You Can Get It Back


Sharp contrasts can wake you up.  Consider this one.  Many people are not very optimistic about the future – of politics, the country, the economy, or our schools.  And their worries about tomorrow dampen and darken their today.  Now, here’s the contrast; you won’t be surprised that it has to do with my favorite subject of late, my son Jack, who is 10 years old.  Jack is hugely optimistic about a certain event he expects to take place next week.  While many adults feel weighed down by their worries about tomorrow, Jack, like so many children, is driving daily joyfully on the fuel of his hopes for tomorrow.  He’s unstoppable!

Do you remember being ten – or maybe 3 years old to 14 or more?  Remember how all of December was brightened and lightened?  It’s why Jack positively sprang out of his seat at the family birthday dinner last weekend, “I get first dibs on doing the dishes,” he exclaimed.  What, has the boy lost his mind, thought every adult at his seemingly bizarre expression of responsibility and initiative.

Imagine having that kind of spirit, energy, fuel!  And imagine is the word.  At 30, 40, 50, 60 years old . . . we are no longer unconsciously competent at being hopeful.  But we possess the power, the freedom to choose to imagine a better day, a more hopeful time, the receipt of wonderful gifts, the joy of giving great gifts, and to consciously choose to savor the joy and energy that flow from hope and anticipation.

I am so excited about Christmas, and I am eager for 2008, too.  What kind of great things will there be to learn, to try, to play with?  What awesome people will I meet or get to know better?  Who will gift me with their ideas and their presence.  What good gifts can I bestow?

Savor hope.  Anticipate a good tomorrow today to . . .

Lead with your best self!


  • Thank you for this uplifting message. With all the trials that we are currently facing it is indead good to try an rembember the child in all of us and look to a brighter future and not be controlled by our fears. Have a great holiday.

  • Wow! Dan, thanks for this great word of encouragement this morning. This is a message for all of us who remember those days of eager optimism, but have let time cloud that raw energy. Thanks again!

  • I’m full of anticipation and great expectations for our event at Shanty Creek Resort next April, CHEF’S CHALLENGE for CHALLENGE MOUNTAIN. It will showcase Michigan’s finest culinary talent, our terrific agricultural products, fine wines and microbrews; plus offer a great venue for Cabin Fever sufferers throughout the Midwest to experience the many activities related to nature & the out-of-doors Michigan offers during this season of reawakening. AND IT’S ALL VERY AFFORDABLE FOR EVERYONE!
    This will be the start of keeping our Spring Break travel dollars at home, and be well rewarded in the process.

    • Joe,
      I usually don’t like it when people “commercialize” this blog, but your message just made me smile. Let “the G” and I know the details. We love what you’re doing!

  • Great message! Thank you.

    I am in my 50s, but every Christmas season I become Jack….I am 10 years old again, full of hope and anticipation and magic.

    I wish everyone could feel that way at Christmas! I also wish we could continue to feel even a portion of that hope and magic throughout the rest of the year.

    Have a joyous Christmas! 🙂

  • Dan, this is the pick-me-up I needed to start this week. While I have a million things on my mind to prepare for the Holidays (finishing short-term projects, submitting budgets for 2008, Christmas shopping, identifying and finding the money for those charities to be gifted, preparation for Holiday travel via airlines, car, and train, worrying about bad weather, ….I could go on). I have almost lost the joy for which this season was created. But, this blog reminded me to think like a child. I am in anticipation of seeing my mother of 86 years, one more time, and the excitement of her seeing her great grandson for the first time.
    Have a Blessed Holiday, Everyone

  • This is a message similar to that of a particular nationally known reverend has made for years. The “Jack” aspect is great and we know the energy of Youth is that which we middle agers could all use. Some are put off by the Reverend…but let us take the message for itself and not focus on the messenger… Reverend Jesse Jackson has always said to “Keep Hope Alive”. Corny, perhaps…naive, no not really….promising, YES!!! I revel in the Holiday music and especially the jazz music versions of all our favorites….I will do dishes tonight like many nights but be happier about it!!!

  • I enjoyed the original idea of competence at being hopeful. How is this made or lost?

