A Calculated Optimist
Overcoming mainstream narratives, being a rational optimist, and the colossal mystery of the Amazon.
Welcome to the June 28, 2019 edition of the Mission Daily Newsletter.
“What day is it?” asked Pooh.
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
― A.A. Milne
Stay Positive! ☀️
A Calculated Optimist
In a world of clickbait and 24-hour news, it is really easy — scary easy — to fall prey to the mindset that everything is terrible. The world is falling apart, people are mean, and the next generation is in big trouble.
Is it all true?
Sort of. But is investing all your attention into fear of these problems the best use of your time? Is investing your time in that way empowering you to solve those problems?
But, as we’ve seen, well-balanced, well-researched reports don’t get as many ad impressions, and happy stories don’t draw in as many views as “Breaking News.” (Anyone else notice how the “breaking news” banner seems to be permanently plastered across all news outlets… 🧐)
Almost comically so, the mainstream narratives seem to have picked up inspiration from the likes of Nightcrawler and Anchorman 2 and ignored real lessons from Robert McKee or anything written by Marshall McLuhan. In most media and journalism circles, these names are viewed with skepticism. But what if most of the creators in media haven’t actually studied media? The answer: we get the current media landscape we’re living in.
Just because humans will crane their necks to see the aftermath of a car wreck, or follow clickbait link after clickbait link, or give in to the lure of the infinite scroll… doesn’t mean the creators of media, social networks, and technology products should encourage that behavior. If we’re creators in media, we have an ethical obligation to our audience to create media that mediates a better future for whoever consumes it.
But, more often than not, creators optimize for the wrong things. The financial world then incentivizes these behaviors and nudges executive teams to create KPIs that are outdated. The current way media and technology companies are valued will look increasingly comical over the coming years.
Technology and storytelling are, and always will be, neutral tools. They can hinder our path forward, and catalyze endless addictive-like behaviors in their “users,” or they can help accelerate the learning of whoever encounters the media. Is this just cliche idealism? Or is it possible to build an entire media company (that is also valued like a technology company) in a way where the creators, community, and clients are all aligned? We believe the answer is YES.
The truly scary thing is that we’re each becoming conditioned by the media to associate pessimism, worry, or outrage with “critical thinking”. These emotions are not the foundation of critical thinking. They are the foundation of failed, zombie companies. And many companies in the Global 2000 are zombie-like. So no matter where you are, make sure you fight back against letting pessimism, worry, and outrage creep into your cultures. When those emotions arise (as they inevitably do), each of us has two choices: we can allow them to be transmitted like a virus, or we can ensure that they are transmuted into higher emotions. We can only transmit these lesser emotions into higher emotions (definite optimism, faith, non-judgemental listening) through hard work. But while it may be more hard work today, we’re ultimately building a path of compounding cultural returns.
While the world is full of bad people and geopolitical messes and poverty and all that craziness — it is also full of hope, strength, innovation, stories that inspire, and good people doing amazing things. 💕 Which reminds us of one of our recent guests on the Mission Daily podcast (not to be confused with the Mission Daily newsletter that you’re currently reading).
“People tend to think things are worse than ever right now — that we’re worse than ever. And it’s just the opposite.” — Douglas E. Richards
Douglas E. Richards is a rare find in the media space — a sci-fi author with a background as a biotechnology executive. He offers inspired optimistic and pessimistic visions about the future that are informed by his experience as a practitioner. He recently mentioned the quote above and that got us thinking… His job involves creating research-based stories about protagonists fighting hard to create a bright technological future. If he’s excited about what’s to come, then we are too. You can listen to Douglas and Chad talk at length about these topics and more in this recent episode of Mission Daily.
Try something for us, will you? For every doom and gloom headline you read, try finding one good thing about the world to balance it out. Better yet? Go out and do something positive. 💪
We’re not asking for you to ignore the things that need changing — and plenty of things in this world need changing. But we’re never going to get there if we don’t have hope.
So have hope. Dare to believe that tomorrow can be better than today. ☀️
We do. 🤗
(One last thought: In a world that would have you believe it’s all falling apart, don’t forget, “joy is an act of defiance.”) ❤️
The Rational Optimist
Douglas is also a huge fan of The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves by Matt Ridley. We like the way he thinks.
Here’s just a taste of the knowledge bombs the book has to drop:
“Random violence makes the news precisely because it is so rare, routine kindness does not make the news precisely because it is so commonplace.”
“Humanity is experiencing an extraordinary burst of evolutionary change, driven by good old-fashioned Darwinian natural selection. But it is selection among ideas, not among genes.”
“It is my proposition that the human race has become a collective problem-solving machine and it solves problems by changing its ways.”
“It is strange to me that most people assume companies will be imperfect (as they are), but they assume that government agencies will be perfect, which they are not.”
Weekend Conversation Starters…
📽 Warner Bros. has a new CEO, Ann Sarnoff. She is the first woman to ever head Warner Bros in the 100+ years since its founding.
🌧 We hardly understand all (any?) of human history and one major mystery still left to explore is the Amazon:
“The Amazon basin is 7 million square kilometers in area. Within it, five and a half million square kilometers remains almost entirely unstudied by archeologists and that’s the five and a half million square kilometers that is still covered by dense rainforest. To put that into perspective five and a half million square kilometers is the size of the entire Indian subcontinent.”
🚗 “OK, Google — why did you take me to the middle of an empty field?” — a question nearly 100 drivers asked their devices after a Maps detour took them to a dead end in swampy farmland.
🙅Microsoft has banned its employees from Slacking… as in the communication app. Add it to the list of tools that are “prohibited” or “discouraged” for work use at Microsoft.
☄️ On the more sciencey side of things: Researchers are accelerating exoplanet discovery using chemical signatures of stars.
Sign Off 🤗
Yay! It’s finally the weekend! 🎉🥳
We hope you had an amazing week and enjoyed our revamped newsletter format! Let us know your thoughts by submitting them to: Info@Mission.org
That’s it for this week! Have suggestions for interview guests, books, articles, movies, music, or anything else? Share them with us by responding to this email or hitting us up on Twitter @TheMissionHQ. 😄
This was originally published on June 28, 2019 as the Mission’s daily newsletter. To subscribe, go here.
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