Listicles. If you’re not familiar with the term, listicles are articles like, “The 7 Things Truly Successful People Do Every Morning” or, “The One Thing Mark Zuckerberg/Bill Gates/Warren Buffet/Pick Your Insanely Rich Guy Did to Make Himself Insanely Rich.”
I used to rant and rave about listicles, believing that they were contributing to a culture that seeks simple answers to complex problems and then I watched the recent Presidential debate, and realized that we face far greater existential threats than listicles.
But, after watching the debates I also thought that it might be good to point out that civilization isn’t really declining, and there are actually a lot of really good things happening right now—no matter what we hear from Presidential candidates.
Here are some of those good things:
1. It’s easier than ever to become an entrepreneur.
My dad tried and failed to start a business in the 90’s. He was the first person in his family that attempted to become an entrepreneur, and he took that loss hard.
Would things have been different for him in 2016? Would things have been different had he been able to use the internet to reach out to mentors? What if he had access to the type of barrier-to-entry eliminating technology I leveraged when I started my business? Would he have succeeded had there been incubators that provided support and education to new entrepreneurs, like the one my wife manages?
Who knows—but his odds would have been much better in 2016 than they were back then.
(And that incubator my wife manages hired her when they recognized the transferable skillset of a stay-at-home parent. That’s the type of progress that should inspire everyone.)
2. Crime is declining.
Some people think it is increasing but in fact, that is not true. Did you know violent crime has decreased by 51% since 1991, and property crime has decreased by 43% in the same time.
Politicians have always been able to manipulate an electorate by using fear. Thankfully, one of the other good things about the modern world is that almost all of us have the ability to fact check what we hear using devices we carry in our pocket.
3. AIDS infections and deaths are drastically declining throughout the world.
I was 10 when Magic Johnson announced that he had the HIV virus. He was my favorite athlete, and I remember crying that night—and thinking that if Magic Johnson could get AIDS, we were all going to get AIDS.
I practically started writing “The Last Will and Testament of Dusty McKissen” on the spot, leaving all of my basketball cards and the Playboy I had buried in our backyard to my little brother.
Fast-forward 25 years. Magic Johnson is alive and well, and in the last decade AIDS death rates have fallen by 41% and new infection rates have declined by 24%.
One case of AIDS is too many, but things are getting better.
4. Bruce Springsteen wrote a book.
Bruce Springsteen published his autobiography, Born to Run, this week. Here is one of my favorite lines from it:
“For my parents’ troubled lives I was determined to be the enlightened, compassionate voice of reason and revenge.”
If your parents’ lives were troubled—as mine were—that might be one of the most motivating sentences you’ll ever read.
5. Young people are trying to make the world an even better place.
The other day I saw a very distant relative of mine make a comment about President Obama on social media. The comment came in the most vile form of racist language imaginable.
This generation of young people gets maligned for being too politically correct, or quick to accuse others of cultural appropriation. If cultural hyper-sensitivity is an attempt to make people like my piece of sh*t cousin-of-a-cousin even less relevant, then we are on the right track, even if that track isn’t perfect.
Cut the kids a break. They are trying to make things better.
And that’s a good thing, because to quote the great singer Solomon Burke, until we are all free, none of us are free.
6. A world in decline is a choice, not an inevitably.
A lyric from Bruce Springsteen’s song Thunder Road says you can,
“Waste your summer praying in vain
For a savior to rise from these streets…”
Like most dads, I’m pretty certain we aren’t praying in vain, because my kids might be those saviors.
Unlike most dads, I have an actual reason to think that—as evidenced by their recent nominations to student council. When it comes to saviors, what more possible proof do you need than student council appointments?
(Imagine a smiley faced emoji here.)
Seriously though, I was never student council material. At their age I was well acquainted with both the taste of government cheese and the lifelong psychological damage that comes from eating it.
My kids aren’t familiar with that taste or that feeling, because my life is better than my parents’ lives, and my kids’ lives will be better than mine. You can show me all the statistics in the world that say otherwise, but my 3 kids collectively want to be a writer, journalist, engineer, Mayor, private space company owner, doctor, and school principal when they grow up.
When I was their age I just wanted to be able to one day afford the kind of cheese my “rich” friends ate: Kraft Singles.
The ability for sons and daughters to build on the successes of their fathers and mothers is possible and as long as we realize that the ways we politically and economically organize ourselves are not like the wind or the rain—they are conscious decisions that, if needed, can be improved upon or changed by working together.
What’s something that makes you optimistic?
Share something you are optimistic about in the comment section, and let’s get some positivity going.
(And thanks for taking the time to read this very long article.)
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