It's natural. In Chapter 3 of "Lovemarks," Kevin Roberts discusses how most of our primary emotions are negative. Those powerful, strong emotions are a Darwinian way to survive. Roberts then discusses how the more complex secondary emotions that combine the heart and the head can lead to idea of "love." It's interesting to see how something so pervasively negative can be turned into something positive.
I tend to err on the side of "duckies and bunnies." My little world is filled with gumdrops and a group of woodland pals that would throw down an impromptu oompah-band jamboree at any time. I have my biting, cynical side, but I've noticed that I am becoming more and more impatient with excessive bitching. I'm all for active discussion, but complaining for the sake of complaining is amazingly counter-productive. This is obviously a stretch, but griping could conceivably be considered a business and productivity crisis. Why? Because it stymies progress, keeps the status quo or makes things regress. Imagine the amount of energy, time and money we lose by steaming over s**t that may not really matter.
I actually kept track of this a few weeks ago. I logged the amount of time that I spent interacting with people who complained. There were two distinct tracks: the first was listening to complaining for the sake of complaining and the second was complaining but with a clear direction on how to channel it into something productive. Out of all of the people I interacted with, five hours were devoted to venting. Twelve hours were spent in the "gripe press," but there was a clear direction on how to put that ire to good use. The rest of the time I watched college basketball to see my bracket go up in spectacular flames. (Damn you, Georgetown!) After that week, I found myself more closely watching my own behavior. When I was compelled to ratchet up a snarky comment, I pulled back.
Then, I began to think about the radio industry. Yes, we have challenges. Yes, there are some not-so-pleasant things going on. But I realized that for every negative thing out there, I could point to something positive. What hangs people up sometimes is the negative victim mentality. I, for one, think radio and audio content is in the best "potential position" it's ever been in. There are some good stories, and that will continue. Reality dictates that I should have some level of pragmatism, but, as my friend Allan Davis of Entercom once said, "I will never apologize for being an optimist."
Admittedly, I've written and said some pretty negative stuff (some of it just flat-out stupid and indefensible). None of us is perfect. But I have learned my lessons along the way and am one of the bigger optimists you'll find. In fact, I fully expect Ken Wheaton or Jonah Bloom to fire off an e-mail calling me Tony f-in Robbins.
Now, I understand that there are plenty of you who are about to just slam me for this observation. Go for it. I'd love to hopefully open up a productive dialogue. Because we wouldn't want to waste any more energy, time and money now, would we?