A few weeks back while cycling on a remote country road, a speeding car passed within six inches of my side. It tore further down the road and never paused. I am convinced the driver of that vehicle never saw me. Perhaps wasn’t even looking. And in that moment of inattention, I almost ceased to be. I almost went from a positive to a negative. In an instant.
I’ve had a bit of anxious fever in my head while riding ever since. We all value our lives. We all know they could end in a minute. That is supposed to make every one of us appreciate every moment and make the most of our lives. Somehow it doesn’t always work that way.
You’re gonna die
Some fellow on Linkedin wrote a piece called “You’re gonna die.” It used that provocative title as Clickbait to get readers. After all, everyone wants to know how they’re gonna die. If someone can give us a bit of insight, why not read it?
So I read the piece to the point where I realized where it was going. He was repeating what every religion and motivational speaker tells us. Life is precious. Make the most of it.
The guy’s big point was to push people in business to do more, and never quit. This was the same mantra conveyed in a LinkedIn blog from a successful businessman who suddenly discovered that he has pancreatic cancer. Stage 4. Everything in his life was going great guns until them. Wealth. Great family. Then bam. Welcome to the anxious fever of threatened existence.
Stories like that really heighten the banality of most “business motivation” memes. Twenty years ago a company near my home got big by making those motivational posters featuring pretty places or athletes in action with words like PURPOSE or PASSION emblazoned below the photo. Some businesses hang these posters everywhere in hopes of inspiring employees to be more loyal, motivated and productive.
I suppose it’s much better than hanging a photo like the one below with the words “GIVE UP. Most men live lives of quiet desperation.”
Which really is the more effective motivator? Powerfully positive words? Or honestly negative phrases?
The jury on that one seems to tilt toward positivity. But the recent experience of being nearly wiped out by that speeding vehicle on a country road has called a certain brand of negativity to bear in my worldview. Prior to that moment, I was assuming the best about the world. I was positive, for the most part, that people would care enough to look for me on the road. To see me before striking me down. To notice the world around them.
But I no longer think that way at all. It was a watershed moment in my athletic career. I am now positive about the negative aspects of inattention, ego and false sense of security.
It could have all ended right then and there. That’s seems a profound negative, but it is one with which we all have to live. I’ve got blinking lights for the back of my bike and a headlight mounted on the front. But even that may not be enough. There are too many dark minds in this world obsessed with their own phones and texting to their desires. It’s like courting the chaos of the universe. There are no guarantees. None at all.
But that’s where negativity can actually save you. Being negative about the general compassion and attention of this world actually amounts to a positive, in the end. Negativity is sometimes the only positive protection we have.