Developing Optimism in an age of Pessimism

When we fail to notice the positive, our brains naturally emphasize the negative.”

I ran across this statement by KJ Dell’Antonia in an article in Time magazine. I read it. Then I re-read it. Then I thought about it. BINGO. What a perfect post for Thanksgiving! Why do we need to have a holiday each year to remind us to be thankful for all of the good things in our lives? Shouldn’t that just come naturally? Sometimes it does, sure.

But also consider the recent midterm election races: One side of the fence was ELATED when a given candidate won– while the other was upset, EXASPERATED. Or what about the economic news that the Dow went down. Again.

Or the latest bombing or school shooting. Perhaps a bad bullying incident at a local school left us in a foul, negative mood about how mean kids are. Etc. etc. Maybe the cesspool of negativity we are surrounded in much of the time has something to do with it?

It’s worth noting again: “When we fail to notice the positive, our brains naturally emphasize the negative.”

What about all of the people whose lives were saved in an active assailant situation because of Officer John Doe’s heroic actions? Why didn’t we think more about that report when we heard it?

But it’s easier to be a pessimist and dwell on the bad, isn’t it?

Or the bullying incident. I remember LOTS of bullies growing up, and your only recourse was to put up with it, or fight back. Anti-bullying campaigns in schools? Didn’t exist in my day! We need to take more note of people trying to do something about societal problems.

But it’s easier to be a pessimist and dwell on the bad, isn’t it? My mom and dad used to have their TV tuned in to CNN much of the day. Then they wondered why they were so anxious and negative much of the time! “Turn the channel or turn it off!” I’d say. It’s great they always wanted to know what was going on in the world – but still. …

Too many times the news we read and hear causes fear. Rather than informing us, it mostly leaves us worried. Scared. Maybe even terrified. What about focusing more on the good things going on in the world that get swept under the rug?

In his book Hardwiring Happiness, neuropsychologist Rick Hanson says, “We are designed to focus on the beasts that are still out there in the deep rather than on those we have tamed.”

“Wow!” I thought. That explains a lot, doesn’t it? But all is not lost: Optimism can be developed. Our thought worlds are powerful, more powerful than we think.

“Eighty percent of physical, emotional, and mental health are a direct result of our thought lives,” writes Caroline Leaf in her landmark book, Who Switched Off My Brain? EIGHTY percent! So, if the bulk of one’s thoughts are negative, it’s no wonder why someone would be so pessimistic!

One recourse, Dr. Leaf says: “Reject incoming info and get rid of what you don’t want, before it wires into your brain.”

I heartily recommend books like Dr. Leaf’s because we CAN learn to retrain our brains to think more positively. Is it easy? No. Does it take time? It sure does. But in the cesspool of negativity we live in, in which positive days like Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday are more the exception than the rule, what does it hurt to try?

Pay more attention to the positive each and every day, and not just Thursday. I’m going to give it a try. What about you?



Veterans training Veterans: A Timely Career Trend Story

Timely consideration for workplace/career features regarding so many of Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA) faculty working as veterans of the US military and instructors …and what we’ve learned is even more fascinating is that quite a numerous faction of the student body are veterans as well.

A number of honorable vets preparing students for high demand careers in aviation maintenance – exemplary use of the GI Bill considering that the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics cites that the 2017 median annual pay for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians was $61,260 and that Boeing’s 2018 Current Market Outlook forecasts that between now and 2037, the aviation industry During the next 10 years, airlines will spend almost $4 billion to retrofit more than 9,000 airplanes with satellite connectivity.

In terms of current students on the GI Bill, studying as veterans – follow this link to a variety of more in depth stories:

And for b-roll and student veteran insights:  – this piece features comments from faculty Veteran Lee Carnes and students Mark McCray, Stacie Powers, David Smith.

Warren Guthrie 49 years, PIA ALUMNI (AMT), Air Force Veteran Mr. Guthrie is one of the longest serving faculty members at PIA, sharing his experience from his military service with B52 Bombing & Navigation Systems and Low Level Terrain Avoidance Radar. Mr. Guthrie spent 34 years as an Industrial Electrical Specialist with the U.S. Postal Service, as well as working with Strategic Air Command, American Airlines, Executive Jet and light aircraft at Northern Airmotive.

Mark Mihalko  5 years, (AET), U.S. Navy Veteran Mr. Mihalko comes to PIA after serving over 21 years in the United States Navy, with a specialty in combat systems and communications while deployed on the USS Trenton, Carter Hall and Ponce. He then served as a submarine repair facility production supervisor and a Naval Station airfield manager.

Kevin Reid 14 years, PIA ALUMNI (AMT), US Navy Veteran and Army National Guard After Mr. Reid’s service in the U.S. Navy he went on to work at Interstate Airlines, Conrad Aviation Services and the Army Aviation Support Facility in Washington, PA. He has forty years of experience with all types of aircraft including jets, small aircraft and helicopters. While in the aviation industry, Mr. Reid continued serving his county for 15 years in the Army National Guard. Mr. Reid is certified to test individuals seeking the FAA Airframe and Powerplant Certification.

Randall Reynolds 16 years, (AMT), US Airforce Veteran Mr. Reynolds served 24 years in the Airforce. From 1986-1992 he was the crew chief for Air Force 2, the Vice President’s aircraft under Presidents Reagan and Bush Sr. He also served as an Aircraft  Crew Chief on C-130 cargo planes. Mr. Reynolds brings to PIA extensive experience with over 40+years in a multitude of aircraft. Mr. Reynolds retired after 9 years as PIA’s Youngstown Branch Campus Director and has returned to PIA’s main campus to teach Powerplant.

Frank Says 30 years, PIA ALUMNI (AET), US Army Veteran Mr. Saye served 21 years in the military specializing in long and short range radar missile systems including the Nike Hercules, Ajax, Patriot and Hawk Missiles. After serving overseas in Germany and Korea he returned to his native Texas to teach military officers at the Air Defense School at Fort Bliss.

Albert R. Simon, Jr.  15 years, (AMT), US Marine Corps Veteran Mr. Simon is a specialist in Powerplant Mechanics with over 20 years at US Air and 10 years at Fed Ex. Mr. Simon is consulted for his expert troubleshooting skills after 44+ years of aviation experience. He also has taught at PIA’s branch campuses.

Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics was recognized as the #1 school fighting the nation’s skills gap in a list published in 2018 by Forbes

For more information, call 1-800-444-1440, or visit



Election Aftermath: We CAN Agree to Disagree

Blue. Red. Democrat. Republican. Moderate. Conservative. Liberal. Whatever your political affiliation, I hope you exercised your right to vote on Tuesday. And I also hope you are able to reach across the aisle and congratulate the winner, regardless of whether you voted for him or her. Being civil might seem like it should be a given, but with the amount of name calling, nitpicking, and negative ads occurring in politics these days, civility and politics is no small matter.

But polarizing politics actually isn’t anything new in the United States. Far from it. As far back as our nation’s infancy, the Federalists (led by Alexander Hamilton) and the Republicans, also called Democratic-Republicans (led by Thomas Jefferson) were on opposite sides of the fence on many issues. Nowhere was that division more apparent than Hamilton’s insistence that the federal government create a national bank – something Jefferson vehemently disagreed with. But calmer heads prevailed, and a national bank is exactly what happened. See also

Or what about the volatile topic of slavery in the mid-1860s, which of course led to civil war? Or the Civil Rights Movement and demonstrations over the Vietnam war in the 1960s? No, polarizing politics is NOT new to our country.

But what it seems we’ve largely forgotten is the importance of reaching compromises on divisive issues, something our Founding Fathers were able to accomplish. One key to doing that, I think, is to really LISTEN to what people of an opposing view have to say. We seem to think that listening is the same thing as agreeing, when it isn’t! You can listen to someone without agreeing! But in listening, and not immediately launching into arguments or name calling, we can begin to understand where someone of differing political views is coming from.

Take the immigration issue as a brief example. At first glance, someone against illegal immigration might appear to be a bigot, racist, or worse. But what about the flip side of the coin in which others are very concerned about letting criminals, drug dealers, and worse into the US – and at a time when bombings, shootings, and worse are occurring at an alarming rate? If you are a conservative, can you see how someone might think you’re a racist? If you’re a liberal, can you see that some of your fellow citizens are genuinely worried about who we let into our country? If you have an idea WHY someone feels (and votes) the way they do …. That, it seems to me, is the first step toward compromises and solutions to difficult problems.

Here are a few related thoughts from Myric’s Voting Checklist:

* I will read and work to understand the Constitutions of the nation and my state.

* I will vote logic and facts, not emotion and popularity.

* I will assume all political memes and posts are false until proven otherwise with solid fact.

* I will neither gloat nor whine about the results.

That’s just a few of some real thought provokers.

Read more here:

It’s true our elected leaders could set a better example when it comes to civility! But I also think we as individuals need to look in the mirror because we’re plenty guilty, too. Democrat, Republican, or independent, we’re all Americans first and foremost. That’s something I think we need to remember much more often than we do.

Have Some Halloween Fun!

