By Summers McKay
First and foremost, let me thank you for being the most engaged and committed audience I have ever worked with. We are so very grateful to have readers like you who open, read, and share our stories at unprecedented levels. You are why we work!
Long ago, I made a commitment to tell good stories, and create work that inspired and affected positive change in the world. I made this decision, early in my storytelling career, when I was faced with some of the worst of the worst in media.
As a reality TV producer in the early 2000s, I was working on projects that were family-friendly, positive competition shows in the automotive world.
The brother and sisterhood of local racing teams inspired me as I traveled the country, interviewing and sharing their stories. We were creating some of the first digital media video stories and hosted the first online casting sessions with audience voting. These positive shows made little money for our production company, as networks did not believe in paying reality producers very well, but everyone was paid enough to get by and we liked what we did.
My company wanted to expand by adding new stories and shows to our roster. I was named Head of Business Development and had the chance to shape how our business grew. I knew that in order to gain bigger budgets and opportunities with larger networks, I needed to find a project that would make waves! So, through a dear friend (and spin instructor), I connected with one of Los Angeles’ hottest up and coming burlesque troupes, The Lalas Burlesque.
These stunning and sensational women were on the way up in the dramatic, sexy, and compelling world of professional dance. Their choreographer and owner was a young, gorgeous, brilliant, and fierce businesswoman who led with heart, kindness, and strict professionalism. These women were kind to one another, and had a sisterhood, much like what I loved about my automotive racing days. To me, The Lalas Burlesque was the perfect “world” in which to develop a series.
I gave my word that the show would be about the positive and inspiring sides of their business, and the dancers in The Lalas let me into their world, their social lives, and their backstage experiences. We filmed a gorgeous pilot presentation at the request of a network and presented it to the team who could greenlight our show.
What happened next changed my career and my life.
The network executive watched the presentation in silence. Then he turned to me and said, “I need more footage of the girls fighting in costume backstage.” More nudity, more drama, more anger.
“Don’t some of these girls hate each other?” he asked. “Are there ever cat-fights? Come back to me when you are ready to show me something more like Real Housewives. I don’t need a fairy tale about gorgeous women being nice to one another. That’s just not real!”
The problem was, it was in fact real. I would not manufacture a different version of their story or their lives just to fascinate viewers. I could not create a negative, pessimistic version of what was truly inspiring and optimistic. I went home, sat with my values, and made a decision. If that was what was required of me to grow in my career as a television producer, I was out. And I did precisely that.
I quit my position at the company, enrolled in business school, and set out to chart a career in positive, uplifting, and profitable business – whatever that would be.
While in school, I created a vision board for the professional future I wanted to have and composed my own call to action and personal mission statement.
“Turn my passion for love, inspiration, adventure, healing, and learning into a successful and lucrative career.”
And so I set out to make that happen over the next decade.
Nine months ago, I came upon an opportunity with The Optimist Daily. Like you, I was looking for solutions in today’s media world, and when I was invited by the business founders to help create a roadmap to sustainability for The Optimist Daily, I jumped at the chance. After collaborating for half a year, I was promoted to the position of CEO of the company – delightfully concurrent with the birth of my first baby girl. And that’s where you find us today. I am here and ready to serve Optimists, and to inspire and empower you with the solutions our editorial team finds. You see, we know that the world deserves better than the traditional, negative media strategy of networks – raising our emotional temperatures by manipulating stories and appealing to our darkest selves. I am so incredibly grateful that this is not my role or the focus at The Optimist Daily. We do things differently here. We are going to change the world by changing consciousness.
This is why I want to thank you again. Thank you, readers, for helping me live out my dream to make this world a better place. Thank you to those of you who have been able to commit to becoming an Emissary and helping to fund The Optimist Daily.
If I have one call to action to ask of you all, it’s as follows:
Make your commitment to Share Something Good every single day. Everyday look around this world for optimism, for solutions, for a way to prove that doing good is good business and stick with us. We need your help as readers, as emissaries, and as optimists in this world.
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