Monday, September 30, 2013

Angela Watkins Interviews David Mezzapelle: Author of Contagious Optimism

Author Interview . David Mezzapelle . Contagious Optimism . Positive Thinking . Uplifting Stories . Motivational Advice . Personal Growth . Frequent Contributor to the Wall Street Journal . Personal Growth . Talents . Career

When I talked with David Mezzapelle, (who is a frequent contributor to the 'Wall Street Journal') over the telephone, I told him that I would like to have a copy of his book. He told me that he would have the publishing company sent me a complimentary copy, so I don't have an autographed copy of his book.

1. What advice would you offer to individuals, groups, businesses, and or Christian ministries in dealing with a fast paced society in this economic slump?

Nowadays many people have lost confidence in themselves and the world around them due to personal hardship along with economic and political uncertainty worldwide. I believe that hearing stories about how others have persevered can inspire and motivate others to regain the happiness, confidence, and zeal for life that they may have lost. It is a powerful, hopeful thing to know that one can emulate the outcome of someone else who was in a similar situation or lived during a similar time. Combine that with faith to produce a new, positive lifestyle.

For people in a good place, sometimes hearing about how others have persevered is a means of making you appreciate life and count your blessings.

2. How would you offer encouraging word/words to those who see negative issues from the lower management to the higher management to CEO's of Corporations?

For both lower management and upper management, I would advise them to be empathic and patient with their teams and understand that they may be going through tough times. I would then advise them to have informal meetings with their teams and let those people “vent” whatever is bothering them – both personally and professionally. When an executive brings his or herself down to a friendly, personal level with their staff, it makes everyone comfortable and allows for dialogue. Once dialogue commences, you will immediately notice positive results. Finally, I would want to expose people to the stories of how others have persevered. Just look at it this way, when people are enduring bad times, just knowing that others have been in the same boat and have persevered is comforting. It spreads a message of hope.

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3. Explain in detail the creation of Optimism Contagious Book Project and where did it originate from?

Growing up the youngest, I spent a lot of time with older relatives and family friends. I was always amazed by their stories - across a variety of life's themes. When I look back, I notice that all their stories have three common elements: 1) They start with adversity or some type of obstacle. 2) There is perseverance along the way. 3) They all end with wisdom that was gained and ultimately shared with others. As I have gotten older, I have always wished that I had captured those stories. I frequently say to myself, "what I wouldn't give to hear those stories again today."
When my alma mater, Fairfield University in Connecticut, had been asking me to consider writing a book on optimism and positive thinking in business, I finally said “yes.” However, I was more interested in having the book reflect stories from many people around the globe, not just me. And, the book would have to reflect many of life’s themes, not just business.

That is how Contagious Optimism came to be.

4. How would you encourage those dealing with personal hardship during this economical & political uncertainty on a global basis as well in the USA?

It all starts with gratitude. You need to be grateful for everything in your life. If you are not grateful for the good things, you will never be satisfied when they are staring you in the face. Count your blessings and take inventory of the good around you. You also need to be grateful for the hardships, the obstacles, the failures. Why? Because these are the points of wisdom in your life. They give you strength, they teach you how to persevere, and they form your resilience. Being thankful for every step makes life’s hardships surmountable. All of this is the foundation of optimism; finding the silver lining in every cloud, applying it today or yesterday with the confidence that tomorrow will be better.

5. I believe that we all have stories as well that can inspire and motivate others across many of life's issues. What is your most inspiring story that you can share? What is the most inspiring story that you know about of others?
One example is my little league story dating back a few years. I hit a triple with bases loaded at our championship. It was the bottom of the last inning and we were losing by two. As a result of my triple we won the game and the championship. But understand that for years I was an average player, constantly working hard to be a star but never being more than average. This drove me crazy. However, this game was different. I finally realized, while walking up to the batter’s box, that our mind has to be in harmony with our effort. I convinced myself of this and WHAM, I hit the triple. I was very young at the time but never forgot that ah-ah moment. On a separate note, my father was out of the country at the time and was not supposed to be at the game. However, after that triple, he came running down the bleachers. I could not believe he was there and saw all this. My mom knew he was coming but wanted to surprise me.
Another example was years later while running my company. We were heavily supporting tech companies in the late 90s. When the tech bubble burst in 2000 we were hit hard. I had to make some quick decisions and certainly think positive about our options. I immediately thought that we should focus on other industries not affected by the tech bubble. I advised our accounting department to send credit memos for free products and services to large and mid-size organizations that I felt would be a safe bet. Most of them responded and could not believe we were giving away credit. This worked extremely well and we came back stronger than ever.

For me, the bottom line is that you need to find opportunity in every obstacle you come across. If not, adversity will stunt your growth – personally or professionally.

