At times, most of us have felt unmotivated, discouraged, and as though things were falling apart. In this short parable, The Energy Bus, author and motivational speaker Jon Gordon explains how to turn things around when this happens. The allegory about a middle manager hitting rock bottom takes place on a bus, where the driver and passengers share with him 10 rules for reenergizing his life through positive thinking. Practicing these simple principles can help you build successful teams at work and improve your relationships. Like the story’s main character, George, you can learn to enjoy life’s ride.
1-Page Summary of The Energy Bus
Most people experience times when life seems to be falling apart. How you respond when you encounter adversity and challenges defines you. Author and motivational speaker Jon Gordon maintains that when you respond with positive energy, challenges become opportunities and you create success and happiness.
The Energy Bus illustrates how this works through the fictional story of George, a depressed middle manager at a lightbulb manufacturing company, whose negativity is ruining his career and marriage. When George encounters an ebullient bus driver, things begin turning around.
While this fable has a business setting, it’s written for everyone—the story’s 10 simple rules show you how to create positive energy and enjoy “the ride of your life.”
George, a middle manager at the NRG Company, a manufacturer of light bulbs, had all the things many people want: a nice house, new cars, a family, and a job that paid well. However, over the years, he’d grown negative and discouraged. Finally, his boss and his wife both gave him ultimatums: shape up or face losing his job and his marriage.
With his life in disarray, George needed to pull together his floundering team at work for the introduction of a new lightbulb, on which his and the company’s future depended. Yet another joyless work week began with car problems, which forced him to start taking a city bus.
When he climbed on bus #11, the driver, whose name was Joy, greeted him enthusiastically despite his obviously bad mood. She soon explained that hers was no ordinary bus—it was “The Energy Bus.” She was an “energy ambassador,” whose mission was to energize her passengers through positive thinking.
When it turned out that George’s car problems required a two-week wait for a new part and he’d have to take the bus during that time, Joy seized the opportunity to share her 10 rules for having “the ride of your life,” the bus ride being a metaphor for how you live your life. Since he didn’t have a better idea and needed to do something, George agreed to hear the rules, which she explained as follows.
Rules of the Road
1) You’re the driver
You create your life—it’s your bus, you’re in the driver’s seat, and you determine what kind of ride it will be. Once you take the wheel of your bus, or take control of your life, you need to develop a vision for where you want to go. Ask yourself: “What’s my vision for my life?” ”What’s my vision for my work and team?” “What’s my vision for my relationships?” Write down your vision.
2) Use vision and focus to set your direction
Turning your vision into reality starts with focusing your thoughts on it. There’s a law of energy (also known as the Law of Attraction), which says that by thinking about something, you attract it into your life. Your mental energy attracts a corresponding energy outside you. For instance, people often think of someone and then get a call from that person. Or after they buy a new car, they start seeing that model everywhere because that’s the type of car they’re thinking about.** **Focus on your visions for at least 10 minutes each day and visualize creating the results you want.
3) Power your bus with positive energy
While vision and focus point your bus in the right direction, positive energy is the fuel that powers it. Positive energy is high-octane fuel, as opposed to the sludge created by negative energy. You need to drive your life with positive energy if you want to be successful. Negativity will fill any void, so create positive thoughts and feelings, and take positive actions so there’s no room for anything negative. Positive energy will also get your team on track too, but you have to have it yourself before you can share it.
4) Share your vision and invite people on board
As a leader, you need to get your team on board and headed in the same direction. To do this, meet with each team member and share your vision and expectation that each team member will contribute positively. Then invite them to join you. To underscore their commitment, you can also email or print out bus tickets from The Energy Bus website and ask them to return their ticket to you when they’re ready to get on the bus.
5) Don’t waste effort on those who don’t want to join you
Don’t waste energy worrying about people who don’t share your vision or on trying to change their minds. There will always be people who don’t want to ride your bus, or be part of your team. Don’t take it personally—maybe another bus would be a better fit for them, or they’d be a disruptive presence on your bus anyway.
6) Ban “energy vampires”
The people you surround yourself with have a big impact on whether you succeed. Some people increase your energy and your team’s energy, and some people sap it. The latter are energy vampires, who will suck the life out of you and your projects if you allow them to. They’ll make everyone else miserable and even sabotage your bus.
You need to eliminate any negativity—including negative people—standing between you/your team and your goals. That means refusing to tolerate negativity: make clear to everyone where you’re going, that you need a positive team, and that anyone who’s negative is off the project. If the naysayers don’t change, kick them off your team.
7) Be enthusiastic: it attracts and energizes others
You need to project energy in order to succeed personally and professionally. Without it, you can’t inspire or lead others. Successful people are CEOs, or chief energy officers. They exude positive energy, optimism, and excitement about their lives and work. They aren’t discouraged by challenges, but welcome them as opportunities to grow.
