"No more unhappy people in my life"

So says top blogger and Microsoft people’s hero, Robert Scoble recently.

“One of my most memorable conversations…was with Buzz Bruggeman, CEO of ActiveWords and a good friend. He told me to hang around people who are happy. And I realized I had been listening to too many people who were deeply unhappy and not bringing any value into my life.”

Ask yourself: Is that happening to you? Do you remember a time when you were feeling fine, and then you talked to someone, and you ended up less happy?

Life is short, too short to hang out with people who are unhappy and make you unhappy, too. Let them find others who are unhappy and they can all hang out together in unhappyville.

The Buddha recognized clearly “right association” 2500 years ago. Religious scholar Huston Smith wrote:

“No one has recognized more clearly than the Buddha the extent to which we are social animals, influenced at every turn by the ‘companioned example’ of our associates, whose attitudes and values affect us profoundly.” –Buddhism, a Concise Introduction

Look around you, upline, sideline, friends, family or colleagues. Who is happy and adds to your life? Who brings out the best in you?

Associate with such a person, and limit access to the rest.

About the author

Kim Klaver


  • While I agree with the value of having ‘positive’ friends, it is the road to utter selfishness to suggest that you only associate with people who have that orientation.

    More than that, it can lead to a false vision of the world, where many people do suffer from depression, caused by anything from hormones to bad circumstances.

    Learning patience and compassion are all parts of being a positive and whole person

  • Hi Brett, you write:

    “Learning patience and compassion are all parts of being a positive and whole person.”

    True indeed. But one has to decide, do you want to have your life run or affected by those who bring out the worst in you, when there are others, who bring out the best?

    It’s just a question of your focus, not your values. It’s how a person wants to spend the time they have here. With those who make them happy, or unhappy?

    That is a personal choice.

    Isn’t it?

    No reason to be unhappy if the cause is others who are so. That was the point of the post.

    It’s another matter if one wants to do therapy, or be the brunt of another’s unhappiness. One can, like Scoble, take a stand. And I agree. You?

  • Me? I’d go for a balance, but I am concerned by the assumption that the reason we are put on this earth is primarily to be happy, positive people. Some of the unhappiest people I know are unhappy simply because they get involved with, and attempt to tranform difficult and complex situations.

    I’m sure it is not what you’re advocating, but I’m always concerned when I see advice that will simply be taken by the majority as encouraging them to be their own selfish pigs, when one of the biggest emotional cancers of the western world is self-obsession.

  • Sensibly, I agree with ‘stay away from downers’ – they can drag us down. And, I’m aware that sometimes we can unreasonably ‘blame’ others for our own failings when we don’t accept full personal responsibility for our mindset.

    I guess there’s a balance to be found… and in NM – maybe more than other direct sales & networking-oriented commercial activity – there’s an element of folk who perhaps think ‘too positively’ and maybe rely a little too much on ‘power of positive thinking, accept your abundance’ mantras to the detriment of factors which are perhaps more practically pertinent.

    [On checking the maybe/perhaps count in this post, I’m clearly being more diplomatic than usual.]

    Personally, I’d add ‘dull’ to the stay-away-from list.

  • Hi Brett:

    You write:
    “I am concerned by the assumption that the reason we are put on this earth is primarily to be happy, positive people. Some of the unhappiest people I know are unhappy simply because they get involved with, and attempt to tranform difficult and complex situations.”

    I don’t know the reason we are put on this earth. But we do have choice as to how we live our lives. And being happy is not easy for most people. Happy is good because happy people don’t make war with each other. That’s why I agree with Scoble and the Buddha that staying away from unhappy people who infect us with their unhappiness is a choice one can make. Associating with those who make us better is a choice. I try to do that, and the process is not always easy. But one hopes it’s an upward struggle, not a downwards one.

    So as to stay on the path that makes one more satisfied and not add to the world’s already massive unhappiness. Then, one can use the skills learned to help others achieve more inner satisfaction, if they seek help, that is.

  • One of the more helpful phrases I’ve been able to employ to help me make decisions, the likes of which Kim is advocating here, I learned in my first computer programming class many, many moons ago:

    “Garbage In = Garbage Out”

    This reminds me that I choose my friends, I choose the people with whom I spend my time, I choose the bridges I burn, I choose my battles, I choose my response to my circumstances, I choose my thoughts, I choose my actions, and as a result, I choose the quality of my life.

    All of those choices reflect an awareness of personal accountability when it comes to the quality of my life.

    I’ll go even further and say that if I determine that “my life sucks”, I have myself and all my choices to thank for it.

    It’s when I forget the fact that, in EVERYTHING, I have a choice (if only in my response), that my life starts to “suck” for real.

