Positively Podcasting

Are you into podcasts? I know a lot of people are.

I worked on an article this week that I was assigned by the editor at the auto trade magazine I’ve been writing for since 2015. She wanted me to gather some podcasts for their end-of-the-year “best of” issue.

Mark was a big fan of podcasts. When he’d email me from the road last fall and winter, he regularly shared something he learned from one of the rotating podcasts he was listening to. Sometimes he’d tell me about a topic covered by Rich Roll, one of his favorites. Do you remember on Day 009 how excited he was when Roll tweeted about him? He also liked Malcolm Gladwell’s  Revisionist History. Because of his enthusiasm for these podcasts, I started listening.

Over the past year, I’ve gotten out of the habit of listening to Roll and Gladwell. The past few days, I immersed myself in the world filled with innumerable people broadcasting and streaming outstanding and maybe more important to me—uplifting content. I don’t want to let the “cat out of the bag” in terms of my future article, but I will share a few things I learned by simply taking time to fill-up with something more positive than the latest angry tweets from our president.

I’ve been a fan of Gladwell’s for a long time. He’s such an outstanding writer. I fell in love with his writing after reading several of his long-form pieces he wrote for The New Yorker. He had a talent for taking a topic that you thought you knew something about and turning it on its head. I then read The Tipping Point, How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. I still can’t believe that book is more than 15-years-old.

Gladwell launched Revisionist History in 2016 and produced 10 episodes. He just concluded the current season and there are another 10 episodes available. Each one takes the listener on a journey through the overlooked and misunderstood—through the lens of a person, an idea, or even a song. His question each time is always, “did we get it right the first time?”

While the story angle for my article was getting content into the hands of busy business owners—with the assumption being that they don’t have time to read—I was able to file a sidebar with a few book recommendations, too.

I’m highly recommending Tom Rath’s book.

One of them I picked up and wrote a snippet on was Tom Rath’s Are You Fully Charged? The Three Keys to Energizing Your Work and Life.

I read Rath’s book late in the afternoon on Tuesday, the day I brought it home from the bookstore. It took me about 90 minutes to read, not because it was lacking, but because it was so damn good and it really spoke to me. I love it when that happens with a book!

It’s easy to see why Rath churns out best-sellers with the ease of breathing—or so it seems. Are You Fully Charged? is his sixth book to make various best-seller lists.

Oh, and I thought a book from John Maxwell would be worthwhile for anyone who really is serious about success, too. I chose How Successful People Think: Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life.

There’s a reason why Maxwell—in a similar manner as Rath—has books that are read by large numbers of people. In Maxwell’s case, it’s because he has the ability to uncover timeless truths, while distilling them down into edible portions that don’t require weeks to plow through. I read through How Successful People Think in two nights.

Change your thinking, change your life.

So here’s what happened over the course of three or four days. Because I was interacting with content designed to push me towards success and seeing the world a certain way, I began feeling better. Not happy. Not parroting some Pollyanna-ish claptrap, but feeling better.

Rath draws upon extensive research to make his points. Like, be 80 percent positive. Rath says that being “blindly positive has more in common with perpetual negativity” than he would have imagined. Both of these tend to be off-putting and cause others to be frustrated, annoyed, or they will simply tune us out. So, when he suggested having 80 percent of your conversations “focused on what’s going right,” I thought I’d try it. In fact, it’s something Mary and I have been doing all week. Here’s the breakdown on how to make it work. For every negative thing you mention or talk about, you have to counter it with four things that are positive and/or uplifting. It’s not that hard if you commit to doing it.

Mark was a positive person. He wasn’t Pollyanna-ish, but he tended to focus on ways to impact people and his world in a positive manner involving direct action. I was really taken by the example he was setting when he took off from Providence last fall on his final walk. Watch any of his videos from that walk and tell me you don’t feel better (even if they make you sad, too) in some way. Oh, there are those who didn’t “get” Mark and his performance art, but I really don’t care about those people. I want to be around others who see the world in a more positive way.

I’m also guessing that there are those who know me and recognize that I haven’t always been a “glass half full,” guy. I admit that. However, we can always change, and according to Rath, Maxwell, Gladwell, Tim Ferris (another podcast I listened to) and others, human beings have that power. Mark would surely concur, as that’s how he had living, focused on the good and the positive over the last segment of his never-boring life.

Grief and loss steals your energy. Think of it being similar to driving around in a car that’s had its low fuel warning light on for the past 10 miles. At some point, your vehicle will stop because you’ve run out of fuel.

We’ve been living on fumes for much of the past nine months. In that place, you simply do your best and try to surround yourselves with people and experiences that allow recharging, not ending up stranded, out of gas.

Perhaps it’s possible to be positive and also, to be really, really sad. It’s happened to me countless times all week. I’d be listening to something amazing and I’d want to share it with Mark. Or, something I was reading reminded me of him, almost like he was speaking directly to me, saying “see dad, you don’t have to see the bad side of people all the time.”

While I can’t say I’ve turned any corners, or this was an epiphany, I can say that it’s been helpful to some degree, coming to this awareness.