Who owns your time?

A mentor of mine told me that if I was going to write a blog, run a consulting firm or do anything in life, I should focus on the positive and not the negative.  I can hear his advice echoing each day in my mind.  Focus on the positive.  Focus on the positive. There is enough negative in the world.  You will help the world more by bringing more positive thoughts, hopes and aspirations into the world than focusing on the negative.  This has not been an easy task for me and one I still struggle with.  I tend towards the pessimistic side of life.  I see the stupidity as easily or even more easily than I do the intelligent things that go on in life.  It is like the one rotten apple that spoils the barrel.  It is easier to pick out the negative headlines than it is the positive headlines.  “Hey, don’t the negative headlines sell newspapers?”  Who would tune in every day to the news or Tele if they were bombarded with a constant stream of positive news?  In a way, that is a funny question.  Wouldn’t you think we would all like to be bombarded with “good news?”  Apparently, the reporters, talking heads and other commentators don’t think so.  I wonder what the reality is.   Would the public quickly stop buying newspapers and watching news on the web and TV if they were given as much good news as they currently get bad news? 
Nevertheless, the key issue here is a personal one.  Do I join the crowd and talk about the evil and bad things we all do and provide sage wisdom on how to repair the world or do I share advice and positive information that I hope will help you to use your time and money more wisely.  If we all used our time and money more wisely, wouldn’t the world be a better place?  Think of the mistakes that you have made in choices affecting your use of time and money.  Who we spend our time with and perhaps who and what we have spent our money on to a large extent defines our lives.  What if we were guided by the positive in everything we did and bought? 
Many years ago, when I was even more opinioned, a professor in the department where I was a graduate student proudly announced his purchase of a new sailboat.  It was quite a large boat and very ostentatious. I dared to question him about such a large purchase when there was so much poverty in the world.  He tartly replied that it was “my money and I can do with it as I please.”  Some thirty years later, this comment still evokes the question in my mind “Can we really just spend our money and time as we please or do we owe the world anything?”  I am not sure I could answer that question to your satisfaction.  I am not even sure that if you or I said no, it would make us better people than someone who said “heck yes.”  Does it matter how we spend our time and money if we are not hurting anyone else?   Perhaps, it requires a wisdom that is well beyond me to answer this question.  However, I hear the word of John Donne that:
No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
I have little doubt that our actions all affect others and their actions affect us. We live in a world that is more united and interconnected than we tend to realize.  The butterfly beating its wings in China most assuredly has an impact on the weather half way around the world.  Whether or not the changes and effects of our actions is noticeable or whether they make a significant difference is one of those unknowns that may well be unknowable.  However, everything both science and spirituality teaches us is that we are interdependent and that our actions have mutual and reciprocal effects. 
Thus, the question and issue that I return to is does being more positive than more negative create a better world for all?  Maybe the more important question is what does negativity do or do not do for us?  Does being negative change anything? Does it make you feel better?  Do you really enjoy a barrage of negativity all day long?  Would your day be more productive and happier if you could focus more on the negative?  I would love to hear your comments on this question or any insights you may have.  Simply post your comments in the section below. 

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Bruce Galbreath
    May 09, 2012 @ 18:59:18

    To the extent that we have any choice in the matter, whether it is best to emphasize the positive or the negative depends on what the circumstance calls for. Aristotle would have called for a golden mean between the extremes, neither too hot nor too cold. The Stoics, some Buddhists (and some Christians too) feel we do best to give up on pursuing the things of this world. Because they are optimistic that we can have something better, they draw a very pessimistic picture of our ordinary concerns.

    At a less philosophical level, I think it is good to envision ways that things might go wrong. This gives you a chance to forestall them if you can, and at least not to be crushed by surprise when they do. But, later in the process, when you have committed to a course, it is probably an advantage to be convinced that success is highly likely. After a disaster, a pessimist is in danger of curling up into a ball and never doing anything again, while an optimist will interpret his failure as a one-off fluke and try again. On the other hand, facing a disaster that has not yet happened, a positive person may fail to salvage what he can, while a pessimist will run for what safety can be found earlier. In other words, what works best depends on what fits the demands of the circumstances. The problem is that we are riddled with biases that prevent us from accurately gauging what those demands of the circumstances are. Our biases make us, as individuals, habitually positive or negative, while an unbiased person would vary his attitude as the circumstances varied.



  2. Tony Trinh
    May 12, 2012 @ 12:41:56

    I personally make a conscious effort to be positive each and everyday. I even try my hardest not to use the word “hate”, because the more hate there is in my life, the less room there is for love. Sounds pretty corny, but I just don't see any real reason to be negative. Think positively and good things will happen is how I live. Whether that is right or wrong, I'm not sure. I just know that being a positive person makes me happy and I've been told that it rubs off to those who I'm around, specifically at work. Bruce is right. I am super bias towards being positive…

    I was 18 years old, just had gotten my soul crushed by my first love and in my time of sorrow. The deepest time of sorrow of my life actually. That summer I travel outside the US for the first time visiting Japan and then Vietnam. Japan was alright, but Vietnam really changed my life. I remember being sad and then looking outside my window at kids playing the rice fields without opportunities. Then I go into the city and see kids as young as 5 selling gum or flowers across the street from the Sheraton Hotel right next to a Rolls Royce Phantom. I remember thinking to myself at that moment, what do I have to complain about? What do I have to be sad about? I'm a super lucky person. I have all the opportunity in the world having lucky enough to be born in the US. I came back to the US on a whole new mission in life and told myself I would never complain about anything ever again, because what did I really have to complain about? Never would I be sad again, never would I take my life for granted. I tell people all the time, that's why I'm so happy. I've been down before, now I'm sky high, and it's going to take a lot to bring me down.



  3. John Persico
    May 15, 2012 @ 14:13:59

    I used to lean towards the negative, then decided balance was better but perhaps I am getting wild in my old age, cause now I think mostly the postive makes a difference and leaves a lasting impact. The terrorists and killers of the world make a difference and do leave an impact, but it makes the world a more difficult if not downright evil place to be.



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