In 2017, many people are feeling a little less than optimistic about the state of the world. Between rising house prices, the fear of terrorism, global warming and an increasingly hostile divide between the right and left in politics worldwide, there's no shortage of anxiety and fear for the future.
So when someone offers a healthy dose of optimism, it's a refreshing change. And Simon Sinek -- the self-described "unshakable optimist" -- is nothing if not refreshing. He's the guy who eloquently answered the 'millennial question' and talked about the addictive impact of smartphones on kids in an interview which quickly went viral late last year.
But Sinek is the first to say he's no expert on millennials, nor addiction. He is a motivational speaker, leadership expert and best-selling author who "teaches leaders and organisations how to inspire people".
Sinek wants to create a world in which most people wake up inspired to go to work and come home feeling fulfilled. And he believes that it's optimism, rather than skepticism, which will lead us through the challenges we're collectively facing to a future that is bright.
Optimism is the ability to live in appreciation rather than expectation.Simon Sinek
"For me optimism is the ability to live in appreciation rather than expectation," he told The Huffington Post Australia.
"I'm living in America right now, where we have a really unsettling executive order with this travel ban, and that upsets a lot of us, for all good reasons.
"And I hear a lot of my friends saying, 'We have to resist, we have to resist, we have to fight, we have to fight'. And my perspective is that we have to focus not on the negative, we have to focus on the good.
"Because when we saw the travel ban go into effect, what we also saw was hundreds and hundreds of people show up at airports. The fact that someone's inclination when they saw the news was to leave their house, get in a taxi, get on a train, go to an airport which is miles away, simply to stand in solidarity -- black, white, Asian, every religion, showed up together in solidarity -- that's the thing we have to focus on.
This. This is a picture. pic.twitter.com/TaUrKyjFiY— Gideon Turk (@GideonTurk) January 31, 2017
"The thing we have to focus on is that we are better than any policy. And I try to remind our friends to come together as one, and it is optimism that defeats pessimism."
But what about the issues that are a little closer to home? Can we use optimism as a solution to the sombre fact that less than half of Aussies like their jobs?
Sinek thinks so, and he's got the success story to prove it.
"I went through a very difficult period in my career where I lost my passion for what I was doing," he told HuffPost Australia.
"I didn't tell anybody. I was lying, hiding and faking every day of my life and it is destructive and dark and lonely."
It wasn't until Sinek's friend came to him, worried, that he faced his problems and realised that the opportunity to say "I love my work" is not a luxury, but a right.
"It's a privilege, but it's a right," he said.
If I can do it, and I'm an idiot, then anyone can do it. I'm not special.Simon Sinek
"We have the right to love our work. And it's not for the privileged few who get to say 'I love my job' and everyone else goes 'Oh, you're so lucky' like they won the lottery or something. It's a right that we're all entitled to."
"If I can do it, and I'm an idiot, then anyone can do it. I'm not special. That's the point. I'm the same idiot now as I was then -- I still don't know how to run a business. But the difference is I found something that drove me and inspired me and I'm working tirelessly to share that thing with as many people as possible because as I said before we're entitled to it. Simply by being human."
So how do we create jobs and lives that we love? Well, it's not as easy as reading a few posts about "following your passion", or even a self-help book. In fact, Sinek believes we need to shift our focus from the self-help industry to what he calls the help-others industry.
"If you think about it, in the military, we give medals to people willing to sacrifice themselves so that others can gain. But in business, we give bonuses to people who are willing to sacrifice others so that we can gain," he said.
According to Sinek, this business model is outdated and counter-intuitive, as it conflicts with our fundamental human nature to care for others.
"We are biologically programmed to take care of each other, our very survival depends on our ability to take care of each other," he said.
"Our ability to be happy, to find deep-seated joy, is about taking care of others."
And that's something to be optimistic about.
Simon Sinek will be speaking at The Growth Faculty "Start With Why" leadership forum in Australia and New Zealand in March 2017. You can find more information here. His latest book, Together Is Better, is available now.
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