(Issue #527) Criticism and Your Counterfactual


 “I am aware that I am less than some people prefer me to be,
but most people are unaware that I am so much more than what they see.”

― 
Douglas Pagels, author—

An American journalist observed that “a critic is one who walks down the hill, after the battle is over, and shoots the wounded.”

If you spend any time on social media, watching the “news,” or attending community gatherings (in person or virtually), you have witnessed your share of critics and their volleys. Some attempt to educate; some to pontificate; some to initiate; and, still others, to irritate.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli. ©2019

Perhaps you have seen some of the posts that say something to the effect of, “If you ever wondered what you might have done during slavery, the Holocaust, [fill in the blank], you’re doing it now.”

One writer judged (criticized?) these “exhortations” this way,

…I’m almost certain such exhortations make people less likely to take constructive action. It’s the sort of message that makes you feel as if the only response to a crisis … is to quit your job and dedicate your life, and life savings, to the cause. Or at least to spend all of your free time on it. Suddenly, whatever little thing you might have actually done – a small donation here, a protest march or petition-signing there – seems so pathetic as to be worthless. So you end up doing less, in response to a serious situation, than if you hadn’t been persuaded it was so serious.

A more useful message, though it lacks the drama of the original, would be to “choose the right counterfactual”. In other words, compare your actions with what you otherwise might have done – not some ideal world in which you became Mahatma Gandhi. If the real choice is between a small action and nothing, that small action is far from pathetic….Ask what you might have done today, if this issue had never arisen. And then make sure you do at least a little more than that.

What or where is your counterfactual? That is, rather than comparing your actions to someone else’s idealized version of what “should” be done, where and how can you make a difference?


Video Recommendations for the Week

“Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou


Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.

My new book has been released.
eBook ($2.99) Paperback ($9.99). Click here.

Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit.

Well, actually, my dog Roxie gets top billing on the author page for this work. Without her, there would be no story.
Click here for more information about the book.

In the meantime, check out her blog.

And you can still order:

  • My book, Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019), (print and e-book) is available on More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
  • Check out my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). It has been adopted for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes. I conducted (September 2019) a half-day workshop for a community college’s new faculty onboarding program using the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.

My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network®.

You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

©2020. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®

 

Posted in Life lessons | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

(Issue #526) Grateful For …


I had to stop this week and remind myself….

Do a Google search for “how the pandemic has change our lives” and you will come up with more than 143 million hits.  It’s become cliché to speak about the “new normal.” Here in June, we long for what we might have considered mundane back in March.

We miss what was and no longer is.

Life has changed, and will continue to do so, on many levels.  (Another cliché.)

We read about and view scenes of what “reopening” looks like. Some encouraging signs. Many not so.

And with people hurting from the challenges associated with unemployment, housing, healthcare, discrimination, indifference, and more, it can become disingenuous to say, “consider all you have to be grateful for.” Almost dismissive.

But…

…I had to stop this week and remind myself of the people, places, events, and insights for which I am grateful. Those things that remind me that I am fortunate. I had to (and will have to continue to) remind myself. I offer the following list as one that has worked for me. It may not for you. It does not dismiss the experiences of those who hurt at a much deeper level than I do. The list is incomplete. It, however, is a reminder for me to stop and consider that I am grateful for:

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

  • My wife
  • My canine companion
  • Friends
  • Where I live
  • The Source that makes all things possible
  • Sunrises
  • Former students who have become my teachers
  • People who have spoken up about and acted on injustices
  • Health
  • The community service projects I get to do
  • My writing time
  • Exercise in our “Garnasium” (that is, the “garage” that holds our “gymnasium.” 😊)
  • Biking around my community
  • Civility
  • Respect
  • Teachers
  • The first responders who perform service for the entire community
  • Caring neighbors
  • Healthy food and drink
  • Meditation time
  • Experiences past
  • Experiences to come
  • Community builders
  • People who listen
  • The beach
  • The park
  • Choice
  • Today
  • Yesterday
  • Tomorrow

Video Recommendations for the Week

Remember and Hope.


Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.

My new book has been released.
eBook ($2.99) Paperback ($9.99). Click here.

Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit.

Well, actually, my dog Roxie gets top billing on the author page for this work. Without her, there would be no story.
Click here for more information about the book.

In the meantime, check out her blog.

And you can still order:

  • My book, Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019), (print and e-book) is available on More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
  • Check out my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). It has been adopted for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes. I conducted (September 2019) a half-day workshop for a community college’s new faculty onboarding program using the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.

My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network®.

You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

©2020. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®

 

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(Issue #525) Ethical Wills


Connect generations to come by sharing questions,
messages, challenges, accomplishments, connections, and experiences.
Continue reading

Posted in Life lessons | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

(Issue #524) HTRB: Resetting the Reset


While hitting the reset button has merit,
we may need to reset our view of what reset means.
Will the reset, in this case,
mean a complete redesign of societal institutions?


Video Recommendation for the Week

Bob Dylan’s prescient words (recorded in 1963; released in 1964) included:

“…And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one
If you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin‘”


Every week I end my blog post with the suggestion to “Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.” A reminder to stop, pause, and recalibrate your journey.

I first introduced the HTRB (Hit The Reset Button) concept on this blog in October of 2011. A student of mine that semester inspired the writing.

Fast forward almost nine years, and our world finds us in situations unimagined just a few months ago.  From a world-wide pandemic to global demonstrations and protests, we live in a time that seems to have turned all that was “normal routine” on its head.  And with each passing day, we understand changes will come our way that end “the way we used to do things around here.”

While hitting the reset button has merit, we may need to reset our view of what reset means.

For instance, the local coffee shop I visit used to have straws, stirrers, napkins, and sugar packets sitting by the coffee spigots. Today all of those items are behind the counter and have to be handed to each customer by a cashier.  As this business has reopened (reset for customers to come into the building), the straws et. al. will not move back to their previous locations.  Reset in this instance means moving to a new position—a new normal as has become the go-to lingo.  In the grand scheme of things, a tiny adjustment. Still, a reset of the reset.

Also consider things like: Will we go back to touch screens as we know them in public locations? Will our local grocery store chain reset to a time when plexiglass did not separate the customer from the cashier?  Will we go back to handshakes when greeting people?

And look at the depth, scope, and magnitude of the “Black Lives Matter” demonstrations.  Do you think our society (local and global) will go back (reset) to the day before the protests and move forward? Or do you think this reset will be a complete upheaval of what had been accepted and expected practices?

Will the reset, in this case, mean a complete redesign of societal institutions? In what ways will our interactions reset themselves? How will the nation reset? Where is the button located, who does the pushing, and what role do the rest of his have in the eventual resetting?

Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.

My new book has been released.
eBook ($2.99) Paperback ($9.99). Click here.

Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit.

Well, actually, my dog Roxie gets top billing on the author page for this work. Without her, there would be no story.
Click here for more information about the book.

In the meantime, check out her blog.

And you can still order:

  • My book, Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019), (print and e-book) is available on More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
  • Check out my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). It has been adopted for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes. I conducted (September 2019) a half-day workshop for a community college’s new faculty onboarding program using the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.

My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network®.

You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

©2020. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®

 

Posted in Life lessons | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

(Issue #523) Giving, Receiving, and Gratitude


It could change the world for one person.

 With all the dislocations and dysfunctions the pandemic has wrought, aren’t you encouraged and energized by the acts of graciousness you have read about or witnessed?

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

Like the pizza maker sending 300+ pizzas per day to healthcare workers in New York. And that act of giving led to the owner receiving help from his landlord.

Like pen pals that have befriended residents in nursing/retirement/assisted-living homes. A similar program exists in the Community Hospice (Jacksonville, Florida) for which Roxie and I volunteer.

And like the Puppuccino Man.

In his book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success, Deepak Chopra speaks about the “dynamic exchange” of giving and receiving.