    Alan Greenspan spoke of the traumatized worker, the person who is so beaten down, or resigned to lower pay and fewer benefits, that they do not expect to find a way to economically better themselves. This developed psychological characteristic is a qualitative indicator, or factor in controlling, or limiting inflation. That is people, who are beaten down on their expectations (sense or competence at being hopeful) do not actively look for better paying jobs, and therefore are not a force to drive up wages and benefits.

    Oddly, some think this is good for the economy, but the lack of hope to find a better one self economically has to depress an economy.

    Hopefulness, like many human behaviors and attributes can be molded or damaged. We have a need, for our survival, and the more significantly the survival of a life with human attributes, a need to understand and to identify the people who traumatize the human will to improve our lives.

    There is essentially an industry for this brutalization of human will, which contains the capacity for hope. The think tanks which mangle reason, the lobbyists who argue that costs can only be contained by eliminating corporate responsibility, the select who fund these degrading enterprises.

    Mark John Hunter
    Alpena, Michigan

  • Mr. Mulhern,

    I enjoyed today’s newsletter as it hit right home on a topic my father and I have been discussing for the past few days.

    I thought about being ten years old again and I remember the excitement and fascination I had with the holiday season. Every day was filled with magic and mystery, wondering what might be around the corner at the end of the month.

    Today I am 25 and it does not feel the same. I do not think it is just because I perceive everything as someone more mature fifteen years later. I started thinking about what changed: after my mother passed away from a long battle with cancer, our family dynamic completely changed. In addition, I have many duties now to think about that I did not when I was ten. For example, I am gearing up for my last two graduate finals, three hours each, and scheduled for seven days prior to what has always been my favorite holiday. It is hard to think of much else now.

    The things I have described happened to all of us when we finally grew up. We gained “real world” responsibilities – our minds clouded with thoughts of providing for our families or ourselves; we’ve lost loved ones; and if we are not careful, the magic of the season is lost.

    I have always cherished this season and the time spent with my friends and loved ones, but as circumstances change, I am learning to celebrate it in different ways. Here’s to a renewed “unconscious competency” for hopefulness.


    John Arenz

  • This past Saturday we had our sixth, or seventh, annual cookie exchange. Each family baked seven dozen of their favorite cookies and brought them to our house. But the cookies were not and are not the center. These are all families we have come to cherish through our shared experience of adoption from China. So the best part was the 18 children under the age of eleven who brought their parents and their cookies.

    They ran, they screamed, they did crafts, they decorated cookies, they lovingly terrorized our cat, they sang and danced, they became again, for a time, sisters (and one brother)through a shared heritage. Just before goodbyes they crowded together and filled our staircase almost to the top so that we could have a picture of them all. Every face, and every smile, spoke of hope and promise and unlimited optimism.

    And every day is Christmas. And at bedtime Maggie said, “Daddy, I like it when you laugh. You should do it more.” And she didn’t see the tear as I turned off the light and closed the door.

  • Dan,

    Thank you for the message of hope. Life is short. How we choose to focus our energies is important.

    Another key ingredient in hope for me is leadership. I need more to sustain my hope than a simple attitude adjustment. What worked for me to get me excited about Christmas as a child no longer has the same power for me when it applies to life.

    I would be more hopeful if I got the sense that leaders were hearing the real and wide spread anxieties of people and developing common sense solutions for our fears that are grounded in real facts on the ground around us.

    I am afraid for example of the accumulating impact of escalating health care costs and the impact of the rising tide of the uninsured in this country. Rising health care costs have a negative impact on business. Many businesses are choosing either to cut costly benefits or outsource to places where workers are not able to organize for needed benefits. I am hopeful that thoughtful politicians are working with citizens, doctors, insurers, litigants, patients, and providers to offer affordable health care for all of us. In the mean time I have hope because I know there are people still concerned to provide adequate health care for the poor even though the price tag of compassion in an economy of rising unemployment is rising.

    I am fearful of the impact on the world of rising energy costs and diminishing supplies. I am hopeful that thoughtful people with the power to make prudent decisions are making the development of alternatives a national and local long-term priority even when that priority may run contrary at the moment to certain well funded corporate self-interests. I am hopeful that politicians won’t be bought by special interests at the expense of their own people. In the meantime I have hope because I am doing what I can to be more energy efficient and conscious of my own consumption.

