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Relentlessly Optimistic

December 22, 2009

Bob Buford recently released another of his “musings for friends” letters, which I’m posting below with his permission. If you’d like to subscribe to it, go to

BOB BUFORD Sometimes I get depressed. Particularly this time of year which for many, including me, is a time of summing up. There is a lot of external bad stuff going on: some who incur more and more debt knowing they can never get back to zero, including most certainly the United States government; I know so many people in deep pain this holiday season missing loved ones recently departed; people without jobs – their identity and sense of purpose draining away day by day as they wait for the phone to ring; people swallowed up in working environments that have no sense of eternity, no next world, no purpose beyond making goals and making money. Now is now and then lights out; living for the short term. 

 Anthropologist, Jane Goodall, gets it about right when she observes:

“It’s awfully sad that with our clever brains, capable of taking us to the moon and developing all these sophisticated ways of communicating around the planet, that we seem to have lost wisdom. …Although we think we’re caring about our children and grandchildren, we’re actually stealing their future.”

Those who know me don’t take my momentary seasons of melancholy seriously. It is just the doldrums. And they are right. It never lasts long. I am a relentless optimist. As my friend, Phil Anschutz, told me once, “It will all work out. If it doesn’t kill me, it will make me better.”
 You might say that I’m a victim of my own good fortune:

  • I am married to a beautiful (inside and out) woman to whom I say, “You are aging better than Jane Fonda.” 
  • I have a Book of Days filled with saved emails and letters of acknowledgement from people saying that I am making a difference in their lives – treasure in heaven as well as treasure on earth. 
  • I have a deep sense of purpose – a destiny, a mission, a calling. 
  • I had the greatest mentor and friend since Jesus guided the apostles. Peter Drucker’s influence continues. On November 7, I was privileged to introduce Jim Collins, perhaps today’s most thoughtful management writer, as keynote speaker at The Drucker Centennial honoring Peter’s 100th birthday. Here is how Collins began:

    “I would like to set a context a bit, and to shine a light on Peter through my own lens. Bob Buford mentioned something in his comments. I’ve reflected on this a lot, and I believe it is true, the idea that Peter Drucker contributed more to the triumph of freedom and free society over totalitarianism, as anyone in the 20th century, including, perhaps, Winston Churchill.”

    To see a wonder-filled tribute published on November 19, Peter Drucker’s 100th birthday in The Economist, titled “Remembering (Peter) Drucker: Four Years after his Death, Peter Drucker Remains the king of Management Gurus,” just click here

  • “I know where I’m coming from and I know where I’m going” to quote Jesus. On the other hand, I live in the utter unpredictability of a turbulent world economy. I live in the United States that faces right now awesome and long lasting alternatives – increasing costs – new costs pushed onto future generations.

    David Brooks put it succinctly in his New York Times column November 24, 2009,
    “The bottom line is that we face a brutal choice. Reform would make us a more decent society, but also a less vibrant one. It would ease the anxiety of millions at the cost of future growth. It would heal a wound in the social fabric while piling another expensive and untouchable promise on top of the many such promises we’ve already made. America would be a less youthful, ragged and unforgiving nation, and a more middle-aged, civilized and sedate one.
    We all have to decide what we want at this moment in history, vitality or security. We can debate this or that provision, but where we come down will depend on that moral preference. Don’t get stupefied by technical details. This debate is about values.”


As for me, despite periods of darkness and ennui, I still believe what came to me on a bluff above the Rio Grand River on January 3, 1988, as the Texas Rangers and the Border Patrol searched for my son, Ross — never to be seen again in this life:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding.” — Solomon, Proverbs 3:5

I am a relentless optimist because I see through the eyes of faith which always and promptly (more long lasting than pills and faster than therapy) has redeemed me. I believe the Letter to the Hebrews when it says:
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1
And I believe St. Paul when he says in the glorious Chapter 13: 11-13 of his letter to the Corinthians:
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

In the original Greek, charity and love are the same word. Charity is the active form of love. So love – “The greatest of these” is my motive, my mission in these dark and unpredictable days. I do trust in things that I can’t see or prove. I am irrationally optimistic. Such a view has always served me well. It seems more grown up than trusting in money, in celebrities, who always seem to be brought low by hubris, or in government.
So What about You?
1) Do you suffer moments of depression? 
2) If so, what brings you back to normal? 
3) In whom or what do you trust when you are feeling overwhelmed? 
Wisdom from the Psalms

The length of our days is seventy years— or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. … Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. … Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.”
– Psalms 90: 10, 12 and 14
Blessed is the man whose strength is in You,
Whose heart is set on pilgrimage.”

– Psalms 84:5  

If you have feedback, post a comment below (preferred) or write directly to Bob Buford at See all back issues here.

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