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Let’s Find a Cure for This Virus

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Gerald Wheelus, manager of Edgewood Auto Parts in Edgewood, Texas, and a Counterman contributor recently told me,  “I’ve been in this business since 1986 and our business always does better when the economy is bad. We always thrive when car dealerships can’t sell new cars.”

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You haven’t read that in the news have you?

For some reason, we as human beings are naturally drawn to bad news. It’s not because we necessarily like it, but because it’s interesting and perhaps, in a way, we’re trying to figure out how to stay away from whatever is creating the bad news.

There are some people who practice schadenfreude, a German word that means someone takes delight in another person’s misfortunes or troubles. I guess in some way, we all practice at least a mild form of schadenfreude. For example, if a career criminal has his own money taken away from him, we’d likely think, “Ha! He got what was coming to him.”

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I used to work in the news business and there’s a famous saying, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Meaning: Catastrophes and mayhem sell more newspapers than pictures of cute, cuddly little puppies. It’s why news networks tend to serve up a steady stream of crime-laden, curiosity-seeking stories to amaze and scare us at the same time. In fact, they keep heaping these kinds of stories on us for one reason and one reason only: It works.
Bad news is like a virus. It’s impossible to be bombarded with messages that proclaim how bad things are each and every day without it taking a toll. But a focus on bad news is usually out of whack with reality. And this focus on bad news spreads from person to person, just like a cold, and tends to infect the way we think about everything.

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Pretty soon, even when faced with good news, we search for the bad in it. So while the topic of idle chit-chat used to be about the weather, now it’s about what company laid off how many people, whose stock is down, and what’s happening to someone’s 401k. Don’t get me wrong: That’s all bad news. When I was laid off a few years back, it stung very badly. A layoff isn’t something someone ever fully recovers from psychologically.

But while the country has indeed hit quite a patch of economic misfortunes, the news, like always, isn’t all bad. I spoke recently to Harris Steinberg, of  Morris Auto Parts, Philadelphia, Pa., who is a past Counter Professional of the Year winner. His take on the aftermarket? “Everyone I talk to is bullish on the aftermarket.”

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Many parts professionals I’ve talked to recently said while the overall number of cars at certain shops may be down slightly, the size of the average repair order is actually up. So why, if many parts professionals are doing well in their businesses does the bad news persist? It’s because we’re stuck in a rut.

Everyone has routines, which are good, but sometimes routines can hinder progress. If you wake up in the morning and tell yourself it’s going to be a good, profitable day, chances are it could be both. If you say today will be nothing but crap, it stands to reason your day will probably end up that way.

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If you’re in the habit of relaying gloomy news, try not doing it, even if for only a day. It’s the New Year, after all. Let’s all make a resolution to stamp out bad news. After all, the news isn’t all bad.

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