Community & Government

The Power of Optimism

Bill Clinton

Lesson time 14:02 min

President Clinton reveals how pragmatic optimism can help you overcome challenges and setbacks, and he shares a letter to a future president of the United States.

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Topics include: Focus on What You Can Do, Not on What You Can’t · Be Pragmatic · Model Optimism for Those Around You · A Letter to a Future President


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Resilience and optimism in a leader are so important because who wants to follow you if it doesn't make any difference? Because people need to believe they can make the future better. They need to feel the potential to create a better tomorrow. And if you take that away from them, then it's very hard to get anything done, especially in a difficult time. I see optimism as more a state of mind and a habit of the heart, if you will, than an assessment of risk or reward or failure in a given situation. To be optimistic means you are empowering yourself to take a shot at making it better. To be pessimistic means you're giving yourself an out. I mean, if it can't get better, why should you make the effort? Success is not guaranteed. But it's foreclosed if you're pessimistic. I think optimism is almost an obligation among people who have gifts and potential to make things better. And that's why I adhere to it. So it is energizing and empowering. And that increases the chances that you'll succeed in your mission, whatever it is, overwhelmingly. And that if you don't, the people who take the journey will still be proud they did. [MUSIC PLAYING] I have encountered a lot of setbacks. I lost two elections after I entered politics. I've had ferocious opposition, where the whole strategy was to try to destroy me as a person in the eyes of everybody else. My mother died after I became president. The next morning, the leaders of the Republican House and Senate were calling for an investigation into Whitewater and a special counsel. And they knew good and well there was nothing there. I've had a lot of things that really hurt. But the good has so far outweighed the bad. You still have choices even when adversity strikes. I remember I had a friend many years ago in the '80s that I was reacquainted with almost by accident after I became president because he was part of a group touring the White House at a a convention of public speakers. And he was a pilot, a motorcycle rider, a skier, you know, blond-headed, blue-eyed, you know, ultimate Colorado guy. And he was crippled when he ran a motorcycle up under a truck and crushed his legs. But he kept flying. And while he was flying, the plane crashed and caught on fire. And before he could get out, because his legs were incapacitated, he was burned badly in his hands and from basically, his scalp all the way down. And he had to have lots of surgery just to put himself back together again. So I ran into him at the White House at the speakers' conference. And we started talking. And I said, short answer, how did you handle this? He said, well I was pretty-- he said, I was pretty lower lipped about it at the time. But he said, I looked in the mirror one day and I said, now, you can't do anything about what happened to you. It probably took away 100,000 options you could have exercised about what to do on any given day over a lifetime. Let's say 100,0...

About the Instructor

Commander in chief from 1993 to 2001, Bill Clinton has spent a lifetime navigating complex challenges and bridging deep divides. Now the 42nd president of the United States teaches you how to be an effective, empathetic leader. Learn how to assemble, inspire, and empower diverse teams, mediate conflict, manage criticism—and create a personal framework to guide you and your team toward a shared vision.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Bill Clinton

Drawing from his career in politics, President Bill Clinton teaches you how to inspire diverse teams, manage criticism, and mediate conflict.

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