Malaise is Not a Default Setting Worth Keeping

I couldn’t resist a recent headline promising a feel-good story. An unemployed man in Ohio finds a Picasso print in a thrift store and winds up getting $7,000 after it’s authenticated. He paid $14.14 for it.

After most people read this story they make comments like, “Isn’t that nice?” or “Good for him. He can really use it.” But one commenter went this route: “If he’s unemployed, why is he shopping? Next he’ll be expecting welfare.”

Goodness, do you have any idea how negative a view on life you have to hold to come up with that? Should we even go there?

This just happened to come across my radar at a time when several of my life coaching clients have asked me pointedly if there’s something wrong with them for wanting to improve their lives.

“Almost everyone around me is content to be miserable in their jobs,” one client said. “It makes me feel odd for wanting more.”

It is then up to me to assure them that, no, they are not odd or wrong or crazy. But maybe they are in a minority of folks who have decided not to settle or be OK with malaise as a default setting in life.

“If you’ve been doing what you’re doing for years and it’s not-so-great, you are in a rut,” Jessica Hagy writes in The Six Enemies of Greatness (and Happiness) on “Many people refer to these ruts as careers.”

OK, Mr. and Ms. Miserable, this is for you. I implore you, for the sake of yourself and all the people who love you, to realize that it doesn’t have to be like this. It doesn’t. You can change it. You can choose to see life in a better light.

It takes a lot of energy to consistently go against the grain and find something wrong in almost everything or to have dreadfully low expectations. A commonly used term these days is “hater” but that’s a little strong for what I’m addressing here. I’m thinking more along the lines of contrarian.

We all have a bit of this in us, don’t we? I know there is something really bothering me when I start going negative on seemingly innocuous things. The key is to recognize it and adjust it.

Let’s take the aforementioned contrarian on the Picasso print incident. Had he read the whole story, he would have learned that Zachary Bodish, the man in question, was actually being a go-getter by shopping in the thrift store. He had been supplementing his income restoring furniture to help make ends meet.

It’s such a good example of how a perspective shift changes the entire picture. What a motivator to try to dig a little deeper and see the value in people and situations.

The recent Facebook IPO has brought out the contrarians in droves. I find myself shaking my head repeatedly as people rake CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the coals for having the audacity to create something genius that has changed the world and make money on it.

According to a recent article in New York magazine by Henry Blodget, Zuckerberg included a letter in his IPO prospectus that says, “Facebook was not originally created to be a company.” It “was built to accomplish a social mission – to make the world more open and connected.” Ultimately, he wrote, “We don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services.”


Look, I enjoy the heck out of Facebook, but you could have sent that idea to me on a silver platter and I wouldn’t have seen its value. Therein lies the beauty of Zuckerberg’s vision and -- even though I’ve been critical of some of his decisions along the way -- his execution of that vision.

Still, I hear the “I don’t need to know what people are eating for lunch” quips and the “I prefer human connection” comments from its detractors. Those gripes are so four years ago, people. If it’s not your thing, cool. Just say so. But if you’re going to be a contrarian, base it on real experience. I know of no one who has less human connection because of Facebook; it actually widens the possibilities for staying in touch with people you’d never be able to keep up with using email, the phone or lunch dates.

It’s like knocking the movie you haven’t seen or the book you haven’t read or the cuisine you haven’t tried. We all get caught up in that sometimes, but is it really our best moment to rip something blindly and ignorantly?

I’ve also seen a lot of piling on from the negative set about the rich getting richer with this Facebook IPO. Really? We’re begrudging Zuckerberg? This 28-year-old is the son of a psychiatrist and a dentist. He’s Joe Middle Class USA. Isn’t he the example of what is great about this country?

Sure, we have a lot more outlets these days to voice our negativity and be curmudgeons and wear our schadenfreude on our sleeves, but maybe that can also help us to see it and squash it or at least temper it a bit.

Call me crazy, but if an unemployed guy finds a Picasso in some random store in the Midwest, I’m smiling big.

Nancy Colasurdo is a practicing life coach and freelance writer. Her Web site is and you can follow her on Twitter @nancola. Please direct all questions/comments to