By Alyssa Mertes

Being a business owner can be a very terrifying thing, but it doesn’t have to be all tricks and no treats. Halloween is a good excuse to relax the tie, take your hair out of its tight bun, and let loose. Find out how you can use this holiday to improve office morale and employee focus with a few simple tweaks to the workplace.

Let your employees dress up

Does it really matter if your secretary is dressed up as a lobster for the day? As long as they’re still greeting guests, fielding calls, and entering data, they can be a crazy crustacean all they want. Costumes for Halloween won’t stop your team from rocking it out for the day. Plus, it could warrant some good laughs and start conversations.

According to a study from the University of Warwick, happiness leads to a 12% spike in employee productivity. Setting up a makeshift photo booth or giving a gift card to the best costume is a great way to earn smiles. Sounds like that lobster’s really cooking now!

Throw an office party

Watching your team do the Monster Mash is worth every minute away from the computers.

Make sure you have a great playlist for the occasion. “Strange Brew” by Cream, “Thriller” by Michael Jackson, and “Dead Man’s Party” by Oingo Boingo are a few that should be in rotation. Science has found that music spikes the part of the brain that’s associated with reward and emotion. This helps your employees feel valued at the office.

Don’t forget a lot of your employees have kids and want to take them trick or treating. Why not let them go home a little early on October 31st? Now that’s an employee gift as sweet as a bag of candy!

If that’s not a possibility, these activities are a surefire way to increase happiness at the office. We spend a frightening amount of time at work and deserve to go to a place where we feel engaged and appreciated. Costumes, candy, and other creepy crawlies are a step in the right direction!

Note: For additional ideas on how to celebrate Halloween at the office, visit

Journalism Reunion: Follow Your Passion

“Follow your passion” was an unofficial theme at the 50th anniversary of the University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh Journalism Department. (I am an ’86 grad.)

Jim VandeHei (’95), co-founder of Politico and Axios, was one of the UW-Oshkosh journalism graduates who made this point in his Friday morning keynote at the Student/Young Alumni Breakfast. Jim said it is especially important for young adults to pursue their passions because they essentially have “nothing to lose” as opposed to later in life when they have homes, kids, which can make career moves much more difficult.

In other words, the longer you wait to pursue your passions, the harder it becomes….. Students in attendance that were young, vibrant, bright-eyed….Young adults that I hope all felt, GO FOR IT!

I can think of several instances in my own career in which I felt I had to take a leap of faith because I was very unhappy in my current position. Some of these moves worked out better than others, but I’d say, in the long run, they were worth it.

As an example, tired of the long hours and relentless pace of daily newspapers, I took a job as an associate editor with Krause Publications (now F&W Media), a large collectible book and magazine company in central Wisconsin. It was a good move, and not so good.

Great place to work, better hours, but I never understood how someone could be that passionate about collecting, a feeling I didn’t share with many of my co-workers. I have always found it difficult to write about topics I am not passionate about. Now not every writer feels that way, and I can do it, sure, but it feels like you’re just going through the motions; there’s no real feeling behind what you’re writing.

I had long thought, in the back of my mind, that writing about various social justice topics would be extremely rewarding. It was an offshoot of the education beat I had at several papers – one part of the job I DID like. A LOT.

And so, a few tough, wayward years after I left KP, my prayers for newfound direction were answered, and I began writing and editing various publications for a small publishing company in nearby Waupaca, Wis., that catered to various social service professionals. Instead of writing about collectible toys for toy collectors, something I didn’t care two hoots about (although KP was a great place to work), I was writing for child welfare workers, foster parents, caregivers, and eventually, employee assistance professionals, a group I remain passionate about to this day.

I loved my job and my work, and I like to think I still do. THAT is the difference. As the saying goes, do what you love to do and you’ll never work another day in your life. Now everyone has a bad day now and then, but I’d say there is a lot of truth to that statement. Or as a good friend of mine put it, “If you’re only working for a paycheck, you’re happy a few days out of the month. But if it’s something you love to do, you feel happy and fulfilled most of the time.”

Other great advice I heard at the reunion included:

Find a good mentor….

Have courage and faith in yourself.    (which ties back to following your passions)

Many people today are skeptical of journalists, so be GENUINE. Be HUMAN. Be REAL.

Always keep experimenting.    

Know what your customers (or readers) want.    

Stories change. Co-workers change. Jobs change. But passion is one thing that remains. Regardless of whether it was student, recent grad, or a seasoned sage like myself and others, passion for journalism was a recurring message that came through loud and clear.

