One of the greatest gifts my parents gave me is the gift of positive thinking. They taught me that it is useless to indulge in self-pity or to dwell on what might have been. They helped me to understand that the past is past, that we have no power to change or even to mitigate yesterday´s damage. We can never obliterate hurt by punishing its perpetrators, but we can gain satisfaction by building a better tomorrow. We do have power to chart a new course which will avoid past mistakes and strengthen the values that made society prosper. The call to positive leadership by John Quincy Adams rings truer today than ever: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”
Negative thinking is destructive to the individual and paralyzing for society. Thinking which only seeks vengeance for past crimes or pity for the suffering they incurred has no place in modern society. The problems that surround us invite each of us -- no matter what our age, career or place on the ladder of success -- to change the mindset of our troubled society. Only thus can we create real change for future generations. Only through positive thinking and by proving our transparency and trustworthiness many times each day in all that we do and say can we hope to rebuild the trust that society needs to function and prosper.
More than twenty years have gone by since freedom was restored in the Czech Republic. On the tenth anniversary of The Velvet Revolution British Prime Minister Thatcher spoke in the Spanish Hall of Prague Castle and wisely and boldly told us that we will not have true freedom until we have individual responsibility and the rule of law. I am convinced that of these two essential ingredients individual responsibility is the most critical. Rules can be made and flaunted. But individual responsibility makes them almost unnecessary. It rests with each of us. It is not up to government but to each one of us to help create an atmosphere of trust in our families, in our workplaces, schools and in the society in which we live. Being honest and transparent is in itself not enough. It takes courage to make a difference. It takes courage to voice our concern or disapproval when it may cost us professional advancement or popularity among friends. And it takes good manners, respect and sensitivity to the feelings of others to do so politely and discretely. Only this kind of courage and manners can save us from the challenges we face.
In my last article for the Prague Leadership Institute I spoke of “Leadership by Example.” The example of positive thinking is among the most needed. Last year in cooperation with The Czech Ministry of Education, NGO Etická výchova, o.p.s. and The American Chamber of Commerce we launched a program called ASET: Adopt a School for Ethics in our Children and Trust in our Society. ASET gives companies the opportunity to display corporate social responsibility at the very roots of our society -- in the elementary school system. For a mere one hundred thirty-three thousand crowns for a two year period, companies can make it possible for NGO Etická výchova, under the auspices of the Ministry of Education, to create for an adopted school a “made to measure” course of ethical education. Such support involving the public, private and non-profit sectors is designed to improve communication between parents, teachers and children in the critical effort to build greater respect and understanding in our nation´s future leaders.
The first company to sign up for this program was DuPont CZ, s.r.o., closely followed by ExxonMobil Czechia, s.r.o. These two companies have charted a bold course for the return to good manners, character-building and consideration for others which are so sorely lacking everywhere.
As John Quincy Adams so eloquently put it, society requires all of us to be leaders. Leadership by positive thinking is not just for the rich and famous. It is not just for the high and mighty. It is for each one of us. ASET is one humble beginning. Our freedom hangs in balance. It is a delicate and fragile gift that needs to be preserved and strengthened every day by each one of us. As it has been said many times, the freedom of one of us ends where the freedom of another begins. We must learn again to live together in trust, in mutual respect and vigilantly nurture the communication that makes this possible. ASET is a positive way to start.
Rich De Vos, co-founder of Amway sums up the ten powerful phrases for positive people:
- I am wrong
- I am sorry
- You can do it
- I believe in you
- I am proud of you
- Thank you
- I need you
- I trust you
- I respect you
- I love you
Simple phrases, invaluable advice. Let us begin now.