The Flashlight and the New Batteries

Here in the Midwest, we’ve had a couple of weeks of powerful storms. With each tornado warning, I lost tree branches and several hours of sleep while the rain and thunder pounded on the roof above my head. Fearful of losing power, I found my emergency flashlight in my nightstand. Flicking on the light produced nothing more than a clicking noise. But no light. Navigating through the dark during a storm requires more than miming illumination with a broken flashlight. And a broken light certainly couldn’t help me get the attention of rescue workers if I were trying to get their attention from under a pile of rubble.

I ran downstairs in search of other flashlights. Of course I found none. Flashlights disappear in my house as readily as do pens and pencils. I suspect my children have a secret stash of those things plus maybe my extra set of car keys and reading glasses. I turned my attention to the batteries. I popped out the old ones from the flashlight and replaced them with some I found at the bottom of a kitchen drawer. Nothing. Finally, I found some new batteries inside my pantry. I loaded them and flipped the switch.

This time, accompanying the clicking sound was a bright beam of light. My flashlight can now land airplanes in a blizzard.

Sometimes our attitudes need new batteries, too. If your batteries are dead, you can’t produce light.

A few years ago I read Bob Sutton’s amazing book The No A–hole Rule. Through research, surveys and anecdotal evidence, Sutton proves that being surrounded by a–holes is bad for us. He points out that one a–hole at work can devastate morale and deplete motivation. Even more frightening is that a–holes breed more a–holes. Find a “successful” a–hole boss, and I’ll show you several a–holes-in-training who emulate that bosses’ bad behavior.

Want to kill the batteries in your positive attitude? Stay in an environment like that for too long.

On the other hand, you can recharge your attitude by spending time with people who renew your spirit. This last week, the power company sent out crews to clear the power lines of limbs and branches. When I saw their trucks in front of my house, I went outside where my neighbor, Deb, was talking with the work crew. Everyone was smiling and laughing. Deb has a way about her to make people feel good about themselves. By the time I joined, the work foreman was saying to Deb in a low voice,

“Normally, I wouldn’t do this sort of thing. But you seem like good people. So we’ll take care of some of those other trees for you while we’re out here.”

Through kindness, Deb got a favor out of the work crew. The foreman agreed to trim some additional trees that were nowhere near the power lines! She wasn’t trying to manipulate anyone; she was just being herself. And by her being herself, she brought out the goodwill and kindness in others, too.

In the same way that a–holes spawn more a–holes, kind and decent people attract kindness and decency from others. If your attitude battery is low, find a Deb in your life and rub up against her until the sweetness rubs off on you. And for a real exponential battery charge, BE THAT KIND OF PERSON to those you come across today.

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