Are People Basically Good or Bad-Hug and Nudge

Hug and Nudge-Two Answers to One Question

(Vol III)

Sometimes a warm hug is the answer to our question 
and sometimes a gentle nudge is the answer.

'Hug and Nudge' is a fortnightly column with two different perspectives from two different continents and cultures on the same question in personal development area viz. 
Jennifer Sertl (based in New York, USA) and 
Dr Amit Nagpal (based in New Delhi, India).

Question-Are People Basically Good or Bad? If I have had more bad experiences than good, how do I shed the emotional baggage.
(A great question asked by V. Jain, India)

Jennifer Sertl's Answer

What makes a hero? Courage, strength, morality, withstanding adversity? Are these the traits that truly show and create a hero? Is the light truly the source of darkness or vice versa? Is the soul a source of hope or despair? Who are these so called heroes and where do they come from? Are their origins in obscurity or in plain sight?” 

Are people naturally good or evil? I could answer that with my own opinions or revisit the timeless debate between John Locke (people are social creatures) and Thomas Hobbes (people are brutes) or reread the timeless epics The Lion Witch & Wardrobe, The Hobbit, Harry Potter. It seems the human journey is one to find the ultimate answer: who will win? good? or evil?

The challenge that I find is that many are unaware of how our behavior is shaped by morphic resonance and our community of peers.

Friedrick Nietzsche says, “Invisible threads are the strongest ties."

This is why I am so thankful for Carol Sandford’s @CarolSandford work in raising   our awareness in long view leadership …
And bold ranks such as  Gianpiero  Petriglieri  @gpetriglieri  who asks MBA prgrams to go beyond raising their game to redesign altogether …

Many wonderful leaders are working to raise the bar of corporate consciousness. The two I follow most are Lucy Marcus @lucymarcus & Estelle  Metayer  @competia. Here are some others

It is important to talk about the terrain of decision-making & ethics with this question.
We need to collectively shift the gestalt on what is acceptable behavior at the governance level in addition to vigilance in our own communities, families, and micro choices.
However, I desire to make this post a bit more personal as we have important decisions to make in front of us - and have many stakeholders  in our life. I know this as I am a mother, wife, community leader, author, speaker etc. There are tradeoffs of all kinds to be made in order to survive all the demands we put ourselves in front of.

I love this image by Scott Mutter as it truly looks like our landcape - technology, nature, choices and perhaps even a hint of #overwhelm.

Here are two important questions I invite you to keep front/center:
Are you becoming more aware of the long term tradeoffs you are making for short term decisions?

Are you increasing your awareness of how your community (family, environment, ecosystem) impacts your decision making?

Most people are not very good at suspending immediate gratification for a longer term view.

Most people are unaware of how their immediate community of friends, family, co-workers impact their own thresholds. I am not going to address raising these thresholds here. I just want you to be more aware that they exist.

Our need to belong is much more fundamental and primal than our need for excellence. There are subtle ways in which we sabotage our own success for fear of envy and/or our fear of being alone. Every community has thresholds for truth, intelligence, success. It is vital that you pay more attention to who your colleagues are, what they beliefs are and their decision-making criteria. You are impacted in subtle and explicit ways.

For a deeper dive into this landscape there are two really important resources I'd like you to invest in:

Sam Sommers @samsommers has done some really important research on how our environment impacts our decision-making in his book Situations Matter

Elizabeth Doty @elizado has spent her professional quest exploring why smart people put themselves in compromising situations
Here is a sample chapter of her book The Compromise Trap from a favorite publishing company Berrett-Koehler Publishers @bkpub

Social  anthropologist Eric Hoffer says,  "It would be difficult to exaggerate the degree to which we are influenced by those we influence."

It is just like the flight of an airplane. We do not take a direct flight. Our flight weaves in and out of alignment, we make worse and better choices, we (hopefully) put ourselves in healthier and healthier environments, and learn more and more how to be better.

Why I love philosophy so much was that as a 19 year old at University of Colorado, Boulder I was introduced to Immanuel Kant. In Metaphysics of Morals I read: “We have an imperfect, but positive duty to seek our own perfection and the happiness of others.”

While I had no religion, this became a True North in which I measured my own flight and still do to this day.

I don’t want to tell you what your moral compass should be. I just want you to be more aware that behavior is more dynamic than you might have imagined. People are complex. You are complex. Find your True North (if you have one, use it more actively), interrogate your thresholds and constraints, and continue to strengthen your long view #scenario muscles.

