Heart on sleeves + shovels in hands.

Well, despite all good intentions of writing more frequently throughout the summer, here we are in late July with nary one original post in almost a month. Twenty lashes!

Actually, I’ve been quite busy (although we’re not supposed to say that anymore) with a stimulating roster of meetings, client engagements, and conferences. Yesterday was one example: I had a chance to address the rather wonderful staff of the Nonprofit Technology Network during their summer staff meeting. I discussed a tightly-related group of fascinating topics… er, that is, I kind of rambled around about a loosely-connected set of odds and ends. 

One of the common threads of our discussion was the sense of cynicism that seems to increasingly pervade our culture. Even the most optimistic among us are finding it hard to keep our upper lips stiff. When movies become massacres, political half-truths masquerade as informed debate, and economic conditions don’t appear to be particularly well-conditioned, who can blame us for adopting an attitude of resignation? 

Further, what are we to make of the fact that major corporations appear to have grasped onto the ideas of “impact” and “change” as just one more marketing approach? How should we react when we have behemoth institutions promising to help us “Live Better,” empower our potential, and restore the environments they’ve destroyed? We can excuse ourselves our bouts of skepticism. 

And yet, despite all of that, perhaps more optimism is exactly what we need. As a member of the small constituency of sappy, overly sensitive guys out there, let me argue that in a world of choreographed demagogues and overly-inflated blowhards, perhaps we need a few more people who cry at weddings and sing love songs at the piano, at least to restore some sort of cosmic equilibrium. 

The fact is, it has never been easier — and more socially acceptable — to be a skeptic. Hipster coolness, self-righteous apathy, veiled elitism, and detached cynicism are the new cool. We go through life alone together, commenting and criticizing on everything around us, disappointed but not surprised. 

But for those few of you out there who are still reading, I say this: While everyone is sitting on the bleachers complaining about the game, you may have noticed that no one is actually on the field. With so many leadership opportunities and so few taking advantage of them, there’s no easier time to be a world-changer. 

We’ve got “detached cynicism” covered. What we need are a few more hearts on sleeves and shovels in hands. The personal bravery; the whispered hope; the patient dream; the small optimism; the incremental improvement; the tiny change for the better — I will never believe that any are in vain. 

Happy summer.