The Goddess of Hope

I make my living with my imagination, so I’m always on the lookout for information about how to do that more successfully. I read books about creativity, about break-through thinking, about solving problems nobody has yet solved.  Thanks to some smart folks, we know, for example, that successful entrepreneurs tend to share three characteristics:

First, they create a lot. Like the legendary Thomas Edison, they churn out the ideas, some silly, some brilliant. Beethoven, Picasso, Frank Lloyd Wright… they each left us a large body of work as they shaped the art of their time. Much of Beethoven’s music is merely pretty, but to get to the Ode to Joy, he was willing to slog through the merely pretty phase.

Second, successful entrepreneurs tend to work at the edge of their expertise, such that a surgeon (Dr. Judah Folkman) rather than an oncologist came up with angiogenesis as an angle for defeating cancer (cutting off a tumor’s blood supply). Working outside your wheelhouse means you have creds in some field, often big creds (Folkman graduated from Harvard Medical School), but you aren’t as invested in the “we’ve always done it that way” limitations surrounding the problem you’re tackling.

Third, successful entrepreneurs tend to be charming people who associate easily with all kinds of other people. You remember these entrepreneurs because they ask interesting questions and actually listen to your answers. This  intensity of focus and friendliness on the part of the entrepreneur means potential funding sources are favorably impressed. For the entrepreneur, a wide circle of acquaintances means they  constantly encounter fresh perspectives, because the janitor, the grad student barrista, and the tech innovator will not view life in the same light.

What strikes me about these magic beans–foraging beyond a developed field of expertise, burning the candle at both ends, keeping in touch with a big bunch of people–is how much easier all of that is to take on if a) you don’t have kids, or b) if you must have kids, then you have somebody else to look after them most of the time.

There are 950 Nobel laureates, only 48 of them are women who won the prize without sharing it with a hubbie (six couples have won). Only 25 Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs (and not a one has a black female CEO).  The US Congress is still not EVEN 25 percent female, and some state legislatures have as few as 15 percent female members (and they tend to be the least productive state legislatures, too).

All of which makes me more hopeful than mad (most days). Why? Because think of all the genius, creativity, and sheer inventive brilliance lurking in the half of the population that heretofore has had fewer opportunities to develop those creds, burn those candles, and establish those wide circles of acquaintance.

We have tremendous untapped potential as close as the girl next door, and increasingly we seem to realize how important it is that she have a chance to be the next successful entrepreneur, or the next anything she wants to be.

What gives you hope these days? Where do you see things moving in a positive direction? Christmas is coming, so I’m back to sending one commenter at $50 Amazon gift e-card.


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15 comments on “The Goddess of Hope

  1. Did you know Clara Schumann had 7 (it might have been 8)children? And she composed as well as her husband did and was MORE innovative than he was? She was friends with Brahms and encouraged him as well. And when Robert had his break down and was in the asylum, she concertized and became the chief bread winner of the family. All this was in the mid-19th century when women NOT doing this kinda thing was a thing. She HAD to earn money and she did what she had to do for her family. The 200th anniversary year of her birth is this year–and she’s FINALLY getting some recognition.

    What gives me hope is women such as Clara Schumann and Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel are finally getting their well deserved recognition and young girls have them to look up to–if they could do it in the 19th century, than THEY can do it in the 21st century! We all need role models and these two ladies are fine examples of what can be accomplished with talent and perseverance.

  2. So much of my professional life has been in stasis since having my children almost five years ago. And I have only two, they were planned, and I was already in my thirties with an established career. I’ve known a number of women who went on a 20 year hiatus during the trenches years of childbearing and caring who went on to do some pretty impressive things.

    But those twenty years are real, and they present a real opportunity cost. The other thing that I did, and I think a lot of women do, is put early limits on what they will pursue because they know motherhood is going to come with a huge cost of time and resources.

    Masha Gessen’s column today in the New Yorker on Yegor Zhukov filled me with hope. I work with people Mr Zhukov’s age. In my experience, speaking collectively, they’re only getting better. We’re doing something right as a species.

  3. I’m always in awe of inventors, because I don’t feel very creative myself. Especially for scientific inventions. Like, who thought up MRI machines?!
    I think so many things are going in the absolutely wrong direction, and the people trying to do the right thing are overwhelmed by the poor behavior of the massive herd. I just hope there are survivors to carry on humanity once we’ve essentially killed the planet.

  4. Wasn’t Hope at the bottom of Pandora’s box? It’s easy to forget in the miseries that go flying past.

    I do not regret the 30 years that raising two high-maintenance kids has taken or the considerable creativity. Not the stuff of Nobel prizes, but necessary nonetheless. And they give me hope. (Also frustration, disappointment, anxiety and joy)

    I also am encouraged by the folks who in the cold, dark season put up lights, in spite of advice to the contrary.

