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A Service Story

May 16, 2024

Staying Positive in a Negative World, Part 13

Sept. 9, 2009
51. Remember, Bad News Outsells Good News. For nearly 75 years Pensacola, Florida dodged all hurricanes. Then, Erin struck. We were staying at my family’s condo on Pensacola Beach at the time. Everyone was evacuated from the island and for two days we couldn’t return.

This is the final article in a series by Matt Michel about how to stay positive when we’re surrounded by bad news and negativity. If you missed the previous article, click here to read it.

51. Remember, Bad News Outsells Good News. For nearly 75 years Pensacola, Florida dodged all hurricanes. Then, Erin struck. We were staying at my family’s condo on Pensacola Beach at the time. Everyone was evacuated from the island and for two days we couldn’t return.

Having grown up in Florida, I’ve and seen my share of hurricane devastation. Hurricanes can be a form of architectural Darwinism where only the fittest structures survive. Since Pensacola had gone untouched for so long, I expected a lot of damage. I was surprised at the lack of damage. Almost all of the thousands of homes on the island appeared untouched. However, on the sound side of the island, near our condo, two beautiful homes received extensive damage.

Guess where the news crews where parked? Yup, directly in front of the two damaged homes. When we returned to Texas, people who knew where we had been tsk tsked about the devastation. They were convinced we must have we lost our condo and that West Florida was now a wasteland. After all, that was the picture painted by the media.

Few professionals are more negative and cynical than the modern journalist (okay, the trial lawyer can give the journalist a run for the money). Few professionals appear to delight in reporting that the glass is half empty more than journalists.

The other day I read a real estate blog bemoaning local newspaper coverage of the real estate market. When the market was hot, the blogger noted that the paper warned of the impending collapse of a real estate bubble. The bubble never burst, though the market did cool. As a result, the paper now preaches doom and gloom about the market’s depressing outlook.

In June, 2005 unemployment fell to 5.0%, the lowest since 9/11. The economy added nearly 150 thousand jobs during the month and the Bureau of Labor Statistics revised the job growth numbers up by nearly 50 thousand jobs for April and May. Good news, right? Not according to the media.

The headline in the New York Times declared, “June Job Creation Lags Behind Expectations.”

Reuters said job growth was “tepid.”

CNN declared it a “mixed picture.”

“Many analysts expected even more new jobs,” blared the NBC reporter.

CBS and ABC panned the job growth entirely. That’s how they react to good news, so is it any wonder they’re full of despair today?

It’s not just local or national economic news. Anytime I’ve talked with or listened to the direct comments from someone serving in or returning from Iraq, I get an entirely different perspective than the media provides.

When he addressed Congress, Iraqi Prime Minister Allawi said, “I have seen some of the images that are being shown here on television. They are disturbing. They focus on the tragedies…”

Isn’t it interesting how reports repeatedly promised that the troop surge would fail and then went mum when it succeeded, turning the tide in Iraq? When the news from Iraq turned positive, the media lost interest.

Whether it’s a natural disaster, local economic news, national economic news, or foreign affairs, the mainstream media is a bunch of sourpusses. They not only report that the glass is half empty, but that it’s evaporating rapidly.

Why the negativity? I’m sure some of it is agenda driven, but most of it is human nature. Sadly, bad news sells. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t be confronted by nearly as many tabloids magazines in supermarket check out lines.

As businesspeople, you’ve got to follow the news. However, you can choose the news you follow. Spend more time with magazine, with your trade press, and less with the national press. Read your local “Business Journal” and the business page of your local paper more than the front page of the dailies. Read Comanche Marketing. I lead every issue with “News That Doesn’t Depress You.”

Every so often, take a week off from the news. Don’t pay attention to the news at all. By the end of the week, life will seem far more cheery.

If you can’t help yourself and simply must follow the news, blow by blow, remember things are seldom as bad as reported.

52. Help Others. Want to improve your own outlook? Volunteer. Volunteering is giving of us. When we volunteer, we do well. We feel better about ourselves. Our spirits are lifted and we walk around with that warm glow inside. Try it.

Volunteering helps in other ways. Sometimes the people we help remind us how good life is.

When I coached youth soccer, one of the kids I coached wound up in the hospital. Erika woke one morning with no feeling or movement in her legs. An MRI revealed a growth along her upper spine that turned out to be a blood clot. The surgery to remove it necessitated the removal of three vertebrae. Two were replaced.

When I visited Erika, she was so excited. With effort, she could move her toes. She was remarkably upbeat. So was her mother, Julie, who was candid about the bad days, accepting of the situation, and hopeful about the future.

The future did improve for Erika. After a few weeks, she was able to stand briefly with assistance. She returned to school and even returned to soccer.

Visiting Erika lifted my spirits. My spirits were lifted because her attitude was so great. My spirits are also lifted because I’m reminded not to take things for granted. Erika didn’t.

Another of the kids I coached was mildly autistic. Yet no one tried harder than Amber. No one had a better attitude or a more infectious smile.

Out of the blue Amber would come running up and say something like, “My mother says I have to be brave. I’m trying to be brave. I’m trying.”

Or, Amber would walk up after practice and put her arm on my back, declaring, “You’re a good coach.”

How can you feel down around a kid like that?

Whenever I help others, whether through a formal, organized program or as spur-of-the-moment happenstance, I usually benefit in numerous ways. If nothing else, my outlook improves.

I’m not the only one. I talk with lots of top contractors on the Service Roundtable who go out of their way to help others. Why? Most were given help along the way and figure it’s their turn to give back. They sincerely want to assist others.

Yet, inevitably, they tell me that the more they give, the more they get back. It’s not why they do it. It’s just how things turn out. Try it.

53. Take Action. I put off this one until last. I confess. At times I procrastinate. I delay tackling unpleasant tasks. The more I delay, the worse they seem, until finally I’ve got this huge dark cloud hanging over my head. The only way to make it go away is to take action.

Taking action always improves things. It’s especially true when it’s taking an action that we dread or have delayed.

When we act, we are doing what we can. That makes us feel good about ourselves and improves our attitudes. Conversely, failing to act is depressing to us because we know we aren’t putting forth our best effort.

Taking action is forward progress. It’s positive motion.

How are you going take action?

Matt Michel is the CEO of the Service Roundtable, an alliance of HVAC and plumbing contractors. For just $50, contractors receive access to millions of dollars of downloadable, customizable, sales, marketing, and business tools that are certain to grow your sales, build your bottom line, and give you more time for your family. Give it a try. Matt says he’s “positive” you’ll like it.

If you would like to contact Matt, you can reach him at [email protected], toll free at 877.262.3341, or on his mobile at 214.995.8889. You can subscribe to his Comanche Marketing newsletter at