This is the last issue of Power Sheet. On Monday you will be receiving Fortune editor Alan Murray’s excellent and extremely popular CEO Daily newsletter. If it doesn’t show up in your inbox, generally around 7 a.m. Eastern time, please check to see if your spam filter has grabbed it; you will value CEO Daily very highly. And while you’re at it, you might see if you’d like to sign up for some of our other newsletters, including RaceAhead (how to take the lead in corporate diversity) and Trumponomics Daily (our all-new dispatch from D.C.) All Fortune newsletters are available here: http://fortune.com/newsletters/
You will not be getting rid of me, however. I’m just swiveling my chair, devoting myself now to the physical and digital pages of Fortune.
My closing message is the importance and value of optimism. You won’t find much of it in the news you read and watch every day – it doesn’t sell well – and you should certainly ignore all mindless inspirational fluff. But the overlooked reality is that the world is filled with sound reasons for optimism. Understanding that fact will make you a better leader and a better person.
The most compelling one-click case for optimism is the 2017 Gates Letter, issued last week by Bill and Melinda Gates on behalf of the the Gates Foundation. It documents truly astounding trends that virtually no one seems to be aware of. For example:
-The rate of childhood deaths worldwide is declining sharply, even faster than experts predicted; 122 million children’s lives have been saved since 1990.
-The proportion of children getting basic vaccines worldwide is the highest in history, 86%. The effect is enormous, and not just in extending human lives; it also improves those lives. Every dollar spent on vaccines yields $44 in economic benefits.
-Countries with high levels of newborn deaths are finding virtually free ways to reduce them. Rwanda, one of Africa’s poorest countries, has cut newborn deaths by 30%, and any country could take the same simple steps that have proven so effective.
And yet – practically no knows any of this. The Gateses point out that in a recent survey, only 1% of respondents knew that global poverty has been cut in half since 1990. That’s worse than just unfortunate ignorance. When so few people know that the world is getting better in a fundamental way, that’s a big problem. “Optimism is a huge asset,” the Gateses write. “If you’re optimistic, disappointments are just disappointments. You don’t twist them into evidence that the world is getting worse.”
Their letter this year is framed as a letter to Warren Buffett ten years after he pledged most of his fortune to the Gates Foundation – “the biggest single gift anyone ever gave anybody for anything,” the Gateses note. And where did that fortune – which now funds much of the progress the Gateses document – come from? They provide a piece of the answer when they say to Buffett, “Your success didn’t create your optimism; your optimism led to your success.”
Especially now, it’s not a bad quote to post where you’ll see it often.