    Wherever possible (and the opportunities are FAR MORE abundant that I was conditioned to believe), I avoid putting “garbage in” to my life (be it people, things, thoughts) because I know that the result will be “garbage out”.

    And yes, it’s a LOT of work to live life this way (it’s always more difficult to go against the tide), but I’ve done my time in Victimville, and I’m not going back. Nor do I welcome visitors from there. Refugees? All day long. Visitors? NO.

  • Having revisted and re-read the Scoble piece, I’m wondering if ‘happy’ is misleading.
    Scoble speaks of a type of ‘positive censorship’…
    And I realized I had been listening to too many people who were deeply unhappy and not bringing any value into my life. It was that moment that I decided to moderate my comments here. Yes, I am now approving every comment here. And I will delete any that don’t add value to either my life or the lives of my readers.
    Eliminating from our lives stuff which doesn’t bring any value is sensible. And are ‘value’ and ‘happiness’ really that closely associated?

    By shifting the focus toward ‘value’ rather than ‘happiness’ the discussion assumes a different and worthwhile dynamic…

    Hanging out solely with ‘happy folk’ can induce a false perspective – certainly if that ‘happy state’ is a result of being closed to some things of which, as responsible citizens, we ought to be aware.

  • I have spent a good portion of my 43 year on this earth, trying to please people. I’ve definitely spent the last 6 years in my current company “coaching” = meaning listening to sob stories and personal tragedies. I would offer advice, an ear to talk to, and possible solutions. It all worked for a few hours to a few days, but the same people kept calling with their sob stories, and personal tragedies. One in particular, would get ABSOLUTELY indignant if I told her that no one’s life is perfect. My life energy was being sucked out of me by these kind of leaches.

    I broke this cycle several months ago. I’m “healing” from this negative pattern that I had been entrenched in my whole life.

    I know that no one’s happy 100% of the time. On the other hand, there are people who CHOOSE, absolutely CHOOSE to be professional victims, and they aren’t satisfied until everyone else is miserable or entrenched in their drama.

    I’m at the point in my life where I deserve to be happy, and not have other people’s negative attitudes, gossiping, self-victimization weigh me down. I make MY choice, they are free to make theirs.

    Life is too short.

  • Hi Brett,

    Sometimes simple metaphors are most helpful when considering Life’s more complex issues. Brett, after reading your comments, I wonder if you’ve ever pondered the wisdom around the instructions we’ve all heard onboard any airliner when preparing for take-off. I’m referring to the part about using the oxygen mask. Do you recall the specific instuction to place the mask on your own face first? Doing otherwise will rapidly take you out of the game, rendering you no good to those around you.

    I consciously choose to avoid those who tend toward unhappiness & discontent, or otherwise ‘suck the oxygen out of the room’.


  • Wow-
    This is one of the most thought provoking blogs yet, Kim! Thanks.

    I grew up in a family where I was sent to my room if I couldn’t “be happy”. There was absolutely no support for anger, sadness, grief or any other “negative” emotion. Consequently, I had a hard time acknowledging any of those feelings or dealing with them, until I found myself in AA because (surprise!) I was using alcohol to numb feelings I couldn’t deal with.

    Now, I have learned that there’s an absolute tight-rope walk between denial and wallowing. Feeling my feelings, facing them, and moving on is the third alternative to the either/or dualism of denying them or wallowing in them. Unfortunately, there are a lot of folks out there who wallow and are chronically negative folks. It’s very difficult to be around these folks and they are virtually impossible to help because EVERYthing is on their vent list. There are also a lot of people who are in denial about anything negative, and for me it is difficult to feel any real intimacy with these people because they aren’t really htere. They’re numb.

    So I try to surround myself with people who are willing to feel their feelings and let me feel mine. We have a mutual trust that we won’t be stuck in them for very long (everything is on the change list!) and we support each other to be where we are until we aren’t there any more.

    And we are active;y working to improve the world and make it a better place because we aren’t stuck in self-centeredness or denial.

    Thanks again for the posting, Kim. Fascinating subject for the dawn of a New Year.



  • This post resonates with me, having just returned from a visit with ‘relatives’ (adult (a-hem) step-kids) who make fun of what I do. Who needs it? Not me! My New Year’s resolution: Seek others who are like-minded, positive people.

  • My favorite saying/thought is:

    “You cease playing because you grow old, you grow old because you cease playing”

    The fastest way to grow old OR cease playing is to PURPOSEFULLY associate with downer people and allow them to pull you down.

    Of course, we all have contact with folks who are not “perpetual happy campers” (I have been accused of that more than once) BUT we can CHOOSE to spend more of our time with folks that ARE!

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