    I worry about the “cheap leadership” that exists in our world where strident political or religious wannabes use polarization techniques to galvanize their base of support at the expense of vulnerable minorities and civil decency. I have hope that the silent middle majority will take a stand for policies that benefit the common good regardless of race, religion, gender, economics or political persuasion. I am hopeful as I know that there are persons who are actively working to build those bridges of reconciliation, tolerance, and understanding and Lord, help me to be one too.

    I have worries about the long term impact of outsourcing American jobs and technology to cheaper overseas labor markets for the sake of short term profits. This selling of Michigan’s assets is being felt in decreased revenues in State coffers and rising unemployment locally. I have hopes that leaders here will act intentionally to help Michigan cut our own overhead costs by: making sprawl more difficult, making urban redevelopment more attractive, giving tax incentives for structural consolidation of Michigan’s many redundant governmental bodies. In order to compete and to develop a climate attractive to outside investement I believe we need to wake up to the fact that we can no longer afford the same overhead costs we had when the economy was flush. I have hopes that Michigan will encourage entrepeneurs and the kind of scientific innovation that will help Michigan produce the local jobs that will help us to compete in the new global marketplace. In the meantime I will do my part to encourage this hope by supporting Michigan based enterprises with my own patronage.

    I have the fears that are being cultivated intentionally by our leaders about the potential threat of terrorism. I am not afraid of being blown up in an airplane but that we are spending billions to protect ourselves and very little to understand the conditions in the world that have made some persons so angry that they would blow themselves up and others with them at our expense. I fear that we are using fear to keep us from paying attention to troubling domestic issues and to justify full funding for our military industrial complex. I am afraid that we have stopped listening to the moral sensibilities of more conservative cultures, we have stopped caring about the rights of others as long as we can continue to exploit their resources for our benefit, we have allowed politically displaced persons to continue to fester their sores in abject poverty, we exploit religion’s extremists by giving them disproportionate air time when the vast majority in most of the world’s religious communities have more in common than we have have different.

    I have hopes because there still are wonderful Americans giving sacrificially of their time and resources to feed the hungry, combat AIDS, eliminate preventable childhood disease, and build bridges of understanding. I pray, “God, help me to be one too.”

    Let’s keep hoping for a great year in 2008 Dan but also live and lead in tangible and concrete ways away from our well considered fears and in the direction of concrete, measurable, and hoped for solutions. I want to hope not because I have chosen to ignore fear but because I am doing something tangible about removing the grounds for fear.


    Glenn Wagner

  • Dan, Thank you for your message reminding us of the criticalness of a positive attitude this time of year, and throughout the coming year. I pondered your message as I went about today’s activities. It occurred to me that perhaps 2 examples of influential individuals who found within themselves a positive attitude that changed the world would be Ghandi and Mandela. Both these men found hope, a positive vision, and the will to go on and to speak out when they were in impossible situations, when their days must have seemed hopeless. Surely they were unconsciously competent at being hopeful.

    Glenn Wagner’s comments so clearly articulate our fears as adults who see our current reality, and the hope that we each must carry in our hearts and minds each day.

    Thank you for reminding us of the importance to focus on hope in order to lead our lives, families, communities, state, nation and world in these difficult times.

    Take care and be well

  • I love the look of this website this season. You’ve shown that you’re here to update not only the content: the environment as well.

    This draws a parallel… at least for me… to a question: are you there to be part of changes in the environments of those who follow you, as strongly as you are there to propose new contents to your followers’ minds, mentalities, proselitisations, doctrines, planalities, and so on?

    I mean, — IF — a follower really wanted to see a dramatic and drastic change in their environment that had more to do with YOU than with THEM, would that change be actually practical and working? That’s a very strong question!

    I think with a website change like this, which you must have “OK’d”, I’m sure there’s some miniscule chance that you’re perhaps becoming the sort of person who scrapes salt with the rest of the earth, trades dirt with the ebb of the tide, makes comeliness with the rake and flow of the vesperous exchange of time and age in any human life… who’s really to say? Who thinks they’re authoritarian enough to demand that some predefined boundary be enough in value in the lives of those lives rescinded that it should overshadow every attempt ever made to simply be a human being and accept (*gulp*) INDETERMINISM and take what amounts to a leap of faith in creating or casting a future role?

    Roles. *pshaw*

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