver a 10-minute talk on. I did OK—won my section and finished third in the state.

At the end of the competition, I was given a plaque that displayed The Optimist Creed. Over 50 years later, I still have it hanging in my office. The creed asks you to promise yourself 10 things—you can look it up online. I have always liked the fourth promise, “look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.” The second part of that promise—make your optimism come true—is the important point.

When I get down and begin to think the world sucks, I look for a glimmer of positivity about which I can be optimistic and then start working toward making my optimism a reality. When things looked really bad with COVID, our industry stepped up and developed vaccines and therapeutics incredibly quickly. The entire industry made its optimism come true.

Same for you in your career. When things get tough, look for any small ray of hope and optimism, and then go hard. Turn your optimism into real concrete results. Budget cut due to the pandemic—an opportunity to be more innovative in your marketing spend. Didn’t get a promotion you want—an opportunity to focus on developing the skills you need to get that promotion the next time.

I understand that it can be difficult to be optimistic in these crazy times. But choosing optimism and then doing the work to make your optimism come true and bear fruit is the best way I know to create the life and career success you want and deserve.

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