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Optimism as an Asset

February 24, 2017, 3:02 PM UTC

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:

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.

What We're Reading Today

Waymo accuses Uber and Otto of stealing data
Otto founder Anthony Levandowski worked for Google's self driving car unit, now known as Waymo. The company accuses him of downloading 14,000 confidential files before quitting and starting Otto, the self-driving truck company bought by Travis Kalanick's Uber last year. Uber says it will review the allegations. Fortune

GM helps shape self-driving car regulations
When Illinois state Rep. Michael Zalewski introduced legislation allowing car makers to run self-driving taxi services, he had help from Mary Barra's company. The bill applies only to companies that manufacture their own vehicles, like GM. But GM says lawmakers make the decisions, and it's working with Uber and Waymo to create language they all support.  WSJ

The reason for Snap owners' hyper-strong control 
As Snap prepares for an IPO, investors wonder why founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy will hold virtually total voting power. The reason might harken back to a control battle with one of Snap's earliest investors, venture capital firm Lightspeed Venture Partners. NYT

Building Better Leaders

If you're angry about your workplace... your thoughts in a constructive manner. Determine the real reason you're angry, then frame a response that will connect with the person you're angry at.  Fast Company

Millennials aren't rewarded for staying in one job
Contrary to popular belief, millennials are switching jobs less than previous generations, even though employers have stopped offering pay hikes to millennials who stick around. Fortune

Only 8% of corporate reorganizations...
...produce the expected results and create value within the expected time.  Harvard Business Review

Trump's Latest

Chief of staff Reince Priebus asked the FBI... refute reports that some of President Trump's closest confidants were communicating with Russian intelligence agents during the campaign. The conversation between Priebus and deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe has angered Democrats, who say it violates laws limiting communication between the administration and law enforcement agencies during an open investigation. Fortune

Trump meets with manufacturers
Trump convened 24 manufacturing leaders, including Dow Chemical's Andrew Liveris, General Electric's Jeffrey Immelt, and Lockheed Martin's Marillyn Hewson. During the public portion of the meeting, he attacked trade deals and vowed to punish companies that move jobs overseas. Bloomberg

Bannon speaks at CPAC
In his first speech since the inauguration, White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon said the administration is on track and is dedicated to the "deconstruction of the administrative state.” He said Trump aims to fulfill every pledge he made during the campaign. Washington Post

Fortune Reads and Videos

Trump says he saved $1 billion on Air Force One jets, but...
...the Air Force doesn't know where that figure comes from. Fortune

J.C. Penney to close 140 stores... comparable sales fall 0.7%. Fortune 

Google challenges Apple's Siri... a text message dictation challenge. Fortune

Quote of the Day

"Celebrate endings - for they precede new beginnings." -- Jonathan Lockwood Huie  Tiny Buddha


Produced by Ryan Derousseau