Enthusiasm comes from the Greek word entheos, which means inspired or filled with the divine. When you bring this level of inspired energy to everything you do, others feel it and want to be on your team.
8) Show you care about your team
To inspire others, you also need to become a “love magnet” by demonstrating caring and commitment to your family, company, employees, and customers. While it sounds trite, the truth is that what everyone wants most is to be loved. Your employees want your love too. You can give them awards, gifts, and raises, but these are soon forgotten. What sticks with them is a sense of whether you really care about them and are committed to their future. When they know you care about them, they respond in kind by being loyal and doing great work. In contrast, if you treat them as just a means to your next promotion, you’ll get cynicism in return.
9) Have a larger purpose
Purpose is the most important fuel additive for your journey. Knowing your purpose keeps you energized and focused and prevents burnout. For instance, Joy saw herself not only as a bus driver, but also as a life coach, helping people find their energy and change their lives. This gave her a sense of purpose that inspired her and her passengers. Purpose infuses your everyday life with passion.
10) Enjoy your ride
Since we have only one life, we should enjoy it. Often, people spend their lives stressing over small or unimportant things—for instance, emails, deadlines, arguments, and trivial inconveniences—and overlook the beauty around them. But on the day you die, you’ll still have a pile of unopened emails. So don’t worry about such small things—focus instead on finding joy in each moment. Live each day with purpose and joy.
George Turns Things Around
To begin generating his own positive energy, George began “feeding the positive dog.” The “positive dog” metaphor came from a story that Joy shared of a man who felt pulled in two directions. It was as if there were two dogs inside him battling for dominance: a positive, kind, gentle dog and a negative, angry, mean dog. The man asked the village elder which dog would win. The elder replied, “the one you feed, so feed the positive dog.”
George fed his positive dog by listing what he was grateful for each day and reminding himself of his biggest success of the day before falling asleep, rather than obsessing about the things that had gone wrong.
To pull his team members together and get them moving in the same direction, he met with each person, shared his vision and expectations, and invited them to get on the bus. He handed out bus tickets from the Energy Bus website and asked each team member who wanted to join him to hand in their tickets once they’d decided.
Three team members refused to join and two others, who were problem employees, joined the team but tried to sabotage it. So George met again with each of these people. He realized the two troublemakers were energy vampires, so he gave them an ultimatum to be positive or to leave. One quit and he fired the other. Of the three who refused to join, one quit and the other two later relented.
After eliminating his energy vampires, George demonstrated caring for his team, particularly for a hardworking member, José, who’d become discouraged because George had never expressed appreciation for his efforts. José was one of the three who initially declined to join the team; he changed his mind when George sincerely apologized for taking him for granted.
Next, George worked with the team to formulate a larger purpose beyond successfully introducing the company’s new lightbulb. They decided their purpose was to bring warmth and brighten people’s lives. Motivated with new passion, George’s team achieved one of the most successful new product launches in the company’s history. They were even more enthusiastic about their potential for achieving more great things in the future. George kept his job and shared with his bosses the secret of spreading positivity.
George’s wife told him she’d noticed a big difference in him—for instance, she said that he complained less, showed his love by spending more time with the family, and was positive and enthusiastic. She felt she’d regained the man she’d married and their marriage was back on track. He resolved that, going forward, he would try to live each day with purpose and joy.
Full Summary of The Energy Bus
Everyone encounters adversity and “down” times in life. How you respond to these tests defines you. When you respond with positive energy, you create success and happiness for yourself and others.
_The Energy Bus, _a parable by consultant and motivational speaker Jon Gordon, asserts that **positive people and positive teams create positive results. **He shows how this works through the fictional story of George, a depressed middle manager at a lightbulb manufacturing company, whose negativity is ruining his career and marriage. When his car breaks down and he has to take the bus to work, Geor…
Read the rest of the “The Energy Bus” summary at my new book summary product, Shortform.
Here’s what you’ll find in the full The Energy Bus summary:
- Chapters 1-3: Rock Bottom
- Chapters 4-7: The Energy Bus Rules
- Exercise: Who’s Driving Your Bus?
- Chapters 8-10: George Chooses a Vision
- Exercise: Where Are You Headed?
- Chapter 11: Creating Positive Energy
- Chapters 12-15: George’s Bus
- Exercise: Creating Positive Energy
- Chapters 16-22: Overcoming Negativity
- Exercise: Handling Negativity
- Chapters 23-25: Leading from the Heart
- Exercise: What’s Your Energy?
- Chapters 26-27: Love is the Answer
- Exercise: Showing That You Care
- Chapter 28-30: Teamwork
- Exercise: What’s Your Purpose?
- Chapters 31-32: Things Come Together
- Chapters 33-34: Living With Joy
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