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Good news or bad news first? — what does your answer say about you?

Updated: Aug 7, 2022


“I have good news and bad news which one do you want first?”

What would you answer?

In a recent presentation to over 300 people via a zoom presentation, I posted this question.

They were asked the thumbs up emoji to indicate good news first and the shocked face emoji if they prefer the bad news first.

Guess what was the answer?

Now be honest.

Well over 75% chose the bad news first only a small minority preferred the good news first.

I repeated the experiment in another presentation with very similar results.

So, does it mean anything? I believe it does.

Your preference of bad news or good news indicates the perspective on life you have.

Good news first people are viewing the world as a set of opportunities to seize and explore. They view themselves as empowered individuals who are there to explore and expand on the opportunities in life. They feel empowered and ready. They are creators of the new and exciting. They see the world as full of promise and regard the problems as small obstacles on the way to a better future.

The bad news first, on the other hand, are fixers. The world is a series of problems in need of fixing and they are ready for the next fire fight. The sense of empowerment is limited as they view their world as a series of problems to be fixed. They constantly catch up to the world’s problems and do not see a horizon of a better future ahead of them. Instead, they focus on plugging the problems. The world, after all, is a series of constant problems that need to be fixed. The future is accidently happening while they are mending the world.

I guess you never thought about the simple answer to the question of “good news or bad news first?” in this deep context.

I didn’t either.

I was a bad news first person.

I discovered the depth of the issue when one of my managers insisted on hearing the bad news first. Eventually, I connected the dots. He regarded himself as a “fixer” as he needed problems to fix. That was the essence of his contribution to the world. Sometimes I felt like he was creating some problems so he could fix them. Fires were his bread and butter. The more the merrier. He came alive when he encountered them. One time he flew from Los Angeles to New York on a short 24 hours’ notice just because he decided that a certain missed target was a project he must tackle immediately and spent two days analyzing every number possible to try to fix the problem. He came to life when problems arose. He wasn’t great however in envisioning a better future. He could not see beyond the numbers and facts and extend toward a future yet to be created. Good news were suspicious in his mind. They must contain bad news in them yet to be discovered.

The world cannot be good. It is bad and needs my firefighting skills to amend it.

Fixer or creator, what is your choice?

Who are you? A fixer or a creator? Do you believe in a better future or in fixing the current state?

Some people may argue that the answer is not in their hands. There is an inherent life viewpoint that they follow, they will claim. It is nature not nurture. I was born a pessimist who sees the problems first and can’t see beyond them. Well, I beg to disagree.

Fixer or creator is not a life verdict. It is a choice. More importantly, it is a muscle which requires training. You may start with a life view of problems first and prefer to take care of them first. It might be a result of your past listening lens that you seek to address those problems as a priority. But it doesn’t mean that you cannot evolve to a person of future possibilities.

Your decision says a lot about you. More importantly, it sets your life’s path and authors your story in a certain way. Focusing on the fixing first is assuming a listening lens of helplessness and a “world against me” attitude. It comes with the constant dissatisfaction and anxiety about where the next problem will arise. It’s like playing tennis against 20 machines throwing balls at you. Or alternatively, playing a constant “whack a mole”. You never win. The house always has the upper hand.

Is it really the world perspective and life story you wish to author? If yes, then the good news is you do not need to author it proactively, it will author itself for you. You will become a victim of circumstances running on a hamster wheel that goes to nowhere.

Alternatively, you can decide that life is always bringing something better right around the corner. When you decide to become a creator taking advantage of opportunities, you choose to overcome the obstacles and not let them become the story of your life, but rather seek to identify opportunities that will create a better world. Does this mean that you are delusional? No. The problems are there, but they are not the destination. They are the milestones. The refinement processes. The distillation of skills to reach a better future.

The fixer sees the problems as the main course. The creator views them as merely the appetizer of the meal of life.

A Simple Question — Deeper Story

The empowerment of the listening lens is a powerful one. It can shift your story one way or another. If you feel helpless in life, you will view opportunities as threats and will ignore them or fight them. If you feel powerful, your story will evolve to a place of creation of a better future.

If your mindset is planted in the “bad news first” domain, how do you make a change? After all, it seems as in the last few years you trained your mind to seek the problems and fix them. To view the world in a certain way through a certain listening lens. Start by focusing on your power.

1. Identify the power you do have in the situation. What is the power you bring to addressing the imminent crisis? What makes you qualify to address it.

2. Examine the crisis and ask yourself what are the opportunities hidden inside? If I am already addressing the issue, can I go beyond fixing? Can I create a new reality? Can my solution transcend the current problem and solve future ones?

3. Apply your power to a bigger than fixing solution. Envision a sustainable solution with some new dimensions or benefits and apply your power to create such a solution.

4. Document your success and recognize the opportunities you have uncovered and realized.

Slowly, as you will apply this approach, “bad news first” will become “good news first” as you will see the potential in every situation to go beyond the crisis mode and find new ways to create a better future. Changing a mindset is not just a matter of deciding to do so. It is all about practicing the decision in a real-life situation. This is how slowly but surely you will develop a creator rather than a fixer approach and become the person who will welcome any kind of news. Because they all contain the opportunity to apply your power to create a better future. Now that is a story with a hero, not a victim, ready to create a new chapter. Good luck discovering your power and then the opportunities.

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