Idealism is…

I had the great good fortune to interview Michael Brown, co-founder and CEO of City Year, for a forthcoming book on meta-leadership. City Year is a volunteer service agency that deploys corps of young people to assist with worthy projects in 20 cities. It gives these youth the chance to garner valuable experience and share their invaluable energy and spirit. It was an inspiring 90 minutes.

You’ll have to wait for the book for the real skinny on the full interview but I have to share this one nugget: Brown said that inspiration is a skill set, not a mind set.

What he meant was that idealism is attitude in action. It is not simply optimism or a dreamy-eyed reach for the stars: idealism involves a commitment and concrete steps toward realizing the potential of one’s vision. Idealism is doing.

I have more than 10 pages of notes that are going to be great additions to the book. One of the things that I liked best about Brown was that he offered the books that inspired him, and his co-founder Alan Khazei, without having to be asked. Among them was Joseph Campbell’s The Power of Myth (both the PBS series and the book). I’m going to revisit that one.

I have long been a City Year enthusiast and a believer in national service. I’m sorry that I am too old to have taken advantage of the program but am happy and proud to be a supporter.

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