Be Bold Tool Box #1:  Living in the Red/ Living in the Black

“We are creatures full of energy,” stated Wilfred Jarvis, a prominent Australian behavioral scientist, in his “Four Quadrant Leadership Program.”

Energy abounds in all of us, but are we generating for ourselves and transferring to our relationships and interactions positive or negative energy? No one builds a positive structure on a negative foundation.

In his “Living in the Red/Living in the Black” model, Jarvis used a simple accounting analogy:  Being in the black is the desired state of our finances while being in the red is an undesirable one. The “energies” referred to in his model are those we present to the world. They are what we, and others, feel and observe each and every day.

Living in the Black

Those of us who Live in the Black is presenting emotions, or energies, that are constructive and compelling. People Living in the Black demonstrate creative and productive emotions; when we are near them, we naturally desire to move toward those who radiate them. It feels good to be with them and in their presence. Those who Live in the Black can become outraged (and other Living in the Red energies), but they soon turn it into constructive outrage. They don’t wallow in those destructive emotions for long. They are problem solvers. These individuals are open … to ideas, to others, and to self-reflection. They are the energies that lead to a life well-lived. They are energies that lead to being bold!

Some of the emotions or energies these individuals possess and transfer into their environment are:

trust                                                    humility                                     hope

delight                                                achievement                            generosity

love                                                     loyalty-to-values                      faith

acceptance                                          kindness                                   racial tolerance

recognition                                         principle-centered                  empathy

self-confidence                                  meaning                                   compassion

self-transcendence                           empathy                                   truthful

inclusion                                             responsibility                          seek understanding

diligence                                             serenity                                   respect

Those who live predominantly in the black want to build, not destroy, and they don’t intentionally hurt or harm others. They solve problems. Can you think of someone you know who exemplifies these qualities? How do you feel when you are in their presence?

Living in the Red

Destructive and disruptive emotions are labeled as Living in the Red; when we are near people who radiate negative energy, we are naturally repelled and want to get away. Interestingly, the terms “seeing red” is equated with anger and rage and “red meat” is used when mentioning something that whips up and agitates a crowd to unreason. Even the term “red-pilled” is a common online name for someone radicalized to far-right beliefs. Living in the Red has undesirable consequences. Red energies are defensive and/or aggressive. From time to time, people may feel this energy when walking into a room or being close to the person because those who Live in the Red exude:

anxiety                                                humiliation                             pitiless

victimhood                                         ruthless                                   failure

anger                                                   despair                                    racial resentment

self-absorbed                                     disgust                                    apathy

hatred/vitriol                                    untruthful                               depression

cynicism                                             denigrate                                bullying

mocking                                              exclusion                               irresponsibility

belligerent                                          name-calling                        attack

Individuals who Live in the Red are not builders, they are problem makers; not problem solvers. They are destructive and may want to transfer their negativity and pain onto others, either emotionally or even with violence. Those who come near them may feel put off, repulsed, and want to spend as little time with them as possible. Can you think of someone you know who exemplifies these qualities? How do you feel when you are in their presence?


From these two energy dimensions our ideas, values, emotions, motivations, and actions are derived. The most challenging question to answer, for ourselves, is which energy dimension do we currently and predominately reside? Do we live-and-breath principle-centered behaviors, trustworthiness, and creativity or live-and-breath selfish behaviors, cynicism, disrespect, and anger?

Making decisions and choices in life could be made more smoothly by keeping this binary strategy in mind. Of course, all of us will have an experience that will cause us to drop into the Red zone, but how long one stays and responds in that zone is the key. No matter how difficult it may be, we can change how we react to the world if we want to. However, it requires boldness to make resolute changes.

For example, Donald Trump oozes “Red Energies.” He even encourages conflict! He has even said himself, “I bring rage out. I bring rage out. I always have.” The vast majority of Americans are repelled by him and want to get away from his destructive and disruptive decisions, language, and actions such as kidnapping babies and toddlers from their parents, putting them in cages, and by so doing mentally damaging them for life, but there is nowhere for us to run to get away.  His Red emotions permeate the entire country. This is one reason why so many of us feel anxious living in our current society.

He abuses his position power as President with his full-scale assault of Red energies disseminated into the country. He whips up rage at rallies, “Lock her up!”, mocks people he doesn’t like, has actually said, “I want to hit that guy.” In an interview with Bob Woodward in 2016, he actually said, “I bring rage out. I do bring rage out. I always have.” Knowing this about himslef and not changing it makes it intentional.

We wouldn’t accept this behavior in our children, our families, or in the workplace because living with so many Red emotions would become intolerable.  Sadly, these Red energies create anger and rage in others and inspire hateful actions such as the man who called the Boston Globe’s newsroom saying he’ll kill their journalists because they are the “enemy of the people,” as Trump has regaled over and over. In the movie, A Wrinkle In Time, these dark emotions were called simply, the “It.” The “It” had tentacles that would reach out and create destructive emotions into anyone who came in contact. Will the “It” get you?

Fox, so-called, News has created a corporate empire by broadcasting Red energies day-in and day-out. Their corporate product is shared grievance, virtuous victimization, and amygdala fear. These are highly successful manipulation tools because they target our primal Lizard Brain. Living in the Red emotions activate our amygdala, our reactive Lizard Brain, which is part of our Limbic System responsible for processing emotions. To Live in the Black as consistently as possible, we must be in control of our Lizard Brain. We must pay attention to when it is targeted and proactively compensate with our higher-order thinking abilities or else we have very unhappy lives.

You can live your entire life in one or the other state of mind, so which state of mind will you choose? Also, it is important to note, the brain remembers negative (Red energies) emotions four times more than the positive (Black energies), so we need to be diligently bold and focus on Living in the Black rather than Living in the Red. Nearly all of life’s choices may be assisted by asking oneself, “Am I making a constructive and compelling choice or a destructive and repelling one?” Both worlds are “out there” in which will you choose to live?

‘Two Wolves’

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said: ‘My son, the battle is between ‘two wolves’ inside us all.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousysorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pridesuperiority, and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peacelove, hope, serenity, humility, kindnessbenevolence, empathygenerosity, truth, compassion, and faith.’

The grandson thought about it for a minute, and then asked his grandfather: ‘Which wolf wins?’

The old Cherokee simply replied: The one you feed.