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Tracy Lee Chats About Positivity

Learn how a positive mindset impacts your career!

We have to remember that we are all human beings with social and emotional needs. Our career suffers when we fall into a pit of negativity or when we put up mental barriers that prevent us from interacting with people we might've wanted to talk to.

In this episode, Tracy Lee chats about the importance of remembering that everyone, even the awesome people speaking at the conference are all human. When we idolize people it's easy to fall into the trap of thinking they're "better" than we are. We might miss out on opportunities to speak with them out of self-consciousness.

Tracy also addresses how general negativity can impact our careers. She cautions against doom scrolling on Twitter and gives us some great strategies on how to surround ourselves with positivity, without burying our heads in the sand to the problems in our world.


  • Thing of a specific positive thing and share it with somebody!


Tracy Lee
Tracy Lee


Kent C. Dodds (00:00):
Hello friends. This is your friend Kent C Dodds, and I'm excited to be joined by my friend at Tracy Lee. Say hi, Tracy.

Tracy Lee (00:07):
Hi, how's it going?

Kent C. Dodds (00:08):
It's going good. I did ask you to say hi Tracy, but how's it going is good too.

Tracy Lee (00:14):
[crosstalk 00:00:14] following directions apparently.

Kent C. Dodds (00:17):
So Tracy and I, we've known each other for gosh, most of my software development career really. We got to know each other back when I was doing Angular JS. And maybe it was Ben Lynch that introduced us, but I don't think so. I think it's just somehow got to know each other at a conference or something. I can't remember.

Tracy Lee (00:41):
It's been what, like five years? Maybe four or five years. Something like that.

Kent C. Dodds (00:46):
Yeah. You know what? Was it at Fluent Conf? Is that where we first met?

Tracy Lee (00:50):
I can't remember. But I think I remember the first podcast I listened to of yours was with Brendan Eich. I can't remember if it was Angular Air, or JavaScript Air, or something like that.

Kent C. Dodds (01:00):
Yeah, that would have been JavaScript Air. And yeah, that was such a long time ago. My goodness. But it's just been such a pleasure to know you, and see you around at conferences, and listen to your content that you produce, and watch your career as well as a contributor to RXJS. And I I'm introducing you. I'd love for you to introduce yourself to our guests. So why don't you give us a little intro to yourself, and we can get going into this conversation.

Tracy Lee (01:30):
Sure. So I love JavaScript. You can follow me on Twitter @ladyleet. I'm always open to interesting conversations. I try to spend my time focused on making the development world a better place. So I really try to help women in tech through a lot of things that we do. Have a company called This Dot Labs. We're a team of about 50 developers now, and just building really cool, awesome things. And we're hiring. So come work with us. But I'm a Google developer expert for Angular. I'm a Microsoft MVP. I'm on the RTS core team. And I just love solving problems. I think that's the thing that keeps me excited about this industry.

Kent C. Dodds (02:14):
Wow. That's that is quite the resume. And you've actually had a number of successful companies before This Dot Labs, right?

Tracy Lee (02:24):
I love to start companies. So my company before This Dot, I actually started two of them in between This Dot and the one I sold. So I had a company called Dishcrawl before, and that was a fun adventure. We grew to like 250 people in less than a year. So it was a wild journey.

Kent C. Dodds (02:47):
There's something to be said for just being able to interview and hire that many people, let alone have a company to support that many people. That's just amazing.

Tracy Lee (02:55):
Yeah. It was basically a bunch of 20 something year old girls in a pink office with a nail polish bar, if you can visualize that. And it was like 15 of us trying to manage that many people, onboarding 20 people a week. It was crazy. Yeah. It was fun though. Forget about a masters. You learn a lot by just doing that.

Kent C. Dodds (03:22):
Wow. That's amazing. Seriously. I've always been impressed with what you've been able to accomplish. And you seem to have this ability to get people together to do things that they wouldn't do otherwise. But just your presence and positivity in general gets that. So I'm thinking as a community and things, but I'm also thinking about getting people to dress up in different costumes and stuff to jump up on stage and do fun things. Yeah. I'm thinking banana costume, or Power Rangers, and stuff.

Tracy Lee (03:57):
Yes. Definitely have to keep myself entertained. I think it's funny, because I think most people, when they think of something they joke about it. And then I'm like, "Well, let's actually do it." And then all of a sudden they're actually doing it with me. But I love that. I think it challenges people to get out of their comfort zone. And I think also in JavaScript you have all these people who everybody looks up to. But there is something to be said about just... Everyone's human. And showing that people are more human, and are fun, and not just these gods you look up to is something that's really healthy for our industry.

