Positivity Bias

I'm in the midst of reading Hardwiring Happiness.

I am really enjoying it which is why I am sharing this before I'm even half done.

The book digs into Negativity Bias (which I've written about before here) and the reasons why it exists. AND, it provides you with ways to combat it and develop help develop Positivity Bias.

The exercises/practices it provides are related to mindfulness practices but are even simpler to get started with. The tools this book provides are designed to specifically attack Negativity Bias by changing your brain to be more receptive to positive experiences and hold onto them longer.

So, while these simple practices are behavioral (they are things that you decide to do and you develop the habits of doing them), the goal is much more than that, the goal is changing your brain.

This is pretty exciting and you can get started with them quite easily.

As a leader this is a crucial tool to develop if it doesn't come naturally to you. And Negativity Bias tells us that it won't come easy to most of us.

Check out this amazing book.

Journeys and Guides and Maps

It's hard to draw a map of a place if you've only ever been through it once, going in a straight line in a fast moving vehicle.

For a guide, you may want someone who can draw a map from memory. You may want someone who has been lost where you're going. You may want someone who has, at least, been there a lot of times, walking in more of a zig-zag pattern and seeing what's around.

OR you're accepting a guide who knows a little more than you but can't draw the map.

Both can work, but understand what you're getting and accept the advantages of the latter if you choose it. That is, you will be getting lost along the way, but you will also be a guide at the end of the journey.

Sometimes there is no map and never will be - for the country is forever new. In these cases we can only compare it to country we have been in before and offer help to one another.

Leadership, Budget, and the Speed of Light

You always have a budget.

Anyone who says, "There is no budget," isn't a leader and hasn't met the CFO.

Budgets can be a great driver of creativity and a path to finding the winning solution.

Don't look at your budget as a limitation. Look on it as the form in which you create, like a sonnet, a canvas, or the force of gravity (for you sculptors and architects out there).

The trick is to know your budget and understand how it drives your creativity.

What's your budget?

  • Money?
  • Your personal time?
  • The calendar year or fiscal year?
  • Composition of your team?
  • The speed of light?


I've written about the willingness to ask a question and how being the person who is willing to ask a question can be powerful. Usually when I say this I'm talking about the willingness to do this in spite of a fear of looking or sounding stupid.

I recently had a different, but related, experience.

I was in a contentious meeting. People were not communicating and everyone was digging their heels in for a fight.

I asked a question.

It wasn't a great a question. It wasn't a terribly insightful question. It was a legitimate question - something that I really didn't understand because it wasn't clear to me what a certain part of the disagreement was about. I also didn't understand why no one was talking about it.

It was enough to open a door to a different discussion in this case. It was enough to expose that there were things that were unclear to people in the room, and it gave everyone a chance to take a breath and look at the disucussion from a different perspective.

It was enough to make the discussion a lot more productive, if not 100% friendly.

A question won't always resolve these situations. However, asking such a question is important if you are going to contribute to a discussion (and hopefully a resolution).

And it can help others look at their own assumptions and realize they may have questions of their own.

Words: Always Open Source

When you read something, all of it is right there on the page or screen. 100% of the art is present and can be evaluated, analyzed, and understood.

This is not true of most other things in this world, including other types of art. In other art forms the artifice can and often does conceal the structure, but with writing it never does.

Of course, even with writing, what you don't see is the process that was used to achieve the finished product: edits, deletions, false starts, things thrown away entirely, etc.

But the effect and the way that words were used to create that effect are all in front of you.

The thing with a writing process is that you need to develop one. How do you write? How do you start? How do you edit? Who helps you? What are your sources of inspiration?

Mindfulness and Privacy

Because Mindfulness and other types of Focused Attention Training derive from religious practices, many people may feel that they are private or non-public activities.

There is some merit in this line of thought. The practice, any that I've seen, is private in that you are focusing inward to improve attention and enhance awareness.

But why really does this seem private?

There is nothing really private or revealing about it. Your thoughts aren't different when meditating than at some other time. Nor are they required to be shared with others. Nor are they shared with others.

What differs, really, is posture. The eyes are closed. You're sitting there. It's prayer-like in that way, even if what you're doing isn't religious. You're just paying attention to the mind. This resembles sleeping or praying and those are considered to be private activities in the West.

