By negative thinking, we mean to live our lives thinking about minimising the negatives rather than maximising the positives.
This makes a lot of sense because we can't really agree on the positive things we should do to achieve optimal success and happiness.
Does taking multi-vitamins work? How much sex is ideal ? Should I diet or exercise to lose weight ?
But we do know what's objectively bad for us - drugs, alcohol and char kway teow.
So instead of doing the right things, some people can do very well simply by avoiding the doing of bad things. Once I read about the "useless caste" in The Economist, I stopped playing computer games entirely because I became convinced that computer games has the power to replace a happy family and a career.
This philosophy is encapsulated in my current margin portfolio that makes an attempt to minimise the semi-variance rather than maximise the returns of a back-tested portfolio. If I can keep the semi-variance small and minimise the downside, I can catch up with the market portfolio by simply employing a reasonable amount of leverage.
Another novel application of this approach is when it comes to friends you choose to hang out with.
In the modern world, success can be lonely and successful people may be too busy building careers and families to develop a social life.
In the absence of successful role-models, it may be helpful to spend some time deconstructing the folks you hang out with and ask yourself what's preventing them from having a happy life. As our brains are wired to be quite critical and judgmental, coming up with an answer would not be too difficult at all.
Some people we know might be flaky and unreliable. Others simply lack a motivation throughout their lives.
Once you discover something about your friends, you need to ask yourself honestly whether you have that same problem. After all, you are the average of five of closest folks you hang out with.
No, unless someone asks politely, you should keep your blunt analysis to yourself.