Passion, I might add, that needs to focus on accurate reporting and writing with reliable, fact-based sources. A message that was GREAT to hear the way journalists have come under fire in recent years (and deservedly so in some cases, I’m sorry to say).

Moral of the story: Whatever it is, follow YOUR passion. Life is too short not to.

EAPA 2018 Minneapolis: Great Fun, Learning, and Friends

The recently concluded EAPA 2018 Conference & EXPO in Minneapolis was a big success, in this humble writer’s view. It was my ninth EAPA conference, and while the temps have been warmer for most of them, the degree of warmth exhibited by the attendees and exhibitors has never been greater.

There were at least 30 first-time attendees, and that’s probably a conservative estimate. First-time attendees I had a chance to meet included Braeden Schaefer, and Karla Amador-Lum Lung, to name a few.

The conference always has a strong international flavor as well, and this year’s was no exception. I was thrilled I got to meet a number of international attendees, especially Thiloshni Govender and Radhi Vandayar, authors of “EAP in South Africa,” an article that appeared in the 4th Quarter 2018 Journal of Employee Assistance. Of course, this doesn’t include all of the terrific EA professionals I have an opportunity to be reacquainted with each year.

Exceptional keynotes and breakout sessions meant some great learning occurred. They included, but were not limited to: an opening keynote on corporate diversity initiatives by Kimberly Messer with IBM; understanding transgender employees by Maria Whitter; and integrating financial wellness into your EAP, Marcy Munro Musselman. Again, let me stress that was just for starters.

All in all, it was a fantastic week in the Twin Cities – enough that even a snowy drive home on Sunday didn’t dampen my spirits… well, not much anyway!

How Happy are You with YOUR Boss?

October 16 is National Boss’s Day, an observance that begs the question: How happy are you with YOUR boss?  Fortunately, many people are, according to a recent survey conducted by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service. The majority of workers surveyed (80 percent) said they’re happy with their bosses, and that is a number higher than I would have expected. However, it’s worth pointing out that 1 in 5 respondents gave their leaders less-than-stellar reviews.

There is a saying that a good boss gives you the tools you need to do the job, and then, for the most part, “gets out of the way.” I think there is a lot of truth to that statement. I’ve had my share of bosses in my 30 years’ in journalism – unfortunately,  I would say precious few were what most people would term a “good boss.” Here is a brief synopsis of a few of the editors I’ve had:

The micromanager nitpicks at everything you do – even your best seldom seems good enough. This type of boss could be effective IF they knew how to lighten up a bit, and pat you on the back when it’s warranted, and not just criticize the things you DON’T do well. It’s one thing to tell an employee what they don’t do well – most of us need some useful feedback and suggestions on HOW to improve. Tip to this boss: Don’t just criticize, praise when warranted, and by all means, give the worker the resources to improve. Be a mentor, not a nitpicker.

The I-can-do-everything boss.  The problem with this type of employer is that they are so poor at delegating tasks that their staff does not grow and develop, they’re never learning anything new. If you’re truly happy with the “same-old” routines, you might really like a manager like this. But if you’re serious about wanting to get better at your job, and I think that’s most of us, you’ll be bored, unmotivated, and ready to move on quite quickly. Tip to this boss: DELEGATE certain tasks, even if you can do them better! Your staff won’t learn if they’re not given a chance.

The ultimate delegator, conversely, goes too far the other way. This type of boss has no problem assigning you project, after project, after project, often with no real let up in sight. Even Vince Lombardi knew how to ease up on the throttle from time to time. Even a pat on the back doesn’t help much, because what you need isn’t so much a “good job,” it’s a …”Good job, take the afternoon off to play some golf!” Tip to this boss: Don’t just assign work – lead by example. And when a boss is a great leader, most people don’t mind working hard (at least most of the time).

This is not to say I’ve never had a good boss! One editor, in particular, encouraged you to always want to improve at your job, mentor you, pat you on the back, be a friend when you needed one. A rare breed sometimes.

Back to the OfficeTeam poll: Nearly half of respondents (49 percent) feel their manager is a good leader, and about one-third consider their boss a mentor (37 percent) and friend (34 percent). But not everyone shares these sentiments: Nearly a quarter of workers (23 percent) said their supervisor is a micromanager, and 16 percent went as far as saying they are incompetent. View an infographic about how professionals rank their bosses.

“An employee’s working relationship with the boss has a significant impact on their job satisfaction and career success,” said Stephanie Naznitsky, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Professionals are more engaged and productive in their roles when they’re given some autonomy on projects and report to managers they can trust and learn from.”