I guess sleeping is private in every culture. And it is the closed eyes, probably more than anything, that make it seem private to us.

Mostly it's different. If you aren't with a group of people, you're on your own and that can feel uncomfortable. Better to do that thing you're a little unsure of in private.

But ask yourself these questions:

What seems more personal to you, reading a book or meditating? Which would you be more likely to do in public? Which is actually the more private activity? Why?

Mindfulness practices are maintenance and improvements for the machinery of the mind. If we think of them this way then there shouldn't be anything more personal or private about them than any other activity you engage in for self-improvement.

Does that mean you should go out an meditate in public? I guess that's a personal preference and probably relates to your goals and why you meditate. Some people do it.

For the rest of us, just something to consider.

Things That Don't Work #1

Twitter -> Profile -> Settings and Privacy -> Muted Words

Add -> http

So what does this tell us?

Well, I guess links aren't words, nor do they contain words as far as Twitter is concerned.

It wasn't terribly shocking to me that it didn't work, given all the things that Twitter does with links. We shouldn't be surprised that they do different things and are treated differently.

I wasn't planning to leave the mute on forever, but I did want to see what the sum total of my followed content looked like if you took the links out of it.

I'll have to find another way to do that.

Why does it matter? Well, there are days where I feel like Twitter is the writing assignment and I actually want to say something useful that isn't a link to something else.

I'm interested in seeing who else does that and what they say.

East vs. West - Know Thyself

The saying 'Know Thyself' comes to us in the West from Ancient Greece where it was one of the Delphic Maxims. There were originally 147 of these that we know about, though 'know thyself' is easily the most famous (and catchy).

Here are a few other Delphic Maxims: 'Do not make fun of the dead', 'Be (religiously) silent', and 'Make promises to no one'. You can see why the rest of them haven't achieved the popularity of 'know thyself'.

Part of the reason 'Know Thyself' has stayed with us is its truth. Self-knowledge is core knowledge. It's what we need to have any kind of adult life.

So, for those of us who are interested, we should all be asking: "How do you do it and how do you get better at it?"

'Know thyself' is great advice, but it isn't exactly an instruction manual.

The practice of mindfulness, or focused attention training as it is sometimes called, comes to us from the East. It derives from Buddhist meditation practices. Though, as it appears today in corporate and educational settings, it is devoid of outward religious ceremony or trappings.

This Eastern-based practice provides you with essential tools to pay attention to thoughts and to be aware of the interactions between mind and body. Mindfulness is paying attention to you mind. By paying attention to your mind and body - deliberately, intentionally, for at least a little while - you begin to develop a greater awareness of what's going on.

In this way it is a tool for real, intentional self-awareness and proactive living.

If we consider it in this way it can be seen as a great example of the melting pot of our modern global culture. East is meeting West (as it often does) and one is the mirror of the other. Mindfulness practice can become a tool to achieve that core Western goal of 'know thyself'.

The path is winding but the view is nice.

Mindfulness Quantified

Here is a great post from Andrew Wien on quantifying the impact of mindfulness training in a business setting:

How to Reduce Stress, Increase Focus, and Improve Communication at Your Company

Andrew is extremely knowledgeable and has been developing his mindfulness curriculum over the last few years.

His corporate mindfulness sessions emphasize focused attention training, awareness, managing negativity bias, and stress management. He really helps you get at the underpinnings of what mindfulness is, how it works in your brain, and how it can help you.

He is the founder of The Dynamic Leadership Center.

14 Ways to Beat Negativity Bias

How can you fight negativity bias in your organization?

Here is a short list:

  1. Build trust with employees, peers, and supervisors.
  2. Start some form of mindfulness group or bring in outside help to do so.
  3. Discuss negativity bias and share information about how it works and why it exists.
  4. Be as transparent as possible.
  5. Make your expectations clear and communicate what needs to be done.
  6. Have high expectations for people and delegate tasks, even challenging tasks. Give people a chance to grow.
  7. Assist people with hard conversations but don't do the have those conversations for them.
  8. Discuss Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
  9. Invest in employee training.
  10. Run a book group or other professional development discussion.
  11. Do not retain employees who generate negativity in the office.
  12. Seek clients and customers who align with your culture.
  13. Encourage self-awareness.
  14. Hold people accountable and tell them where they need improvement.