Need a new outlook? Naperville teen's book emphasizes optimism
A book by a Naperville teen contains a message the virus-weary world might do well to hear. It's about positivity.
"Generation Optimism: Creating the Next Generation of Doers & Dreamers" is based on the life experiences of 18-year-old author Juan David Campolargo, as well as interviews and research about the power of a rosy outlook.
A senior at Benet Academy in Lisle who moved to Naperville when he was 14, Juan David has used optimism since his early days in Venezuela -- first to overcome grief and later to learn new languages. But he says he fears others in his Generation Z cohort are falling too far into fear, anxiety and pessimism.
"When you're pessimistic, you are complacent," he said. "When you are complacent, you're lazy. When you're lazy, you do nothing."
Optimistic people, by contrast, are "ambitious and happy, courageous and adaptable," he said last fall during a TEDx talk he gave at a speaker conference in Naperville.
"I see optimism as the only way to solve the problems and challenges in the future," Juan David said.
The power of optimism entered Juan David's life after his father's death. In a TEDx talk he gave last fall in Durango, Colorado, he told how he was in the car with his father in Venezuela when his dad was shot to death.
"Everyone thought I was going to be traumatized for the rest of my life and that I wasn't going to be a 'normal kid,'" Juan David wrote on his website. "Well, they were right, I'm definitely not normal. I'm just a crazy kid. Just a crazy kid who wants to inspire people to change the world."
And with optimism, Juan David says, people feel inspired to take action.
Optimism helped in his own life again, he said, when he came to America with his mother and younger sister, not speaking a word of English. In six months, he said, he was able to learn the language -- his fourth, as he also speaks Spanish, Portuguese and Chinese.
"For me, optimism is part of my identity," he said during his Naperville TEDx talk.
His book aims to make that a truth for more young people, even during an age of concern over school shootings or climate change or the spread of the new coronavirus.
"I'd rather believe that we're going to solve all of these challenges with the coronavirus than think that nothing's going to happen and we're all going to die," he said. "Realistically and statistically, we're likely going to survive, so why would I spend the energy thinking otherwise?"
Writing "Generation Optimism" took Juan David roughly a year, with guidance and help finding a publisher from Eric Koester at Georgetown University, who is known as "the book professor" for his goal to create 10,000 new authors.
One highlight of the writing process, Juan David said, was interviewing Dallas Mavericks owner and "Shark Tank" entrepreneur Mark Cuban to learn his advice about optimism.
"He was super nice," Juan David said.
"Generation Optimism" is available on Amazon as its author plans his next steps.
Juan David said he is waiting to hear back from colleges to which he applied. He plans to study engineering or statistics, both of which he said can help with his goal of starting businesses. He also said he plans to write another book, this one about the future of marketing.
As students adjust to online learning and the cancellation of regular school activities because of the new coronavirus, Juan David has one more piece of advice: Adapt.
"Intelligence is the ability to adapt," he said.
"We as a society, we as citizens of the world need to adapt and become more optimistic."