The best way to put the LAW OF GIVING into operation—to start the whole process of circulation—is to make a decision that any time you come into contact with anyone, you will give them something…a flower, a compliment, or a prayer. In fact, the most powerful forms of giving are non-material…When you meet someone, you can silently send them a blessing…. (p. 33)

We do not (or, at least, should not) give in order to receive. We do so to circulate joy.  Leo Buscaglia said something to the effect that if you give a gift expecting a return, then what you really gave was a loan.

Small acts of kindness and assistance can have a bigger impact than we know in another person’s life.

“Helping one person may not change the world,
but it could change the world for that one person.”
(attribution unknown)

And it could change the world of the one giving as well.

Photo ©Steve Piscitelli. 2019


Video Recommendation for the Week

The cycle of giving, receiving, and gratitude.


Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.

My new book has been released.
eBook ($2.99) Paperback ($9.99). Click here.

Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit.

Well, actually, my dog Roxie gets top billing on the author page for this work. Without her, there would be no story.
Click here for more information about the book.

In the meantime, check out her blog.

And you can still order:

  • My book, Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019), (print and e-book) is available on More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
  • Check out my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). It has been adopted for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes. I conducted (September 2019) a half-day workshop for a community college’s new faculty onboarding program using the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.

My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network®.

You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

©2020. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®

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(Issue #522) Reflecting. Learning. Appreciating.


And just like that, 2010 flew by. And so did 2011, 2012…2019….

On May 31, 2010, I ventured into the blogosphere. At that time, I had three goals:

  • Experience a new(for me) aspect of social media (remember, it was 2010)
  • Develop and flesh out new ideas
  • Provide something of value—not just another cyber rant.

Ten years of weekly blogging later, it has been a permanent part of my life. Regardless of “situations,” the posts have appeared every Sunday since that first offering in 2010.

While most of my context has involved the learning and teaching dynamic, each post has addressed the theme of growth and resilience. Positive and uplifting thought provokers. At least that has been my goal.

As I looked back through a few of those posts, I noted weak signals for what was to come. Or, I should say, what has arrived.  Take my first post (Issue #1. “Social Media: Know When and How to Use It.” Inspired by a program I had co-facilitated in Austin, Texas, I smile now reading two of the points I made then:

*People are interested in SKYPE. The ability to video conference (two people) computer to computer for FREE and with good quality is attractive.  Audio conferencing with more than twenty people at a time is also available. One participant yesterday was excited about the prospect of using this technology to connect with students on various campuses.

 **Social media is not a fad. It is not going away.  We should do what we can to help shape the discussion about appropriate uses of the technology for teaching and learning.  This is important for the classroom and the boardroom.

Like so many weak signals, the observations seem obvious now.

Issue #400 (“Do We Live in as Post-Fact World”) asked the readers to

…remember the question, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, did it make a sound?”

Have we evolved/devolved to a time when the question to ponder has become, “If a fact is offered and no one ‘likes’ it, is it a fact?”  How do we combat this? Can we combat this? How do we train and coach teachers to do this so their students live in a truth-based world?

Indeed.

As I move into the 11th year of The Growth and Resilience Network® Blog, I ask that we all take a moment and contemplate milestones and what they have meant to our lives—and what they will mean. Here is what I wrote in Issue #100 (“Milestones: Endpoints or Checkpoints”):

For me, milestones remind me of the possibilities in life.  They ARE those markers (like mile markers on the highway) that guide us.  They are something to shoot for. But they are not the end of the journey.  Key West may appear to be the end with mile marker “0”.  All that means is that we can adjust course and head east…or hop on a boat and continue west to Ft. Jefferson.  Mile markers mark the progress along the journey.  They are not the end of the line.

Where is your next mile marker…and the next…and the next…?

Thank you for reading, commenting on, and sharing my blog posts over the years. I appreciate your company on the journey. On to the next mile marker…and the next…and the next.