I invite you to consider that you are the collective IQ, EQ, DQ of the people you surround yourself with (can be literal or who you read the most).  I want you to continue to seek exposure to those whose presence, practice, and mindset is at your aspiration level.

May you surround yourself with those who cause you to think more, do more, be more. Steel sharpens steel. ♫ (Youtube video above) ♫ #a3r

Honoring your thresholds,
Brief Profile
Beacon of hope. Purveyor of discipline.
Global Citizen. Transleader.
Coach. Facilitator.
Co-Author- Strategy, Leadership & the Soul and Founder of Agility3R.

Watch on Youtube
Find out more about Jennifer's works here:-
Dr Amit Nagpal's Answer

 Are people basically good or bad? In my opinion, the answer is simple, people are basically good and they are bad at times for a reason or frustrations or human weaknesses which sometimes we fail to master.

If you look at any human weakness and analyse it in-depth, you find a reason behind it. For example people are not really jealous of your success; they are only frustrated with their own failures. I am not recommending the company of people who are jealous of you but sometimes, it’s good to forgive and move on especially at the workplace.

Understanding Energy
People can bring both positive and negative energy in our lives. When they bring negative energy (even a positive person in a negative frame of mind), either our positive energy should be stronger than their energy or we need to stay away. Some people bring amazingly positive energy also. I recently posted on Facebook, "Some people come with such powerful positive energy in your life- reverse hurricanes. They put everything back in order which had been destroyed and thrown around."

Shedding emotional baggage
Now the question comes, if someone has had more bad experiences than good, how does one shed the emotional baggage. It is a long and difficult process but not impossible if we take sincere efforts. One action which such a person must take is to avoid negative company altogether and stay in positive & uplifting company. After all, our view of life is nothing but a sum total of our experiences.

"Drop everything you're clinging to & keep walking.
What remains is what's meant to stay ~
what goes is what was in your way."

Dee Foster

We need to dump and throw out; get rid of the baggage dragging us down. Let us make peace with our past and stop being emotional pack rats, holding on to stuff and dragging it along, where ever we go. Shari Schreiber says, "Everyone's got emotional baggage; the question is, what are you doing to unpack that trunk and put it away, so your lovers, friends and relatives don't have to keep tripping over it?"

Make sure you don’t become cynical 
My friend & well known Digital Marketer from IIM-Ahmedabad, Ratan KK says, “People are not negative. They can only be cynical sometimes.” People become cynical at times, because the circumstances are tough or life wanted to teach them some lessons (which they may not have taken with a positive spirit). But who are we to judge others. Life may be tough at times and we may fail in spite of our best efforts.

Long back I had read in Readers Digest that 1 % of people in the world are psychopaths. Such people can be really sadistic or do serious crimes. But these people are mentally ill (chemically imbalanced brains) and cannot be considered normal. So let us focus on the 99 % and forgive the 1 %.

As children, we neither have the maturity nor the control of our lives, at times. But as mature adults, we have to take decisions- sometimes tough decisions to be alone, than with the wrong peers, sometimes to come out of abusive relationships in spite of all social pressures and sometimes take career decisions which the world may not approve of, but our inner voice is convinced of.

If we lack the courage to take tough decisions, our frustrations later on may convert us from good human beings to cynical human beings. Make sure that you do not become part of the second category in the famous quote, “Some people bring happiness wherever they go, some people bring happiness, WHENEVER they go.”
(Mail me your questions along with your name and website at The questions should be on personal development only)
Brief Profile
Dr Amit Nagpal is a Personal Branding Consultant & Deepest Passion Coach. He is based in New Delhi, India and specializes in personal branding with a holistic touch. His philosophy is, "Enlarge as a Human Being, Excel as a Social Media Being and Evolve as a Personal Brand" 

To know more visit
Related Posts
Hug and Nudge (Vol 1)


  1. There is a Cherokee parable that addresses this question. An elder is teaching a child, and begins with "There is a terrible battle going on in my belly. It is between two wolves. One is evil: anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, resentment, self-doubt, ego, inferiority, false-pride, deception. The other is good: joy, peace, compassion, generosity, self-control, gratitude, benevolence, empathy, truth, faith. The same fight is going on inside you, and inside every human being." The child asks, "Which one will win?" And the elder responds, "Whicever one you feed."

  2. Exactly Deborah, whichever one we feed wins in the end.

  3. Deborah, the two wolves concept is explained nicely in this video


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