Successful basketball coach Bob Knight seems to think so. His new book, The Power of Negative Thinking: An Unconventional Approach to Achieving Positive Results, was recently reviewed on the Success.com website. Of the tidbits they share, this is my favorite:
Demand results. To win, you have to demand action and expect the upmost productivity out of your employees. “Successful leadership is [about] being hard to please.”
I also saw a preview of Knight being interviewed on the David Feherty show on the Golf Channel and saying, “A pat on the back gets some things done. A kick in the ass gets more things done.”
I’m not sure Knight’s approach would work as well today as it did in the past. I don’t think people, especially younger generations, are willing to be disciplined and critiqued to this extent. Success Magazine contributor Jason Dorsey writes about how Generation Y needs constant affirmation that they are super, duper. Could a Gen Y player stand the pressure of a Bob Knight-like coach? I suspect the answer is no.
What do you think about the Knight approach of going negative to get to the positive?
Cowboy was abandoned in a foreclosed home during the long, hot summer of 2012. No one found him until about 30 days after he had been left behind by his not so loving family. He weighed 3 pounds. All I can think is that there had to have been a water leak somewhere in that house that allowed him to stay hydrated and not die alone and sad.
Today Cowboy weighs a healthy 10 pounds. He lives in a loving home with playmates, regular meals, and a spot snuggled up at my feet each night.
Amazingly, he shows few ill effects from his abandonment. He still eats his food way too fast and sometimes gets choked up. He’s still cautious around strangers. For six weeks after I adopted him, he would pee all over the floor when I came home after having been gone a while — not surprising, since his experience was that people leave and never come back for you. He’s confident now that someone will always come back for him and doesn’t do the excitable wee-wee anymore.
Cowboy demonstrates an incredible level of resilience. He could have succumbed to death alone in that hot, abandoned house. He could have become a biter, fearful of all people. He could have become shy and fearful, afraid to trust again. But he’s not any of those things. He’s sweet. He’s smart. He’s funny. He’s happy. He loves to play. And he loves to be loved on.
Cowboy hasn’t let his past define his future.
We should all be more like Cowboy. Life can leave us feeling like we got left behind in a hot, barren wasteland. But we should never let the past events in our lives determine our outlook for the future. We don’t need to spend our lives hesitant and fearful. We need to stand up, move forward, and live life to its fullest.
The following video shows Cowboy playing with his new BFF. This is a never-ending activity around Candy Land. Cowboy believes in going after the biggest, hairiest adversary he can find. How about you?
I am a person who strives to treat each person I meet with respect and kindness, and I expect that those with whom I choose to work, socialize, and develop intimate relationships would treat me in the same manner. As a result, I am always temporarily taken aback when folks don’t respond in kind. Of course, I realize that humans aren’t always on their best behavior. We all have bad moments and sometimes even long, dark bad spells in our lives. However, once we schlep off those dark webs, we make our apologies and amends and rejoin the ranks of our mutually respectful peers.
There are, however, those who derive immense satisfaction from siphoning the respect and kindness out of our otherwise grace-filled lives. What is most saddening about these people is that they will often make a show of cooperation in public and then go behind closed doors with their conspirators to gossip and gripe and make assumptions about their coworkers/friends/lovers’ motives, authenticity, intelligence, and so on. These folks are, without a doubt, a serious drain on any intentional community’s resources. They stunt business growth; they sabotage friendships; and they poison intimate relationships.
Oddly enough, very often these purveyors of negativity don’t even know what they are doing. Their souls are so twisted by the gossiping and complaining that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for them to straighten the spine of their character and see the damage they are causing. They likely believe that they are the only ones to see the “truth” of a situation.
Unfortunately, these are the people who find themselves terminated from jobs or passed over for promotions for what seems, to them at least, no reason at all. They are the ones who have constant falling outs with their friends and family. They cannot get along with lovers or spouses and believe the other is always in error. They are the ones who think everyone is out to get them. They sincerely believe that their constant foul mood is someone else’s fault.
Generally, we can distance ourselves from such people and not allow them to take up space in our circles of friends. However, in the workplace we face a difficult situation. If we are the coworker, we have little say in the person’s continued employment. Some will find a new job rather than put up with these energy vampires. Others will stay on, trying to help the twisted one straighten up and see the light. Some perfect the art of avoiding and ignoring the naysayers. Sadly, others will succumb to the negativity and become twisted themselves.
When we are the employer, we must be more proactive. Energy vampires have no place in an organization that seeks to grow. Coaching, mentoring, and training can and should be offered. Respect and kindness should be modeled by management and expected from employees. Those who can’t or won’t follow this lead should find themselves jobless. Respect and kindness towards positive, productive employees demands that managers remove those who disrupt the work environment.
I have been mulling over these thoughts and realizing that the necessary actions are easier to voice than to execute for those of us who truly care about the people in our lives. It seems that respect and kindness go hand-in-hand with hope and forgiveness. And yet, the day must come when action is taken before the integrity of the community is forever shattered.
I heard Martha Stewart interviewed on America’s Test Kitchen this morning and she said something that resonated with me. She commented that since her grandchildren have been born she feels a sense of responsibility for “making the future a good place for them.” (Find the interview HERE starting at about the 13:29 mark). Of course, I don’t have children, but I feel this sense of responsibility when I look at the students I see each day.
I want these students to learn more than a skill. Anyone can learn a skill. I want them to become good thinkers who can in turn shape a good future for their own children. The only way they can learn both the hard skills of their vocation and the soft skills of life is if their instructors and advisors effectively model and teach all of those skills.
When I say I am passionate about education, I guess that is what I really mean: I am passionate about making the future a good place. What I am discovering is that not everyone appreciates my passion. Some see my insistence to personally and professionally improve and grow as overbearing. Some think requests to adhere to known standards and techniques that create good educational outcomes as micro-managing. I am learning that even though I make the same requests of everyone some will think I’m singling them out.
I am beginning to understand why Martha Stewart is so often hated. An insistence on excellence—on building that better future—is not welcomed by those who would rather not push themselves to become better and better. Perhaps they are fearful of change. Perhaps they have personal issues that hold them back. Perhaps past disappointments have caused them to retreat into mediocrity.
I can’t know what another person is thinking, and I can’t force someone to want to better themselves. All I can do is to continue to develop myself and encourage others in my life (both professional and personal) to join me on the (sometimes painful) road to excellence. And I realize that some will choose to go a different route. And that’s okay. My hope is they will find the place and the people with whom they will flourish.