Video Recommendation for the Week

One quick look at the year 2010 and some of its milestones.  As the video shares: “and just like that, 2010 flew by.”

And so did 2011, 2012…2019….

Appreciate every moment.


Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.

My new book has been released.
eBook ($2.99) Paperback ($9.99). Click here.

Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit.

Well, actually, my dog Roxie gets top billing on the author page for this work. Without her, there would be no story.
Click here for more information about the book.

In the meantime, check out her blog.

And you can still order:

  • My book, Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019), (print and e-book) is available on More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
  • Check out my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). It has been adopted for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes. I conducted (September 2019) a half-day workshop for a community college’s new faculty onboarding program using the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.

My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network®.

You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

©2020. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®

 

Posted in Appreciation, Life lessons | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

(Issue #521) Sunrise, Clouds, and the News


Some people and groups focus on the darkness and what might happen.
Others ignore warning signs and
look only at what they consider to be brightness.

First, the sunrise.

I have found the best time to view sunrise on the beach comes about fifteen or twenty minutes before the sun pops out of the water. That is when nature’s spotlight of orange, pink, and yellow tints streaks across the sky. Intense and vibrant.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

Add clouds to the mix, and the textures magnify the spectacle. Whether Cirrus, Stratus, or Cumulus, they add drama and beauty to the scene.  Combined with the sun’s colors, nature provides a fabric we can almost feel.  The clouds add to the story.  Rather than distracting, they provide more context for the hours ahead.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

Now for the news.

Last week, I saw a piece on the news (read about it, too) about airline passengers, masks, and seating assignments.  The piece showed overcrowding (read: no social distancing) and inconsistent mask usage. The reporter helped paint a dire picture with words.

These were the clouds if you would allow the metaphor.

Even with the dramatic decrease in airline flights due to the pandemic, I wondered how representative this news was of flights in general.  Maybe it was. Maybe not.

I do not know how many flights flew in the country that day.  Maybe I missed the stories about the flights that had a better experience for its passengers. But we did not get those rays of sunshine.

The highlighted flights do have lessons to which we need to pay attention. So do the flights that have no or minimal incidents.

Why concentrate (solely) on the clouds? Why not take in more of the view and see the bright spots?

Some people and groups focus on the darkness and what might happen. Others ignore warning signs and look only at what they consider to be brightness.

And there are those amongst us who embrace both.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli


Video Recommendation for the Week

I shot this video on a sunrise ocean kayak paddle in Atlantic Beach, Florida.  Take it all in. The blue sky, colors, clouds, reflections, and the water. Oh, and don’t miss the pod of dolphins just off my bow. I would have missed them if all I did was focus on the clouds (or colors, or reflections).


Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.

My new book has been released.
eBook ($2.99) Paperback ($9.99). Click here.

Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit.

Well, actually, my dog Roxie gets top billing on the author page for this work. Without her, there would be no story.
Click here for more information about the book.

In the meantime, check out her blog.

And you can still order:

  • My book, Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019), (print and e-book) is available on More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
  • Check out my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). It has been adopted for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes. I conducted (September 2019) a half-day workshop for a community college’s new faculty onboarding program using the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.

My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network®.

You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

©2020. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®

 

Posted in Life lessons | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

(Issue #520) What Will Change?


Yes, a lot has changed. How, though, have you used that change
to exact needed change in your life for good? How has the time helped your resilience?

Even though a lot has changed in the last two months, what has really changed?  That is, when a greater distance exists between the pandemic and where we stand, what will change in your life going forward. How will your approach to life be different?

I stumbled on a video I made for my students in 2011. It was a mid-semester checkup on their progress towards their respective dreams.

I used the three-step strategy:  Stop. Keep. Start.  And I thought about how those steps apply to our situation now.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

STOP

During the past two months (and those to come as we go through various phases of “re-opening”), many (most) have had to STOP the standard ways of connecting in business, school, church, and relationships. We had to adopt and adapt strategies to earn a living, engage in community service, and continue formal education.  Much has been made about the amount time people spend at home.

