Don’t let that negative bias win out

I was thinking about our predilection for negative bias on the way into work today.  Mostly in the context of the broader community but then that led me to muse about partnerships and spouses.  

If I’m being honest, I was internally cursing the fools that run in the middle of the street in Boulder.  I’m right behind you with a very large automobile. I’m empathetic that it’s cold and snowing. And I know the sidewalks aren’t always even and may be harder to run on. I’m freaking impressed that you get out in the very cold weather and get your run on. However, it’s 8AM and much of the world is trying to go to work or school. Let’s all work together to not run you over. That means you need to actively get out of the “effing” way. There, that’s what really prompted me to muse about the negativity of human nature and the way we all affect each other. Moving on….

The negativity bias is strong, it’s part of what informs our survival and it’s clear that we are constantly looking for risks even in our closest relationships. And we see the challenges of that in our companies (often among founders) and in our partnerships (more than we’d like to admit). And yes, even in our closest relationships with our spouses and family.

It seems the human mind is built to evaluate risk and look for the negative in any relationship.  That’s why you have to work so hard to stay positive. My wife likes to say that you aren’t just “happy” but that you have to make an active decision to “be happy”.  It’s something you have to work at and, for me, that usually comes from a place of humility and gratitude. It turns out you have to work even harder to stay happy or positive in your relationships with other people. I came across this interesting article that claims we have to maintain a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative experiences in a relationship just to maintain neutral bias.  

Your physical condition definitely influences your ability to bias positive. That’s why some form of consistent exercise is important. Also, the temporary setbacks of physical sickness affect your mental health. I’ve been trying to shake a cold for the last 3 weeks. Every time I get to feeling better, I try to rally or push through some travel and end up sick again. It has definitely impacted my psychological state. I’ve been “fussy” to put it kindly.  Thus, the rant against street runners above.

As investors, we have to guard against our physical and emotional state creating a too negative or too positive bias.  We are experienced (meaning we wear scars from our mistakes) and it would be easy to become cynical given all the daily challenges of investing in early-stage companies.  However, as an equity investor you must be an optimist at your core. The game is controlling that peaks and valleys.

As partners, we have to work hard to keep our partnership in a good place. It’s entertaining but we also have put emphasis against having fun together to keep that magic ratio in place. We all work hard and it’s easy to miss having those positive experiences if you don’t prioritize them.  

And most importantly as spouses, we all have to make sure that we maintain a positive relationship with our most important partners in life. I think the secret to our group may be that we all have strong, amazing partners at home that keep us in a good place.  

So, go work on the positive and make a decision to be happy.