I Love: Positivity

July 7, 2014

When I was 12, my best friend’s father passed away suddenly.

I didn’t know him all that well. Sometimes when I slept over he would take us to breakfast at the diner (I always thought he was super cool cause he knew the waitresses, and would make everyone laugh). But we weren’t close. I was a kid, and he was someone else’s dad.

Yet – I still think about him at least two or three times each year.

I remember how happy he always seemed to be to see me, how energetic and positive he was, and that he asked me about soccer every time I saw him (that meant the most).

He used to tell me how great I was going to be and that when I played professionally, he wanted to represent me (he was a lawyer). One time he was doing some work with US Soccer and he gave me a US Soccer pin…again reminding me not to forget him when I made it big.

Like I said, I didn’t spend much time with him, so I can't say he’s the reason I kept pursuing soccer, and I’m not delusional enough to think that he really believed I would make it anywhere (I was like 10 at the time). Sure, I was obsessed with soccer, but I was also pretty obsessed with my Tamagotchi (which I haven’t fed in over 15 years and is probably in a box somewhere commiserating with my other toys and plotting my demise).

I could easily have dropped soccer and become a violinist (if I had any musical talent at all...or liked the violin).

But that is sort of the point. He had little evidence I would even pursue soccer past age 12, and yet also little evidence I wouldn’t. I’m sure he wasn’t dead set invested, hanging his hopes and dreams on my soccer career. But given the amount of people who were utterly apathetic to the fact that I loved soccer, his passion was an anomaly that has stuck with me.

Those few times a year when I think of Mel Narol, I think of the positive light that he shined on my world in the very short amount of time that I spent with him. And how small acts of optimism and positivity can leave an impression long after you’re gone.

Now wait just a moment…

You may be thinking, “but aren’t uber positive people super annoying?”

My response would be, yes...yes they can be. Especially people who seem out of touch with reality, or whose idea of work looks a whole lot like cheerleading.

Positivity though, doesn’t have to ignore reality. It doesn’t need to sugar coat things. All it needs to be is a verbal or nonverbal implication that something is possible.

Consider this scenario. Your team has just gone down a goal late in the game. Shortly after kick off, one of your players makes an 80-yard zigzagging sprint out of his/her zone and goes in hard for a tackle to strip the other team of the ball.

That – to me – is an extraordinary act of positivity.

And it is also happens to be a self-fulfilling prophecy (as is almost everything in life…feel free to mull that one over and then tell me I’m a genius).

That is the true beauty of a positive prediction. It makes positive things more likely to happen.

I first started really thinking about this concept the other day. I had a rough morning with some work, I forgot my computer on the way to our game, hit traffic, almost got into an accident etc…

It was just “one of those days.”

I was talking to someone when I arrived at the stadium and I said, “I’m just having a Murphy’s Law kind of day.”

*Side Note: Murphy’s Law is the concept that anything that can go wrong will go wrong.

It wasn’t until later, when I was reflecting on the things that had gone wrong, and what I could have done better, that I realized not only had I caused each bad event, but all the events were also connected.

More specifically, my attitude about one bad thing had led me to cause another bad thing to happen. I was frustrated with someone when I forgot my computer; I was distracted and rushing when I almost rear-ended another car. You get the idea…bad thoughts breed bad outcomes.

My mom always said that when you set out on a mission of revenge, dig two graves (one being for you...in case you’ve never heard that expression). What I realized the other day is that this concept is universal.

You could call it karma. Or you reap what you sow. But bottom line: The first causality of negative thinking is usually ourselves.

Let’s say someone pisses you off. You get mad and send off an angry email. What good can possibly come from that? Sure you will probably hurt the other person (like they’ve hurt you). But more importantly, you've hurt yourself by sabotaging the relationship. They will probably write back an angry email, which you can then hold up as evidence that they are a bad person and that your first email was warranted… blah blah blah… Nobody wins. Plus, the time you spent writing the email (and then trying to repair the relationship) is time you will never get back.

So basically if you ever took game theory, this is like a three dimensional dilemma in which you have chosen the box with the most negative numbers. (Just to be thorough, I guess this dilemma could have four dimensions and you get marginal satisfaction having doled out a good tongue-lashing.)

But again, bad thoughts lead to ill-thought-out actions which lead to bad outcomes.

Good thoughts - therefore - should lead to good outcomes.

I have often been told that we have a duty to be positive and optimistic towards other people (as a moral obligation, and so we can all achieve more as a group).

But here’s the twist.

I’ve been realizing more and more that the person who benefits most from any positivity I can muster in a tough situation is actually myself.

Letting the little things go, giving someone the benefit of the doubt, looking for the best in people…all seem to make their way back to me. But even if they don’t always, I feel better about life, which makes me happier, which makes me more productive and all sorts of good things. Win, win, win, win…

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m grateful to all the people in my life who have been positive and optimistic and have made great things happen because they believed in me, or themselves, or my team, or in humanity in general.

But what I’m learning now (and maybe this is called growing up) is that I can be my own light, and my own “positive life force” (as Anson would say).