So, in a sense, we have been forced to STOP the way we typically do things. The pause has created a time to think and act anew. A time for re-evaluation about what we value.

KEEP

 Have you developed new ways of doing things that you plan to (think you will) continue to do. What new ritual have you developed that you plan on staying with even when all is back to “normal.”  Maybe it is a new workout routine, or an activity you have started with your family.  For those who have been “Zooming” on video calls, perhaps you have found a new and efficient way to do business if only on occasion. What were you forced to do in this time of exigencies, that you will KEEP because they have the power for good in your life moving forward?

START

Can you think of some things you had to curtail, that you no longer miss because you enjoy what you have put in their place. Maybe you found that the old habits created obstacles for growth. Maybe you found the time to revisit an old project that had been neglected or begin a journey that you had not considered before. And then there are the things you have missed that you cannot wait to START again. They have taken on a new meaning for you. You will treasure them more than you ever have.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli

Yes, a lot has changed. How, though, have you used that change to exact needed change in your life for good? How has the time helped your resilience?


Video Recommendation for the Week

Here is the video I mentioned above.


Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.

My new book has been released.
eBook ($2.99) Paperback ($9.99). Click here.

Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit.

Well, actually, my dog Roxie gets top billing on the author page for this work. Without her, there would be no story.
Click here for more information about the book.

In the meantime, check out her blog.

And you can still order:

  • My book, Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019), (print and e-book) is available on More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
  • Check out my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). It has been adopted for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes. I conducted (September 2019) a half-day workshop for a community college’s new faculty onboarding program using the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.

My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network®.

You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

©2020. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®

 

Posted in Life lessons | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

(Issue #519) Lessons From A Dragon And His Friend


Can we look to a time when we will be able to wipe away the tears,
emerge from the cave, and once again play along the cherry lane?

Working out to an “Oldies” playlist, I heard the dulcet voices of Peter, Paul, and Mary singing about their favorite dragon. Taking a moment to listen (and stop grunting), the words (especially their final verse) gave me pause.

Was it about loss of friendship, childhood, connection, and innocence. If so, it wasn’t the happy bouncy song I thought I remembered.

Or was it about friendship, exploration, creativity, joy, interconnectedness, and a world built on uplifting “what ifs”?

I pulled up the song on YouTube (see the first Video Recommendation for the Week below) and listened some more. I read comments about the emotion it conjured. And the love for the song some 55 years after its recording.

One comment on the video page caught my attention with a new perspective.  It was a final verse not in the original song.  I am not sure of the origin.   In the second Video Recommendation for the Week below, Peter Yarrow actually draws from these words at the end of the clip.

Puff the Magic Dragon walked out on the Strand.
He looked down and there he saw footprints in the sand.
A voice said Mr. Dragon, please don’t be so sad.
My name is Jenny Paper. I was sent here by my dad.

Perhaps it is a song about the future, hope, mentorship, and childhood regained through a generation to come.  About passing along memories and lessons.

About a legacy of connection that cannot and should not be lost.

In this time of pandemic, lockdowns, loss of life, and unimagined dislocations, can we look to a time (in the near future) when we will be able to wipe away the tears, emerge from the cave, and once again play along the cherry lane?

For our health and the well-being of our generations to come, how can we not?


Video Recommendation for the Week

  1. Peter, Paul, and Mary perform “Puff the Magic Dragon” in 1965.
  2. Peter Yarrow gives the song some context and a different twist at the end.

Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.

My new book has been released.
eBook ($2.99) Paperback ($9.99). Click here.

Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit.

Well, actually, my dog Roxie gets top billing on the author page for this work. Without her, there would be no story.
Click here for more information about the book.

In the meantime, check out her blog.

And you can still order:

  • My book, Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019), (print and e-book) is available on More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
  • Check out my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). It has been adopted for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes. I conducted (September 2019) a half-day workshop for a community college’s new faculty onboarding program using the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.

My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network®.

