The Muselet #24: The ‘21 plan — Unconditional Positive Regard

Ted Lasso (Apple TV+) is a series that initially seems like cheap, superficial comedy, but ultimately turns out to be much more than that.

Here’s that superficial version of the story pitch:

To get back at her former husband, football club owner Rebecca hires American football coach Ted Lasso to coach her football (soccer) team. Her ploy is to let Ted, who barely even knows the rules of football, burn the club to the ground. Will she succeed?

Yawn. Right?

I’m not a sports fan, so this didn’t speak to me. But I kept reading positive reviews, so I watched it anyway. And in turn, I’m recommending it you now. I know, Apple TV+ isn’t the most “inclusive” of streaming services, but see if you managed to get hold of it, it’s worth it. If you don’t own any Apple devices, buy one — it will likely come with a one year free Apple TV+ subscription. And who knows, maybe you’ll become an Apple convert as a bonus 🙃 (Bonus: Apple TV+’s The Morning Show is also worth it).

Why is Ted Lasso worth your while as a reader of The Muselet? This twitter thread summarizes it well. Let me “unroll” that for you:

[I just] finished Ted Lasso. Man, what a great show. Looking forward to the Medium thought piece about his positive coaching style and how that translates to leadership in corporate America. 

  1. Love how he individualizes each player's strengths and weaknesses. He makes sure each player reaches their unique potential. 

  2. His optimism and earnestness really creates a reality distortion field for others. He embodies "kill them with kindness" and it only works b/c he's 100% genuine. 

  3. He empowers other people around him to rise up to their leadership styles like Roy and Nate. A great leader lifts others up with them and promotes talent. 

  4. He forgives easily. It's incredible how he can let go of others who have wronged them and bring them onto his side with forgiveness. 

Yeah, that’s a lot of leadership lessons in a simple comedy show. Some of the topics in this list I’ve already covered before, such as “individualization” in the context of The Last Dance

The one I wanted to highlight here the one that is clearly the most visible in Ted Lasso: his unrelenting positivity. Initially it just seems naive and silly, but in time you start to understand it’s authentic and ultimately powerful.

Digging into that twitter thread I found a link to a related article entitled Unconditional Positive Regard highlighting the work of psychologist Carl Rogers:

Rogers emphasized the importance of unconditional positive regard in healthy personality development, and his work has implications beyond the lab or therapist’s office. Treating ourselves and others with unconditional positive regard can improve our lives in many ways.

How does it work?

Unconditional positive regard is defined by humanistic psychologists to mean expressing empathy, support, and acceptance to someone, regardless of what they say or do.

Unlike other practitioners of his day who offered therapies like behaviorism, which were quick to confront how poor choices hurt us, psychologists like Rogers started by validating their clients’ feelings, withholding judgment, and offering support.

According to Rogers, problematic behaviors like overeating, drinking too much, and procrastinating aren’t altered with confrontation, judgment, or punishment; they are remedied with compassion, understanding, and acceptance.

In his view, people are wired for self-actualization, or the need to fulfill our potential. However, painful experiences like being bullied, shamed, or judged thwart our growth.

Unconditional positive regard restores hope by showing us we are loved and accepted. From Roger’s lens, when people feel safe, honesty follows. And being honest with ourselves and others is crucial for change.

We had a pretty shitty 2020.

People got sick; people were locked up in their own homes; people lost their jobs; and way more people died than was necessary. We had sufficient bad and negative bad things happen to us to fill a few years.

So let’s do our best to make 2021 a better year. A more positive one. This is more in our control than you may think, and Unconditional Positive Regard — the mindset of looking at things from a positive angle — is likely going to be a helpful tool here.

So, here are my resolutions for the upcoming year:

Dial down the judgement.

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

Be kind. Unconditionally.

And sure: eat healthy, more exercise, whatever.

Ah, and grow a Lasso-level mustache.

Care to join me?

I wish you and your family an excellent 2021!

As Ted would say: I appreciate ‘ya!