Written back in 1944, nominated for Best Song in 1945 and popular for decades after, this Johnny Mercer / Harold Arlen tune was inducted into the USA Library of Congress' National Recording Register in 2015.
"You've got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium's
Liable to walk upon the scene"
A few weeks back I was driving to a meeting when Bing Crosby's version of "Accentuate the Positive" was playing on the radio. I was alone, without interruption from passengers, and the words seemed to take on extra meaning.
Listening to the words got me thinking about how (over recent years) we have become more focused on the negative. We seem to have become obsessed with what's wrong: the 5% of things that are not going well.
We've slipped into the darkness - a focus on what we or others haven't achieved: today, this week, this month; this quarter; this year. Achievements are celebrated momentarily, if at all.
Making 95% of a goal (be it a reduction in the Federal Budget Deficit or a weekly performance target) is "unacceptable" and "disappointing". Being five minutes late to a meeting is "disrespectful". Achieving everything on your to-do list is "not-negotiable".
Overcoming these 'failures', we are told, requires "unrelenting" action and "complete determination". There will need to be "sacrifices" and some people will need to be "made examples of". And to what end?
Where is all of this negativity and labelling of 'weaknesses' taking us? Is this (at least in part) the cause for reduced longevity for employees with the same employer? Why we've had six Prime-Ministers in less than a decade? Why incidents of stress, depression and anxiety continue to climb year after year after year?
I'm not sure.
But I can't help wonder if all our efforts & attention on the 5% of negatives might be better spent on accentuating the 95% of positives?