You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

©2020. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®

 

Posted in Life lessons | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

(Issue #518) Ever Consider a Low-Bad Diet?


“Just about every measure of human well-being has improved
except for one: hope.

The healthier we become, the gloomier our worldview.”
—John Tierney and Roy F. Baumeister—

 Pause on the above quote for a moment. Let it sink it. What do you think creates the disconnect?

In their recent book, The Power of Bad: And How to Overcome It, Tierney and Baumeister attribute the seeming contradiction to the negativity effect. Some call it negativity bias, negativity dominance, or positivity discounting. Whatever the concept label, research shows that people have an irrational impulse to consider one (negative) thing and ignore the broader (more positive) picture.

We catastrophize  as we fixate on a single negative event while discounting the positives that surround us. The negative has such and impact that it will override one, two, or three uplifting actions. There is a great deal of good around us—but how often does the focus goes to the bad?

Crisis mongers know this and seize on it. How many times does the “news” start with a “Breaking News Alert!”? (Often.)  And how many times is that “Breaking News Alert!” about a positive story? (Seldom.) Or a politician grabs hold of an isolated event only to use it as “evidence” that our world is threatened. Our discomfort provides an opening of opportunity for the crisis monger. More emphasis on the threat creates fear, which brings about more coverage and anxiety.

Tierney and Baumeister remind us that “The Merchants of Bad” (found in news, politics, and social media, for instance) want us to fret and squirm. Regardless of the good, they focus on the bad. And they have found a power in bad. They focus, we shake.

Research speaks of the (again, according to the authors) Rule of Four: It takes (roughly speaking) four positive things to overcome one negative turn of events. When confronted with a “bad” (an insult, a broken promise, an unkind word, an action), any previous “good” is more than likely to be overshadowed. A mental health counselor told me that the rule can be as high as 6 to 1 when it comes to marital issues. One transgression can wipe out a half-dozen well-intentioned actions.

A Russian proverb holds that “a spoonful of tar can spoil a barrel of honey, but a spoonful of honey does nothing for a barrel of tar.”

It takes a lot more “good” to overcome a “bad,” then it does for a “bad” to wipe out all the preceding “good.” It interferes with life. It has an impact on hope. We end up fixating on one negative of the past or the unknown what if of the future. We end up on a runaway train of negativity and lose touch with the present. Especially the good in the present.

Be a discerning and critical thinker as you read about bad. It has real power to override the good that surrounds us daily.

The authors suggest we place ourselves on a low-bad diet. For instance, “when politicians and pundits are assailing each other, switch channels. If you try to follow the Rule of Four by watching four uplifting stories for every bad one, you’ll spend a lot less time on all-news stations.”

Add more honey. Limit the tar.


Video Recommendation for the Week

Sometimes we need to stop, breathe, and contextualize. Here is a simple breathing exercise to help focus on the breath, if only for a few seconds to regain our bearings. It is a Zen technique called Breath Counting.


Make it a great week and HTRB has needed.

My new book has been released.
eBook ($2.99) Paperback ($9.99). Click here.

Roxie Looks for Purpose Beyond the Biscuit.

Well, actually, my dog Roxie gets top billing on the author page for this work. Without her, there would be no story.
Click here for more information about the book.

In the meantime, check out her blog.

And you can still order:

  • My book, Community as a Safe Place to Land (2019), (print and e-book) is available on More information (including seven free podcast episodes that spotlight the seven core values highlighted in the book) at www.stevepiscitelli.com.
  • Check out my book Stories about Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island (2017). It has been adopted for teaching, learning, and coaching purposes. I conducted (September 2019) a half-day workshop for a community college’s new faculty onboarding program using the scenarios in this book. Contact me if you and your team are interested in doing the same. The accompanying videos would serve to stimulate community-building conversations at the beginning of a meeting.

My podcasts can be found at The Growth and Resilience Network®.

You will find more about what I do at www.stevepiscitelli.com.

©2020. Steve Piscitelli
The Growth and Resilience Network®

 

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