OfficeTeam has more than 300 locations worldwide. For additional information, visit



Heading to the Twin Cities

I’m looking forward to EAPA 2018 Minneapolis, to be held at the Hilton Minneapolis. The event, sponsored by the Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) will feature scores of informative sessions, keynote speakers, and networking opportunities.

It’s a chance to get caught up with current EA acquaintances as well as the opportunity to meet new EA professionals.… And attendees are from all over the globe!

The conference, to be held Oct. 11-13, has been a great way to connect with EA professionals to learn about important EAP trends and solicit articles for the Journal of Employee Assistance.

To find out more about the Journal or this event, visit

My blog will feature highlights from the 2018 conference the week of Oct. 15-19. (I may even have a little sightseeing news to report.)

In the meantime, why not check out some of the more than 500 posts on this blog? Happy reading!

Everyone Plays a Role in Suicide Prevention: What’s Helpful? How do we Talk About it?

Suicide Awareness Month: Last in a Series

By Leah M. Rolando, MSW

Whose job is it to prevent suicide? The better question: whose job isn’t it? The idea that is continuing to gain global momentum is that we all play a role in suicide prevention and that suicide is a public health issue- not just a mental health one.

Does increased media attention help raise awareness?

What’s not helpful? If we sensationalize and dramatize deaths by suicide, the attention is dangerous. There is no need to mention the method the person used to end their life to make flashy headlines. Copycat suicides do happen, and suicide contagion is real when we are not careful about how we talk about it. is the best site for safe messaging when covering suicide.

What is helpful? Stories of recovery and hope. Centering the voices of people with lived experience, which means people who have dealt with suicidal thoughts, attempts, or loss, and how they fight to keep living. In a TWLOHA blog, they write, “Hope is defiant.” When we share stories that emphasize why people continue to stay alive, we flip the script on the suicide conversation and make hope the thing that is contagious.

How should we talk about suicide?

Language matters! It is the primary filter through which we perceive the world, so it is obvious that it affects how we relate to one another. When you hear the word “commit”, what do you think of? Commit a crime? Commit a sin? Does anyone commit cancer or a stroke? Why, then, do we continue to say, “commit suicide”? It is true that language is always evolving, and it is difficult to keep up; however, when it can mean the difference between someone feeling shame or connection, it is an important shift we must make. Words to use that decrease stigma include “died by/of suicide”, “lost their life to suicide”, and “attempted suicide” rather than talking about “unsuccessful” or “successful” suicides.

For more information on how you can get involved with suicide prevention efforts in Wisconsin, visit: or like us on Facebook at: . You can also find information on mental health and wellness at:

Leah Rolando is the Suicide Prevention Specialist with Mental Health America of Wisconsin. In this role, she coordinates Prevent Suicide Wisconsin, a statewide partnership that aims to present hope and strengthen the safety net in Wisconsin for people who have lived experience with suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and suicide loss survivors. Leah serves on the Steering Committee for Prevent Suicide Greater Milwaukee and provides trainings as a Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Gatekeeper Instructor. She also volunteers as a crisis counselor for the Crisis Text Line. Leah can be reached by email at or by phone at 414-336-7970.

Everyone Plays a Role in Suicide Prevention: The Power of Connection

Suicide Awareness Month: Second in a Series

By Leah Rolando, MS

Whose job is it to prevent suicide? The better question: whose job isn’t it? The idea that is continuing to gain global momentum is that we all play a role in suicide prevention and that suicide is a public health issue- not just a mental health one.

What role does the power of connection play?

This month, the AFSP and other leading organizations are elevating the concept of connectedness. They state, “Although there is no single cause of suicide, one of the risks for suicide is social isolation, and there’s scientific evidence for reducing suicide risk by making sure we connect with one another. We can all play a role through the power of connection by having real conversations about mental health with people in everyday moments.” It is not up to us to fix every problem; rather, it is on us to be there for one another in an intentional way.

What are our resources?

When someone is thinking about suicide, they can:

For more information on how you can get involved with suicide prevention efforts in Wisconsin, visit: or like us on Facebook at: . You can also find information on mental health and wellness at:

Leah Rolando is the Suicide Prevention Specialist with Mental Health America of Wisconsin. In this role, she coordinates Prevent Suicide Wisconsin, a statewide partnership that aims to present hope and strengthen the safety net in Wisconsin for people who have lived experience with suicidal ideation, suicide attempts, and suicide loss survivors. Leah serves on the Steering Committee for Prevent Suicide Greater Milwaukee and provides trainings as a Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Gatekeeper Instructor. She also volunteers as a crisis counselor for the Crisis Text Line. Leah can be reached by email at or by phone at 414-336-7970.

WEDNESDAY: What’s helpful? How do we talk about suicide?