Jon Gordon is one of the most prolific and best-known business and personal development authors in the world today. The author of 23 books, most notably “The Energy Bus”. Jon has inspired readers and audiences all around the world with his message about the power of positive energy and positive leadership. His principles have been put to the test by countless Fortune 500 companies, school districts, hospitals, college and professional sports teams, and non-profits. He has consulted with leaders who have transformed organizations, won national championships, and are currently changing lives all over the world.


A VIDEO VERSION OF THIS CONVERSATION IS AVAILABLE AT: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AEk5JMUiXP8&t=6s



Q: I’m interested in finding out a little bit of your personal background because I find in your writing you said you aren’t naturally a positive person. I think it’s noteworthy you’ve become known for this principle of positive leadership. What can you tell us about your personal background and your evolution?

  • It’s very ironic to me that this is my life’s work; positivity, positive leadership, building strong and positive teams, because I’m not naturally positive.
  • I grew up in New York in a Jewish-Italian family. A lot of food, guilt, wine, whining. My family wasn’t positive. I wasn’t very positive.
  • When I was 31 years old, my wife came out to me and said, “I love you, but I’m not going to spend my life with someone who makes me so miserable.”
  • I had to change. I made a commitment right then and there. I was going to become a positive person.
  • I started researching ways I could be more positive. As I researched, I started to practice these ideas and it had an impact on my life. I found my calling in doing this work.
  • Being positive doesn’t only make you better, it makes everyone around you better. I became a better husband, father, leader and I started to sharing this message with others.
  • I wrote the “Energy Bus” that took off and it took 5 years to become a bestseller. I had to walk and live the principles, overcome adversity and negativity. Find my way and voice. Along the way the “Energy Bus” brought me these opportunities to visit teams, professionals, colleges, companies and school districts.
  • That became the basis for the “Power of Positive Leadership,” and the “Power of a Positive Team.” You’ve to be a positive leader to be a great leader. You’ve to be a positive team to be a great team.

Q: Is it true that George, the main character in the “Energy Bus” was based on your own struggle with negativity and adversity?

  • Totally, I wrote about that in the No Complaining Rule. George was based on me.
  • He’s miserable, negative and the wife’s about to leave him. He basically represented my life at the time. It was easy to write about.

Q: I know in the “Energy Bus” you say we should develop the skill of positive energy by practicing. What are some ways we can do this?

  • You’ve to feed yourself each day in order to feed others. If you don’t have it, you can’t share it.
  • The best advice I’ve ever heard was from Dr. James Giles. He is the only person to complete 6 Double Iron Man Triathlons. He was asked how he did it and replied, “I’ve learned to talk to myself instead of listening to myself.”
  • “If I listen, I feel all the negativity, doubt, all reasons why I can’t finish this race.” “But if talked to myself, I get to feed myself with words and the encouragement I need to keep on moving forward.”
  • We’ve to feed ourselves each day with words of encouragement. When you’re encouraging yourself, you’re putting courage into yourself. When you’re encouraging others, you’re putting courage into them.
  • One thing I’ve done over the years is a gratitude walk. Research shows you can’t be stressed and grateful at the same time. Every day for the past 16-17 years, I’ve taken a gratitude walk. While I’m walking, I fill my brain and body with positive emotions which uplift me than stressed ones that slowly drain me. That’s what I do on a daily basis. It’s a routine.
  • This isn’t Pollyana positive. It’s knowing you have the power to overcome thorns. It’s not about ignoring reality. This is about maintaining optimism, belief and faith in order to create abetter reality.

Q: I want to talk about how we can implement the power of positive energy as a leader of a team or organization. in the “Power of Positive Leadership” you talk about building a positive team at the culture level. How does that start?

  • It all starts at the culture level. What do we value? What do we stand for? Investing in the roots of the tree, not the fruit.
  • So often, we focus on numbers, stock prices, our wins our losses. We ignore the roots, our culture, our people, our relationships. If you focus on the fruit and ignore the roots, what happens to the tree? It dies.
  • At the culture level, what do we value? What do we stand for? What do we believe? What do we want to be known for?
  • That’s culture, invest in that. Talking about it as a team. Hey! this is what we stand for. Let’s not allow it to sabotage our team.
  • This is the benefit of positivity. Here’s the cost for negativity. Here’s how we overcome “energy vampires” as I wrote about in the “Energy Bus.”
  • When it happens, you reinforce it, recognize it and support it. When you see the other things happening, you call it out. You make sure it doesn’t happen. You address it. You don’t allow it to grow.
  • The biggest mistake leaders make is they don’t address negativity that sabotage their teams.

Q: I know you’ve worked with Dabo Swinney and Clemson University. I was in the stadium when Clemson won their 2nd recent championship a couple of years ago, when they beat Alabama very soundly. Tell us of your experience working with Dabo Swinney.

  • I’ve worked there for the past 9 years with Dabo, speaking every year to teams, sometimes twice a year before the games. Dabo is an incredibly positive leader.
  • When he got the job, he met with the team for the first time. The minute he took over, he changed the mindset, the belief and culture of the program.
  • You can’t separate the leader from the culture. The leader drives the culture.
  • Dabo has driven that culture from his personality, high expectations, love for the players, his authenticity, transparency. The guy is amazing! I think he is the best leader I’ve ever worked with.

Q: We’ve being through a crazy year with the pandemic. Do you have any insights relating to leading remote teams or ideas that have evolved for you in the past year?

  • You have to innovate and adapt during these times. This was a time of doing things differently.
  • There is a formula we came up with called Adaptability Formula. it’s E + PBI = O. The events in our lives + our perspective, our beliefs of what’s possible in the future and how we innovate, will determine our outcome.
  • As a team, we’ve adapted, we’ve innovated. We created a virtual leadership program that we’ve delivered over 5 times in the last year to leaders in the country and around the world.
  • We also created a teenage program, positive leadership for teenagers. If teenagers don’t have the money, we offer scholarships. We reached thousands of teens during this time as well.

Q: One of the most memorable phrases for me in “Energy Bus” is “better today than yesterday.” That has stuck in my head for so many years since I first read the book. Jon, how do YOU continue to get better every day?

  • You’ve to win today, you can’t worry about tomorrow. The goal is to win today. Identify what win means for you.
  • Also, for ways to encourage people get better. Getting better to me means you’re getting better for others and to make an impact on others. Knowing you can’t do it alone. We all need a team to be successful. So getting better means getting better together.

Q:   Any last words of wisdom for the Cutco/Vector audience?

  • I think the key lesson to learn is don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus.
  • Keep going, stay positive, don’t let the negativity bring you down.
  • Recognize we create from the inside out. The power is on the inside.


  • The essence of the “Energy Bus” is the concept that every interaction we have with others either gives people energy or takes away some of their energy. Consider the idea there are no zeroes. We’re either giving someone energy or taking away a little bit of their energy.
  • Think about the interactions you’ve had today, think about the people who you’re around on a daily basis. Are you giving energy or are you the “energy vampire” Jon described in the “Energy Bus” that’s sucking out the energy from other people?
  • Often times, that happens when people are negative. Being positive makes everyone around you better. It makes everyone around you feel more energized, excited, motivated and fired up. It creates a better vibe.
  • This isn’t a Pollyana concept. We’re positive not because life’s easy. We’re positive because life can be hard.
  • Bringing positive energy to our experiences and our lives isn’t about ignoring that. It’s a better way to handle things that helps people handle their difficulties with more grace, enthusiasm and confidence about what’s next in their future.

Show Notes for this episode provided by Brian Njenga.

To learn more and get access to all episodes, visit our podcast page!


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