Smile or Die: The Dark Side of Positive Thinking

This powerful and sobering animated short was taken from RSA’s YouTube channel.  Consider subscribing to their channel for all kinds of thought provoking goodness.

The narrator in this clip is Barbara Ehrenreich, a political activist, award winning essayist, author of over 21 books, and all round bad ass lady.  She exposes the nonsense and hardships of living on minimum wage and trying to get by in her ground breaking book, “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America“. I highly recommend picking up this book, it will have a profound impact on the way you look the world of work.

Be Positive or Else!

Leaders have been ‘classically trained’ and essentially charmingly cajoled to be positive, no matter what.  We are to polish the brass on the Titanic even after ramming into the proverbial iceberg.

The idea of forced positivism came about when leadership circles grappled with the idea of how to maneuver operationally when things inevitably go sour.  Essentially this line of thinking was thought to help people overcome obstacles they face in their personal and professional lives.

Happy Endings Aren’t Free

The main issue with positive thinking is how it forces you to re-imagine reality.  In order to follow this ideology you need to completely reshape the narrative into a story that always has a happy ending.  We all know that happy endings are not realistic, at least not all the time.

Re-configuring reality is usually meant to persuade someone of something or to sell(sometimes literally) them on a belief of viewpoint.  Marketers call this “spin”.  Spin is the jargon for re-invention of truth or reality in order to profit from the outcome of changing the audience’s mindset about some particular idea.

The Gentle Lie

Positive thinking is therefore a kind of gentle lying in order for the audience to avoid dwelling on the negative aspects of this or that.

Let’s all face reality and stop kidding ourselves.  When things go to hell, we need to grieve.  Avoiding pain can numb you to ever feeling alive.  There is no pill to escape reality.  Embrace what happens to you and deal with it head on.

As leaders and employees, and as people, we need to embrace reality and stop spinning all the threads of our life story into story book happy endings.  Only then can we move forward with our job and lives.


Leave a Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *