There is a fine line between seeing fault and celebrating fault. Between taking joy in imperfection to taking joy in the potential for improvement. Without discontent, there can never be forward momentum — for what would be the reason to change?

Nothing is truly neutral. To accept mediocrity is to deserve it. To see only the good, is to deny all potential for improvement.

We all arrive in this world, in unknown location, in unknown circumstance, and make do with the opportunities, or not, that come with our position.

Our purpose in our own lifetime, within our own limited sphere of influence is to do no harm, to take less than we give, and if at all possible - to improve the odds of sustainable happiness for the next generation of arrivals.

Improvement starts with finding those objective things that do not work. Not big things … little things. We should all aspire to be less happy with those mediocre aspects of the world that we have the the power to make great.

When objective, and laced with idealism, negativity is the greatest creative force in the world.

Identify a problem, then mentally roll out solutions until the problem becomes potentially trivial. If the problem is small enough, you can fix it all by yourself. It could be as simple as the optimal layout of furniture in a house, it could be as complex as reducing a 7 step process to a 5 step process.

To improve we must be able to quantify. Without measurement, how can we know what to do, what works, and what does not work?

There is nothing more rewarding than mining simplicity from complexity.

The joy of discovering the reducably complex and replacing it with something more ergonomic. And that joy starts with criticism, it starts with what many might describe as negativity.

So, be careful before applying the negative label to a person as a pejorative. Contentedness is the enemy of improvement. Affability is the enemy of passion. Discontent is the driver of progress.

Understanding what doesn’t work and why it doesn’t work, AND understanding how to make it better is not negativity, it is creativity.

If something is sub-optimal, don’t feel ashamed for noticing, embrace the criticism, but ask yourself is your criticism objective, and will likely be shared by a majority of others once related, or subjective, and “improvements” are just as likely to be loathed as loved?

If someone criticises something that you have done, stop, think about it. Ask them for details. Is the criticism objective or subjective?

If objective, is there a solution attached to the criticism? Don’t instantly become defensive when faced with constructive criticism.

Bug reports are not there to make software worse, they exist to make software better. They are not attacks on developers, they are opportunities for learning. Negativity is like glacial erosion — whatever remains after the thaw marks the optimal path.

That said, it is rare for improvement to be without cost, so be careful of the baby in the bathwater, and always be respectful of others, and mindful of other perspectives.

Improvement is often a zero sum game. Improve one aspect at the expense of another.

Always approach improvement from the perspective of potential regressions . If it is possible to please all of the people, all of the time then do it. One size rarely fits all but with a bit of engineering, it sometimes can. Iterate, and iterate. One innovation unlocks another.

In closing then, be careful of applying the label “positive” and “negative” to people on the basis of their perceived level of contentedness. Nihilism is negativity. Finding fault and having an idea of the solution, even something momentarily impractical is not negativity, it is the seed of positive change.


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