The Energy Bus

I came across The Energy Bus when I was curious what athletes and coaches tend to read the most. This book came up time and time again, so I figured I’d give it a shot. If you’re looking for a book that’s half self-help, half motivational speech, The Energy Bus is a great fit. It’s a short read and has an overall positive message, but it minimizes some more complex topics to a quick sentence or two. 

It’s interesting the differences between the science in Rewire and the hand-wavy statements in The Energy Bus around “if you put it out there, it’ll happen” vs. “here’s what happens to your brain when you choose to focus on something more.” Reading through Rewire at the same time definitely puts a different spin on The Energy Bus, but the two have quite a few parallels. As with commercials, if you don’t get it, or you don’t like it, then you are likely not the intended audience.


The story of The Energy Bus follows George, a grumpy man that grumbles at his family (wife, kids, dog) and is stressed about everything. After finding his car with a flat tire and unable to borrow the other family vehicle, he finds himself heading toward the bus stop and grumbling along the way. That’s when everything changed (surprise)! Driven by a woman named Joy (groan), the bus holds a rowdy crew of positive energy, all chanting mottos in unison and offering positive affirmations to give George a boost. Over the course of his bus trips, the gang recites the 10 rules to getting through life with a positive attitude. 

  1. You’re the driver of the bus
  2. Desire, vision and focus move your bus in the right direction
  3. Fuel your ride with positive energy
  4. Invite people on your bus and share your vision for the road ahead
  5. Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus
  6. Post a sign that says “No Energy Vampires Allowed”
  7. Enthusiasm attracts more passengers and energizes them during the ride
  8. Love your passengers
  9. Drive with purpose
  10. Have fun and enjoy the ride

Colin Robinson…energy vampire.

While I may prefer a more scientific read than a motivational story from Jon Gordon, there were a few things that stuck out. 

Rule 5: Don’t waste your energy on those who don’t get on your bus

The older I get, the more I realize I don’t really have to spend time with anyone. Of course, there are cases where I don’t always get to choose whose company I am in, but interacting with them outside of that bubble becomes my choice. Toxicity in our relationships is a real thing and the more focused I become on what’s important to me in life, the clearer those toxic relationships become. It may not even be people, it may be habits we’ve formed that become toxic and we need to re-evaluate. Changing it a bit, this rule to me largely says “don’t spend time on people or habits that break your focus from your overall goals” or as Marie Kondo so famously asked, “Does this spark joy?” When the answer is no, we need to remove that habit or person from our day-to-day and in cases where we’re unable to completely do so, at least minimize the time spent. 

I think we’ve all had those days.

Events + Perception = Outcome

Read any book about communication and this “equation” may feel familiar. Communication is half on the deliverer and half on the person receiving the communication. In the same vein, the way we perceive an event is half “what objectively happened” and half “how did you perceive the event.” We have the ability to determine what the outcome is just by seeing it in a positive or negative light and that’s what The Energy Bus pokes at. It’s similar to the ABCDE’s of cognitive-behavioral therapy.

In CBT, you’re asked to take a look at the “activating event” or adversity, the “beliefs” about the event, the emotional “consequences,” the “disputations” to challenge self-defeating belief, and “effect” or consequences of challenging self-defeating belief. By completing the full cycle, we can work through events that may seem like the world is collapsing in around us, but the minimization of all of that into “events + perception = outcome” is just one of the examples where on the surface The Energy Bus gets it right, but it’s much easier said than done.


If you’re feeling down and want a soft reset on your outlook, I can definitely see this book being helpful. I can also see a lot of folks I know getting a bit annoyed with the tiresome metaphors and the simple execution of the story. I definitely found myself eye-rolling quite a few times throughout, but that’s more of a “me” problem.

I also saw a lot of reviews where bosses and managers were gifting this book to their direct reports. Please, please, please, do not do that. I’m all for sharing knowledge and giving book recommendations, but something like The Energy Bus as required reading is more likely to make them think they’re not being “pleasant enough” or “optimistic enough” in their day-to-day when the problem is likely much more deeply rooted. 

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John Hartley is a Director of Product Engineering at Beam Dental in Columbus, OH. With 7+ years of leadership experience he has worked in startups, agencies, and began his career as a freelance Front End Developer. Always looking to iterate, this blog is a place for him to share his knowledge as well as hone his craft, challenge assumptions, and build a strong base of leadership and management knowledge. Connect with him on LinkedIn

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