Jon Gordon is a motivational speaker, corporate trainer, leadership consultant, and bestselling author of a whole shelf full of books besides The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy, including Training Camp: What the Best Do Better Than Everyone Else and The No Complaining Rule: Positive Ways to Deal with Negativity at Work.
In the tradition of Who Moved My Cheese?, The Energy Bus conveys its lessons via a story. In this case, the protagonist is a human being named George, a gloomy Gus who does marketing at a lightbulb company. George has been warned that he will be fired if his next product launch isn’t stellar; his marriage is on its last legs, too.
As the story begins, George’s car gets a flat tire and he has to take a bus to work. The driver of the bus, aptly named Joy, tells him that she was sent by providence to change his life. At first George doesn’t want anything to do with her or the crazy passengers who appear to be her disciples. But when he learns that his car has a serious problem that will keep it in the shop for 10 days, he signs on for her course.
Spoiler alert: Joy’s rules really work. Not only does George get his mojo back but he restores his team’s sense of purpose and the product launch is a home run. George rescues his marriage, becomes a better father, and is even kinder to the family dog. And all of this happens in just 10 days.
No, The Energy Bus isn’t Tolstoy, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s a painless read—a sugar-coated lesson in the Power of Positive Thinking for busy, business-oriented people who might be put off by a sermon from Norman Vincent Peale. Its step-by-step methodology allows readers to put its lessons to use right away.
At its root is the Law of Attraction. As Joy puts it: “Thoughts are magnetic. What we think about, we attract. What we think about expands and grows. What we put our energy and attention on starts to show up more in our life. And the energy we project through our thoughts is the energy we receive….So it’s important that you spend your time thinking about what you do want rather than what you don’t want.”
Later on, Joy says, “We live in an Energy Field of Dreams!…If you build it in your mind, focus on seeing it, and take action, the success will come.”
It’s not a new idea. William Walker Atkinson first popularized the “law” in his 1906 bestseller Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World, but he didn’t formulate the concept, which goes back to Phineas P. Quimby (1802–1866), the New Hampshire–born clockmaker who is considered the father of New Thought. New Thought and the Power of Attraction were also at the core of Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 bestseller The Secret.
Gordon, I hasten to add, doesn’t preach the Prosperity Gospel; his lessons are commonsensical and grounded in psychological research. He doesn’t promise to bring you wealth; he sets out a path to becoming a less negative person. Positive people are happier and more productive and they are better leaders, too. They prosper in more ways than one.
Does it work? A little more than a century ago, William James undertook an investigation of what he called “the religion of healthy-mindedness.” As unscientific as its tenets seemed, turning as they did on the idea that the “controlling energies of nature are personal, that your own personal thoughts are forces, that the powers of the universe will directly respond to your individual appeals and needs,” they nonetheless appeared to deliver practical results for its believers, he wrote. “Religion in the shape of mind-cure gives to some of us serenity, moral poise, and happiness, and prevents certain forms of disease as well as science does, or even better,” he concluded.
Joy’s philosophy might not be the richest or most subtle, but that’s okay. She’s not a philosopher; she’s a coach. And as a coach, she really delivers.