Kathy Sierra’s post today on anger and negativity being bad for your brain, with a detailed breakdown – I must confess, it’s very long, but I was riveted and read every word – is well worth the read. I have no word of disagreement with her, my own experience in living with an angry/negative/unhappy/depressed person for a mercifully few short years taught me enough to recognize the truth of what she’s saying. In fact, I’m surprised that any would leave a comment to the contrary on her blog. OTOH, I might just politely point out that it’s Gandhi, not Ghandi 🙂 but that’s just nitipicking.
Anyhoo, I thought to take things one step further, as I was reading her post, it struck me how well it articulates the concepts and rationale behind my far more simplistic theory, or approach to life but now that she’s written it, how well it grounds my outlook.
I’ve always believed this, and try to exemplify it in my daily life, to the best of my ability to do so, that there’s a step beyond being just positive or optimistic. It’s an approach based on the concept of abundance, an abundance mentality*, if you will, one that believes that the more you give away, the more you have. And most of you who’ve met me have heard me say this at some point or the other.
As Kathy says, it’s not just simplistic concepts of ‘being happy’ (go read her post, I say) or the glass being half full or half empty. It’s a way of thinking, of being, that genuinely believes there’s more than enough to go around, that one person’s joy or success does not imply another’s loss or sorrow. In fact, that is the opposite of abundance, the scarcity mentality. The belief that if you get a job, it’s one less chance for me.
I was first struck by this conundrum about two years ago in Chicago. I had just begun a search for a way to leave my then position, and was talking on the phone to a still unemployed (then) business school classmate of mine in Pittsburgh. When I’d told him that I was going to an interview that week, he said "But you already have a job" in a tone that implied it wasn’t fair, since he had been looking for close onto a year by then. I asked him how he thought my looking for a job in marketing would affect his chances in programming? That was when I first realized that here was a person who genuinely believed that there were only X number of jobs (or whatever) in the world, sort of like one for each one, and once you had one you shouldn’t try for another just in case it hurt someone else’s chances. Or at least it seemed that way from the rest of our conversation (it was one of our few last ones by then) that day.
And I’ve talked about this concept before in The Design Thinker’s Dilemma, in a corporate strategy, business competition kind of way but it’s a mindset that applies to all parts of life. It’s a philosophy of life. It’s a value system, a set of fundamental beliefs, and who would say that all of those do not colour our approach to the way we do business?
That’s why it was such a pleasure to have read Ms Sierra’s post and find the concepts and frameworks with which to articulate one’s philosophical outlook on life. She says,
Of course it’s still a myth that "happy people" don’t get angry. Of
course they do. Anger is often an appropriate response. But there’s a
Grand Canyon between a happy-person-who-gets-angry and an
unhappy-angry-person. So yes, we get angry. Happiness is not our only
emotion, it is simply the outlook we have chosen to cultivate because
it is usually the most effective, thoughtful, healthy, and productive.
And what I have learnt, and am learning, is to do what Robert Scoble is doing – the seed that started Ms Sierra’s post in fact, which is, learning to recognize those who are a drain on our energies, and learning then to let them go out of our lives so that there is room for abundance, and thus, happiness, in our lives.
ps. I know some of you will get cavities after reading this, go brush your teeth, I say 🙂
* I don’t agree wholly with their step by steps but the basic concept is all there.