17 December 2008

The Importance of Optimism

I discovered this advertisement the other day by Saatchi & Saatchi in Brazil:

"There's only 7% of the Atlantic Forest. Help preserve it."

And underneath it I discovered this comment:

If this about preserving this tiny piece of forest, they might as well give it up. Besides, I'm sure that park is crawling with homeless people pissing all over the place.


I am always unimpressed by comments like this - and especially when they come from someone who apparently makes their living from creating advertisements. This comment really does nothing to inspire confidence in STORYTELLERS ability to compose effective advertising copy - instead it shows them up as lacking in imagination, foresight and optimism. Surely all prerequisites for designing a compelling advertising campaign.

This comment represents STORYTELLERS in the worst possible light. Instead of showing them as being an agency alive and inspired by possibility, this thoughtless and ignorant comment shows them up as the type of agency that would just give up when something got too hard, the sort of agency that would stoop to using negativity as an advertising tool because they are too lazy to focus on benefits, the kind of company that would shout 'CAN'T BE DONE' from the rooftops simply because they can't be bothered trying.

Giving up without even trying and denigrating other people's efforts to effect positive change is easy. Actually putting yourself out there and committing to making a difference takes courage and a commitment to maintaining optimism.

Its not easy to do - especially in the face of ignorance and stupidity. Try these tips to help you from getting discouraged in your endeavours to change the world:

  1. Choose your company carefully. Hang out with other optimistic people who believe it is possible to make a difference.

  2. Focus on what you can do. There are times when looking at the big picture is useful, but sometimes you need to keep your focus within your sphere of influence. If your dream is BIG then focus on widening your circle of influence.

  3. Lead by example. Commit to walking the talk. You're never going to convince anyone else if your life is incongruent with your values. And its hard to be happy and optimistic when you are not living what you believe.

  4. Look for the good news. Its true that only 7% of the Atlantic Forest remains, its true that illegal logging has increased recently in Brazil, and its true that the Brazilian Government's efforts to stop it seem at best to be ineffectual . . . if you focus just on the negative statistics it really does seem that we might as well give up on the Atlantic Forest.

    There's no harm in being realistic, but try to dwell on the positives. There is great international support for the Brazilian Government's efforts to end rainforest destruction, there are many fantastic organisations working hard to save the Atlantic Forest and doing great things (check out SALVEASERRA for instance), recent research has suggested that the Atlantic Forest may well be capable of recovery . . . There is good news out there!

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