Pessimism and Optimism

I woke up this morning to a series of news reports. The first is that the eighty richest people on the planet currently own the same wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population; a mere 3.5 billion people. The second is that, according to a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, four out of ten British families live below an income level that allows them to maintain a basic standard of living. This in the seventh richest economy in the world. I also hear the prime minister calling for British businesses to increase the wages of their staff and pay the living wage as those businesses enjoy record profits in the wake of the fall in oil prices. I ask him two questions. Is he not the person who runs the government and, if he feels that the government has no role to play in this area, what does he think his job is?

Rant over and, perhaps, because of those reports, you are going to get some optimism from me. Possibly on the basis that, when you reach the bottom, the only way is up. The trouble with that homily, is that how do you know what really is the bottom? Still, as you have to start somewhere, I can describe a number of such bottoms in my own life. Starting with the death of my mum when I was five and may father fostering me out so that he could get married again, followed by my divorce in my mid 30’s, the breakup of a long term relationship and a breakdown ten years later and, lastly, leaving a charity I had rescued and run for ten years, under circumstances that I would not have chosen, the week before Xmas at the turn of the millennium. Yet, I consider myself quite lucky. Why should this be so? Well, for a number of reasons, the first of which is that I have managed to overcome whatever has been thrown at me. I am, if nothing else, resilient. The second is that I have learnt lessons such that I have changed my life and, as a result, am now happily married to my best friend.

Well, that’s you, you may say. Indeed, it’s exactly what I used to do. The life I now live wasn’t for the likes of me. In fact, I still pinch myself occasionally. Well, it’s never too late if you really want to change. The secret, if there is any, it to actually do something practical about it in a series of manageable stages such that you can step back if you’ve made a wrong move. I, for example, didn’t think I could write a book until I just got on with it and started writing. That was two published and one, soon to be published, books ago. I also took up public speaking two years ago. All at an age where most of my peers have opted for cardigan and slippers,

So, from a situation in which I was an unemployed, single parent living on benefits in a rundown terraced house, I am doing what I always dreamt of. There is no reason why you can’t do the same; other than the limitations you impose on yourself and the state of the country today. You may not be able to do much about the latter. The former, however, is in your own hands. Take that first small step. After all, if you are at the bottom, what have you got to lose?

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