The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon: The Power of Positivity

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What can you learn from The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon? How can George’s story inspire you to be more positive? 

In The Energy Bus, 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, George gets life-changing lessons in positivity from the driver and the other passengers.

Learn more about The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon and the power of positivity below.

The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon: George’s Story 

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 book isn’t about summoning superficial or fake enthusiasm, but about cultivating energy that encompasses optimism, purpose, enthusiasm, and joy. Positive energy enables you to lead successful teams, surmount hurdles, and bring out the best in others. With positive energy, you can overcome negative people (referred to in the book as “energy vampires”) and negative situations that keep you from succeeding in your work and enjoying your life.

In The Energy Bus, Jon Gordon tells the story of George, a middle manager at the NRG Company, a manufacturer of light bulbs, who 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 are as follows: 

10 Rules of the Road:

1. You’re the driver

2. Use vision and focus to set your direction

3. Power your bus with positive energy

4. Share your vision and Invite people on board

5. Don’t waste effort on those who don’t join you

6. Ban “energy vampires” from your bus

7. Be enthusiastic: it attracts and energizes others

8. Care about your team

9. Have a larger purpose

10. Enjoy your ride

The Power of Positivity 

In writing The Energy Bus, Jon Gordon hoped to reveal the benefits of positive thinking. He does this by showing the dramatic impact positive thinking had on George’s life. 

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.

Just two weeks ago, George’s life had been miserable. Now, he realized that things he thought were bad—his work and relationship problems, his car problems—had led to good things. He understood how adversity helps you grow. When facing a problem in the future, he would ask himself what he could learn from it. He’d stay positive and trust that he’d end up stronger and wiser.

The word “joy” stuck with him. He was determined that whatever happened, he’d live with joy by looking for the joy in each moment.

The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon teaches us about the power of positive thinking. Apply George’s story to your own life and see if you notice any improvements. 

The Energy Bus by Jon Gordon: The Power of Positivity

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Jon Gordon's "The Energy Bus" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Energy Bus summary:

  • How to turn things around when you feel unmotivated and discouraged
  • The 10 rules for reenergizing your life through positive thinking
  • How to build successful teams at work and improve your relationships

Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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