Avoid Following Negativity

In an old episode of “Taxi” (yes, it’s from long ago and my memory is a bit sketchy — but the point is correct), Alex wanted to search for his long lost daughter who he had just found out lived in a nearby city — he just didn’t know exactly where. Elaine said he should just go there and start asking around. “Do you know how big that city is?”, Alex asked Elaine. Without looking up, Reverend Jim answered from a distant corner, “24.2 square miles.” Alex and Elaine looked in shock at Jim, but thought it best not to divert the discussion. “Well then go through the phone book and see where she lives,” Elaine insisted. “Elaine, do you know how many people there are in that city with the same last name as my daughter?” Again, Reverend Jim answered without looking up, “6,435”. Now Alex’s and Elaine’s curiousity got the most of them. “Jim, how do you know all this stuff?”, Alex asked.

Jim looked up in amazement. “Was I right?”

My point here is that Jim’s ridiculous answers to some impossible questions were readily accepted by Alex, Elaine and the viewing audience — which is what made the joke so funny. But the only reason everyone trusted him was because his answers were specific and delivered with confidence.

What’s this have to do with following negativity?

Well, today’s economic climate has people scrambling all over looking for answers and we’re willing to listen to anyone who has specific information and a confident tone. Trouble is, two people giving specifics in a confident tone can still have opposite opinions — in fact, they can disagree completely. Doesn’t matter though, because no opinion is right. They’re just opinions. After listening to a sample of prognosticators for an hour, your head will be spinning and you’ll be more confused than ever.

So why are we scrambling? What’s with this pent up nervous energy over the economy?

I think it’s because most people are followers, and they’re listening to and believing in the negativity. They see others worried about their jobs, losing their homes, and pinching pennies at the stores and they do the same. And then one person tells ten people, who tell ten people, who tell . . .

But should we be so frightened? Should this negative news affect us? I don’t think so. Sure, losing a job is no vacation, and losing your home can be crushing. But fearing it, well, that just does nothing to help and, in fact, it hurts. Yet people find it hard to avoid fear simply because so many people are experiencing it — and talking about it.

But why follow the lead of others? Why believe without question what they say, much like Alex, Elaine and the audience believed that Jim knew what he was talking about? Why start making negative plans (ie if I lose my job, then I’ll . . . ) when there’s no guarantee you’ll need them? Why not make positive plans?

Hmmm. Positive plans. Sounds good, right? And with a majority of people bracing from the current state of the world, the time is right for the go-getters to go get. Opportunity is out there, it really is. I know because we just picked up two new accounts in one month, and our calls are rising because we’re out there with a positive face. Plus, we’re hiring. How many companies can say that?

You know what others in our industry do when they hear my news and my outlook? They tell others — in disbelief — who in turn tell others, who tell others, etc. This news tends to lead to a small percentage of go-getters contacting us, mainly because they look to partner with those who are succeeding rather than those who are failing.

So while (according to the experts) the economy is failing, consumer confidence is zip, unemployment is growing, foreclosures are at an all time high and people are just anxious, look on the bright side.

You’re here. Your family is here. The country is here. The world is here. All the rest is just details for you to make the most of — just like two years ago when nobody was panicking. Sure, the situation has changed. But the game is the same.

So go out and play to win. Have fun. Enjoy.

And trust that you’ll make it. You always have, and you always will.


  1. February 26, 2009

    Anytime you can get Taxi into a blog post, you deserve a hand. Top 5 sit-coms of all time.

  2. February 27, 2009

    Great post! So eloquently articulated and true. I wish more people would approach the current economic situation with the same positivity. I’ve seen people whose circumstances really haven’t been affected make serious changes in their behavior – it makes no sense. And worrying never gets us anywhere. Thanks for the dose of optimism and charge!

  3. Mary
    February 27, 2009

    I really appreciate this article and your positive outlook on life. I can’t even watch the news lately because all they do is talk about the failing economy. They have such a negative outlook on everything that I find that watching it makes me depressed! It’s refreshing to hear someone be so upbeat! Hopefully, your positivity will continue to rub off on others. If everyone (especially the mainstream media) could focus on the good and positive things in life (such as the cheaper gas prices because of the failing economy) the world would be a happier/better place!

  4. EStreet
    February 27, 2009

    You and your article remind me of Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” theory which is to be successful is to be remarkable and to be remarkable you must stand out. His book did claim that markets are largely satisfied and to be noticed you must be remarkable. Times have changed since he wrote his book and we’re in a completely different economy but I think his ideas hold true even when the perception is bad. So, keep being the purple cow because it will only bring you more success!

  5. Candice
    April 3, 2009

    I really love this article. Positive outlooks can bring you so much further then negative ones. This article reminds me of a story I just ran across:

    When things in your life seem almost too much to handle, when 24 hours in a day are not enough, remember the mayonnaise jar and the 2 cups of coffee:

    A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

    The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar.. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

    The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with an unanimous “yes.”

    The professor then produced two cups of coffee from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

    “Now,” said the professor as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things—God, your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions—and if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

    The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car.

    The sand is everything else—the small stuff. “If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

    “Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness: Play with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first—the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

    One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the coffee represents. The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked.

    It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of cups of coffee with a friend.”