  5. I try to find hope in the backlash we are experiencing. Backlash, by definition comes as a response to change, and I try to hold onto the notion that it is a fear response and not a reset. Time will tell I suppose, but with my husband who came to this country in 1980 as a refugee, my lesbian child, my transgender child, and my own mixed background, things can look bleak for our “demographic”.

  6. With so much negativity thrown at us constantly, it is sometimes hard to see all of the good that is out there. The groups and organizations that have always done good (Salvation Army, Doctors Without Borders, etc.) and continue to do so give me hope. The youngest members of my own family who volunteer and do good for others give me hope.

    I come from a generation that believed women’s issues would have been solved long ago. Women’s Lib didn’t solve everything, it was just a start. But I do see signs that things are better for women than they once were. Of course, they still have a way to go. But I have hope.

  7. My students give me hope.

    I’m a high school teacher at a small urban high school, and my students are immigrants or the children of immigrants, predominantly West Indian. They have such extraordinary resilience, determination, compassion, and humor, in the face of the myriad injustices and realities they confront every day. I hadn’t a tenth of their courage or farsightedness at their age. I am honored every day I get to be in a classroom learning from them. The truth is that they teach me far more than I do them.

    I absolutely despair of my generation and our predecessors, of the US political system, of the international climate, of my own family dynamics–but I believe in them. If we can just give them a foundation, a place to start, they will move the mountains we’ve failed to even see.

  8. I admire those women more than I can say. I would not doubt that their brilliance percentages are even higher than men’s – and they do one of the most important jobs in the world: raise the next generation with a good example of ingenuity and perseverence in front of their kids every day. My parents are both gone but I think of them every day and am still in awe of how good they were.

  9. A yearly meeting held for us home buyers in the foyer of our complex turned out to be noisy and angry.Raised voices from several men toward the visiting agents of the maintenance team and accountants resulted in them also behaving badly.(they also being male).Many concerns about poor work and bad decisions over a period of time had caused a lot of frustration.But this was not the way to go.Then a female voice spoke up and reminded all that all this shouting and aggression would solve nothing and that grown men can sit down and behave.This lady is the oldest and smallest flat owner in the building.My respect goes to her. Go girl go!!!It all calmed down and progress was made.We woman have come far but we still need to press on in our lifetime because some men will not give up male domination and power.Equality that’s all we ask.

  10. I see hope when someone holds a door, let’s you pass ahead of them, or says thank you. I notice that the holiday season brings out the good on people. The food pantry boxes are full, the Community Christmas has generous donations and people seems to be kinder and more tolerant.

    I see joy during the holidays – families putting aside their differences, friends sharing a meal and the smiling faces of those who believe.

    I read this post last night & figured out my response when I walked Rose this morning. Rose found a patch of snow and rolled around & got herself covered in snow. She was so happy- joyful.
    I believe in hope – sometimes it’s looking right at you especially if you believe.

  11. Many mothers are already burning candles at both ends – whether because they work outside of the home or are full time volunteers – in addition to being full time mothers. Or as is often the case, they do everything: mother, housekeep, cook, work, volunteer at school or with extracurricular activities. I do have hope for a future where more men are willing to help out with kids and at home in non-traditional activities. Attitudes are slowly changing with younger generations in that more men are want to and are willing to help out. My father didn’t even know how to operate a washer and dryer until after my parents divorced and he still rarely cooks anything. My husband does all the ironing and a lot of the other laundry duties and we both cook. My son loves to cook and though he isn’t married, he wants to keep cooking. As for laundry, he doesn’t see why anyone else should do his clothing. Many of the young people these days do believe that marriage is a partnership and every chore should be shared. I’ve know a lot of couples where the man is more likely to take time off, or work from home when a child is sick. They were in short supply when my kids were young about 20 years ago. These may only be small signs of improvement according to some people, but I see them as a cause to hope for our future.

  12. My 3 great-nephews and 2 great-nieces give my hope for the future (tho the youngest is only 6 weeks). I hope we can all do as much as we can to leave them a world that looks out for others less fortunate, that cooperates in positive environmental efforts, and shares the joys of music, education and reading.

  13. I act and sing in a holiday show every year, and the cast is comprised of such a diverse set of people that it amazes me how well we all get along. Some of us are wildly progressive (personally guilty of this one), and some are very church-y and very conservative. But we all love to sing, and we all come together to put on a fantastic show, regardless — or maybe because of — our differences. This small, yearly act of collaboration gives me hope. If people with such different backgrounds and beliefs can work so well together on a small scale, surely there is hope on a larger scale, even in such a divided time. I hope so, anyway.