Radical Optimism for 2023?

Phil Circle
6 min readFeb 8, 2023
Catching the sunet in Santa Monica

As we’ve moved into February, and because I haven’t reached out since last year, I wanted to start with…

Happy New Year!

Never too late to wish everyone some happiness, right?

This sounds like a nicety, but that’s because I’m perpetually positive these days. My optimism doesn’t derive from some positive mental attitude platitude. That’s not character driven, it’s more culture driven, and that’s how I feel it can become an empty nicety. We have to live it, not just say it. I decided to address this with this latest “what’s happening” shoutout.

By the way, join my email list through my main page to receive these directly.

First, I’d like to wish you and yours a victorious 2023, full of the kinds of challenges that give you growth and opportunity, the kind of wins that inspire those around you, and the best health you’ve ever had. I’m talking about that powerful triad of mental, physical and spiritual health. Spirit is many things, so please make of it what you like.

Okay, now to address of my radical optimism…

I’m going to be 57 in April. I have allergies, asthma which has advanced to COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), diverticulosis, a mildly arthritic back, and just had my left hip replaced to complete the pair. My right was done 10 years ago. I’ve had pancreatitis 3 times, fatty liver disease, two emergency surgeries, 3 broken bones, and did my obligatory Irish Gypsy (Sinti) Musician battle with alcohol and addiction, along with other mental health challenges. I’ve been hospitalized more times than I can reasonably count, starting at about age 9. Unless you count that I came into this world by way of an 18-day stint in an incubator. I was born prematurely and promptly turned blue upon arrival. Still, last year, I determined I would achieve the best mental and physical health I’ve ever had. I’m seeing this unfold.

Prior to surgery for my hip, my new primary care physician had to sign off on it. He did so with the standard use of chest x-rays, blood work, an EKG, and complete physical. After the heart monitor spit out its report, I was asked, “Are you an athlete?” I had to chuckle. No. He said my EKG was perfect. We then went over my blood work. When he heard that I’d had pancreatitis and liver disease, he appeared astounded, and said, “You’re healthier than most people I know.” Part of me wanted to jokingly ask if he got the right person’s blood test, but I’ve stopped habitually downgrading myself.

And this wasn’t just because I have some killer constitution. There was an effort made. Somewhere in the fog of time known as the pandemic, I was meeting by video with my pulmonologist (lung doctor). We were talking about better management of my COPD and asthma. I asked about adjusting my medicines. He shook his head and said, “The best thing you can do for your lungs and your back is lose that COVID weight,” and went on to tell me how he’s back at his high school weight after dieting. He’s like 80 years old, and in fact just retired. Well, if he can do it! Insurance hooked me up with a wellness coach and we came up with a sensible, doable plan. That is, something I could reasonably integrate into my day to day life without falling prey to my own extremist behavior, which is bad for anybody, but especially for recovered addict types. I’d been using some simple stretches and exercises that loosely resembled yoga, for my back. I looked up a few simple things I could add. My coach helped to keep me accountable. Taking pictures of your food really makes you think twice about grabbing that Snickers bar in the grocery line! By the time I moved to Los Angeles last August, I had dropped from 222 pounds to 183. At no time did I beat myself up, live on prune juice, or scramble up and down 12 flights of stairs with a truck tire on my back. It all was a simple, gradual, smart integration of better habits into my life.

This is meant to illustrate that my bold optimism is based on an understanding that my actions are what carry me through. I’m radically optimistic because I’m confident I can gradually, with dedication, focus, and sometimes withstanding some pain or discomfort, create the change I want to see in my world. And, as you may have picked up on previously if you read my stuff, I believe that my individual happiness is connected to helping others find theirs. And that as each of us finds our happiness in the world, our place in it, we will actually see more instances of peaceful coexistence.

John F. Kennedy kinda nailed it at a commencement speech not long before he died. He said that humans create war, therefore, humans can create peace. The tragedy of his life is that he was assassinated. The victory of his life is that he left enough speeches and influenced enough people to leave a legacy for positive change. For instance, Lindon Johnson followed through on Kennedy’s promises by leading the way through to the 15th Amendment. It’s worth pointing out that both of these men were also highly flawed. So, we don’t need to find perfection in ourselves before we move our lives towards successes, or work to make things better. Radical optimism is something we should have about our own abilities, especially our ability to grow as individuals. I remind myself of this daily.

Winning in life is very much about being undefeated. As I’ve sat mostly immobile for the last couple months, leading up to and through my surgery, I’ve had to be very good at accepting when things are out of my control. I’ve done this partly by recognizing that once I’m in my best health, I’ll have the energy to do more. I’ll also be free of the massive energy drain of chronic pain and uncertainty. I’ve also been working towards dealing with all of this, by understanding the first sentence of this paragraph. I ingrain it in my life.

Being undefeated has a lot to do with not giving up, more than the actual win. Through the endless process of living life, if we’re determined to never give up on ourselves, we are essentially winning all the time. The process is our growth.

So, I’m recovering pretty well. I’ve moved from a walker back to my cane and now I’m only using that outside the house. I’m doing everything on the timeline that my physical therapist has given me. I’m doing what my physical body lets me and tells me. I’m allowing my mental health the space it needs to function well, and focusing my spirit on whatever I can do to be of service to others. In this last area, I’ve got pretty quick access to figuring out being of service. I’m a coach. And I love it. But I also try to let my responses to people in general be something that’s motivated by the question: How am I creating value in my life and for those around me?

As I step back into my fully active life, I’m on a mission. I have two music schools with rosters that have dwindled. I’m dedicated to filling both schools with students. In fact, if I want them to stay open, it’s an absolute necessity. But I want them to be filled with students who will benefit completely from the methods my fellow teachers and I use. To help that along, we’re going to be doing some open group coaching sessions and workshops. We’ll be connecting the Chicago and Los Angeles locations via Zoom to combine both schools. And if you’re on any of the social platforms I’m on, you may have noticed an uptick in content. This will continue. I have a lot to share. Especially if it helps. I hope this has.

What have I done for you lately? How may I be of service? Let me know.

It’s sure easier to move life forward when it’s not just about oneself.

I’ll see you out there.

Peace and music.

-Phil

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Phil Circle

Phil Circle is an award-winning singer-songwriter, author and coach, native Chicagoan who lives in Los Angeles, and founder of Phil Circle Music in both cities.