The acceleration of change in our time is itself, an elemental force. The accelerative thrust has personal and psychological, as well as sociological consequences. Unless man quickly learns to control the rate of change in his personal affairs as well as in society at large, we are doomed to a massive adaptational breakdown.
Alvin Toffler - Future Shock
Our newfound knowledge leads to faster economic, social, and political changes. To understand what is happening, we accelerate the accumulation of knowledge, which leads to even faster and greater upheavals. Consequently, we are less and less able to make sense of the present or forecast the future.
Yuval Noah Harari – Homo Deus
From a strictly mathematical perspective, the growth rates of these major changes will be finite, but so extreme that the changes they bring about will appear to rupture the fabric of human history.
Ray Kurzweil - The Singularity Is Near
Two years ago, at the OutBound Conference, Jeb Blount introduced me to Shannon, his acquiring editor, because wanted me to join him at Wiley. I asked Shannon a lot of questions about what I could write, explaining that I have something to contribute to areas other than sales. I shared with her my passion project, The Negativity Fast. I noticed how people have grown more negative, pessimistic, cynical, and occasionally violent. Shannon liked and supported the book. Thank you, Shannon!
The reason I wrote this book is because at one time, I was incredibly negative. The source of my negativity started in my youth, when I experienced several traumatic events that are not worth recounting here. When I was grown, I had a grand mal seizure that resulted in my having two brain surgeries. In the first, the surgeon glued shut a large knot of arteries and veins that pushed on my brain. In the second, they removed a portion of my right lobe.
I was prescribed phenobarbital, a drug used to tranquilize elephants. I would wake up in the morning and drink 60 ounces of coffee before going back to bed. Over the following years, I tried eight anticonvulsant medications, with varying degrees of success. This experience made me so angry that I became aggressive, something I am not proud of.
As a kid, I had tried to drop out of high school every day, but losing part of my brain led me to believe that I should try to do something with what I still had, so in my late twenties, I went to college and majored in political science and English literature. I read everything that was political, from the left end of the spectrum to the right. I listened to politics on the radio, watched it on television, and read every magazine. As a libertarian, I had the good fortune of being able to argue with liberals and conservatives, and argue I did.
As luck would have it, one of my professors suggested that I take the LSAT, which I had never heard of. He explained to me that the LSAT tests for two things: 1) reading comprehension, and 2) logic. I could read when I was three years old and I have always had access to books. That part seemed easy! I studied the logic problems from old tests, and was able to figure those out too. I graduated with a 3.93 grade point average and a 4.0 in my majors, plus I scored highly on the LSAT, which helped me win the Dean’s Academic Scholarship to Law School.
Unfortunately, law school is a highly political environment. My first argument with a professor occurred within the first 10 minutes of the first class. I was right, and my professor was wrong. He asked another professor if this smart ass was right, and his colleague told us that I was correct. After that, most constitutional law classes had me arguing against the court’s decisions.
One day, after President Clinton signed into law a retroactive tax increase, I complained to my mentor. I was outraged and, honestly, I was complaining to anyone who would listen. This said I should let it go. He cautioned me not to care so much about politics and other things that are far beyond my control. He suggested that, instead, I focus on taking care of my family. It would be months before I could take his advice, but this experience was the start of a change in me.
I noticed how negative I was and how much I complained. (You complain way more than you might believe.) I didn’t feel good, and I wanted to feel better. I decided I would do what I called a Negativity Fast. I canceled all my political newspaper and magazine subscriptions. I stopped listening to political shows on the radio and I swore off cable news shows. I also asked a professional to teach me the fundamentals of cognitive behavioral therapy, giving me the tools to deal with negativity. I also stayed away from the most negative people in my life.
After 30 days, I felt better, so, I added another 30 days, and felt even better. Once again, I committed to another 30 days. After the third 30-day fast, I realized that I could do more to improve my approach to the fast. For the first three months, I had minimized negative messages coming in, but I hadn’t replaced any of it with positive inputs, so I started over, listening to and reading only media that were positive.
Your mind is full of all kinds of poisons that have accumulated throughout your life. To blast out the negative, I poured in all things positive—and I have never gone back to reading, listening to, or watching politics. I call this state of experience post-political. My wife, Cher, often asks me if I saw some news story, knowing I will have missed it.
Politics may not be the source of your negativity. Instead, you might be in a negative state because of bad experiences in your past, or because you spend so much time with negative people. The Negativity Fast can help you locate the sources of your negative feelings so you can remove them from your life or at least minimize their impact. (Hint: most of the time, we make ourselves miserable.)
I wrote this book because humans are more negative, pessimistic, and cynical than we have been in the past few decades or even generations. Because your life is around 4,000 weeks, you should not spend those days and weeks being negative. The quality of your life comprises what you focus on and how you process your experiences, especially the negative events.
In 12 chapters, you can learn to understand why we are more negative than positive. In each chapter you can find practical strategies to reduce negativity and increase the time you spend in a positive state.