There are two stories I would like to share from our book.

The first is called “Prom Drive.” Meet Allison Frattaroli and Sasha Clark from New Canaan, CT:
Allison went shopping for a prom dress last spring, a rite-of-passage for teenagers every year. Amongst all the excitement, Allison realized that many girls can’t afford these dresses… which means that many girls are probably not going to their prom. Instead of doing nothing about it, Allison and her friend Sasha had a bright idea. They decided to start a prom drive by collecting pre-owned dresses, shoes, and accessories for underprivileged girls so that they too can attend their prom. As we all know, prom dresses and bridesmaid dresses usually get worn once and then are never worn again. So, Allison and Sasha formed a team of their friends and the staff from Kids Helping Kids, a nonprofit organization and together they made Prom Drive a reality. And due to its overwhelming success in the first week, prom drive will continue every year and is spreading around the country. It’s wonderful that these two girls combined their hearts, their brains, and some common sense to create a free service that can make so many people so happy. Altruism at its finest!

The second is called “Saving Strides.” Meet Myrtle Newsam from Raleigh, NC:
Homeless, suffering from congestive heart failure and on the verge of losing both her feet due to diabetes, Myrtle found her way in and out of shelters just to survive. And, even though most people would give up, Myrtle kept her strength through optimism, faith, and music.

A day finally came where her perseverance paid off. She met a social worker in a shelter that ultimately connected her to a new doctor. And after many years of lackluster medical attention, Myrtle finally found an empathetic doctor that gave her proper care and drove her back to a healthier condition. He also prescribed respite care so she can live in a safe, clean, and stable environment while recovering. From there, she connected with a church that ultimately hired her to write and sing Gospel music.

Today, Myrtle has her own apartment, a terrific job with the church and gospel music industry, and is surrounded by people that care about her.

6. Many others, as well as myself, have/is persevering from enduring good as well as bad times. How would you offer some advice, encouragement advice during the bad times?

You have nothing to lose from being positive versus the stress you will definitely gain from being negative. Knowing you are not alone during times of adversity is important. It is a comfort to know that others have been through it as well. Understand what they did to surmount the obstacles. Every obstacle and every adversity that you endure forms your personal database of wisdom. That database becomes the backbone of your resiliency. Whether you’re enduring financial problems, relationships problems, health problems, etc. it is always temporary. Picture the silver lining and the long-term results. Once you do that consistently, you will realize that tomorrow is close by.

7. How would you offer advice to show others how to FIND silver linings in every cloud?

Use Positive Forward Thinking. Positive forward thinking is the ability to find the silver lining in every cloud, apply it to today or yesterday, and be hopeful that tomorrow will be better. Imagine surgery; you are nervous going in. You think the worse and you just can’t wait for it to be over. Take all that and start visualizing what the point of the surgery is. What the results of the procedure will deliver. The goal is good, it’s only today that may seem rough. And most surgeries have better outcomes when the patient is relaxed going in.

Think about divorce. In most cases, your life leading up to a divorce is difficult. There is tension, fighting, and many other negative aspects. But consider life after the divorce. Things are more at ease. There is the excitement of new beginnings. In many cases, including myself, ex-spouses can have a more friendly relationship now that the stressful home life is over.

Last, picture a student studying for a grueling exam. It may seem like the end of the world trying to prepare and memorize all this information. But take that energy and picture what your degree can do for your life, for your future. Like anything else, working hard will always deliver results. Life is not a lottery. It’s what you make of it.

8. What happened in your life or the live of those that you have interviewed or know of that placed the motivation to
create and write such an inspirational book such as Optimism Contagious?

See #3 above.

9. How did you come to interview real people around the globe and gain stories of triumph with advice and guidance from businesses leaders, visionaries, and professionals?

I felt that each reader can enjoy and possibly relate to our real-life coauthors. At the same time, I felt that by adding insight and guidance from professionals that we would be delivering the tools necessary to help our readers achieve happiness, encouragement and optimism.

10. How have you been able to stay so positive and confident?

I have always been the type that finds wisdom and/or opportunity in every obstacle, every mistake, and every misfortune. For example, I would get excited about a market crash because of my contrarian ideals. I would get excited about most mistakes because of the insight I gained. But most of all, being exposed to people’s stories made me count my blessings and appreciate life for what it is.

11. Do you have or will you offer any advice to those that want to create their own book, whether eBook or paper back/hard copy book?

Absolutely. I have always found that many writers tend to think about what entertains or enlightens them when they put the “pen to the paper.” If you want a book, or anything else to be successful, you need to put yourself in the minds of potential readers. Consider what they want. To me, one of the best compliments an author can receive is when a reader tells them that they can’t put the book down or can’t wait to read it again.

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