Kent C. Dodds (04:41):
Oh my goodness. Absolutely. There's absolutely something to be said for looking up to people. People can be inspired by others. I'm inspired all the time by Mr. Rogers. But there's a fine line between that, and building a shrine, or referring to them as gods, or that worship culture that's not appropriate. So for you, what is that line? What is the value in looking up to somebody, being inspired by them? And how does that transition from that goodness to the worship ideas of these people?

Tracy Lee (05:30):
Well, if you just take conferences generally. If you think about a conference and speakers, if you're an attendee there you might be like, "Oh my gosh, there's a speaker. Oh, so cool." And you admire them from afar. And you maybe tweet at them, but you're totally scared because like, "Oh, why would they want to talk to me?" But that's actually not the reality. So I feel like being more human at conferences, talking to people, having fun, showing people that you're approachable just inspires more of that conversation, and also shows people like, "Hey, you can do it too." These people are just humans. They're not robots writing JavaScript, and open source, or whatever. They're individuals that are actually approachable.

Kent C. Dodds (06:17):
Absolutely. And I think that it makes it easier for you to be inspired by these people. Because if you see them as more than human, then it's hard for you to see yourself in that place. And so it's not inspiring. It's honestly demoralizing.

Tracy Lee (06:39):

Kent C. Dodds (06:40):
Yeah. So being able to see them, and often they have families of their own. They have worries, and concerns, and everything that they're dealing with just like you do. And maybe not just like you do. We all are in a different circumstance. But yeah. Trying to be inspired, I think, is a good thing. Maybe putting them in a costume or something kind of humanizes them a little bit too.

Tracy Lee (07:10):
It does. It really does. It's like, "Oh, Ken's dressed in a banana costume. Well, I can definitely talk to Kent about the banana costume. Cool. Let's start a conversation there."

Kent C. Dodds (07:21):
Absolutely. Cool. So Tracy, one thing that I've admired about you over the years is you have an enormous amount of energy. And it's that reason alone just makes you such a pleasure to be with, in addition to everything else. And it's all positive energy. Because you see they're plenty of people with lots of energy, but some of them use it to bring about a lot of negativity. And in some cases they're just so focused on trying to raise awareness of terrible things that are going on in the world. And that awareness is important. But one thing I really appreciate about you is the positive energy that you pump into the world. Why are you so motivated to do that? Probably it's exhausting.

Tracy Lee (08:14):
Well, not everybody can be positive all the time. But I think people around me generally inspire me. I'm pretty introspective. So if I feel myself getting down, I try to pick myself back up. So you think about a lot of people who are probably life coaches, they're probably speaking things and teaching things so that they can themselves to be amazing human beings, or more amazing human beings. I think that setting good examples on just how to behave within the industry is something that I've been generally focused on.

Tracy Lee (08:54):
This idea of collaborating... One of the reasons why I got into the JavaScript world, or when I kind of started getting into JavaScript, there was framework wars. And it was interesting, because being close to all those core teams, you realize that they're actually all collaborating. But the developers don't. The general public doesn't realize that. So a lot of what I did in the beginning was really host events that brought all these people together. We got Core Team Angular, Acute Core Team, Ember Core Team, and showed people that, "Hey, you know what? These conversations are happening. People are collaborating. We're all one with the JavaScript." That's kind of what I try to do. I'm not perfect, but I don't think anybody is.

Kent C. Dodds (09:46):
I think it highlights the fact that we're a lot more similar than we are dissimilar. We share a lot of problems. And we may have different ideas on how to solve those problems, but provided that the work that I'm doing isn't making it harder for you to do your work, we're not negatively impacting each other, we can collaborate. And in the JavaScript ecosystem, I'm not sure what I could do to make Vue person's life harder. So there's only positive interactions that should be had there.

Tracy Lee (10:21):
Right. Unfortunately that's not what everybody else thinks.

Kent C. Dodds (10:28):
Well, I appreciate you putting these sorts of events together. And actually let's just highlight a couple of those things that you do. Yeah. Can you just elaborate on some of those things. Because the people listening probably would really benefit from lots of the events that you put on.

Tracy Lee (10:44):
Yeah. So if you go to vuemeetup.com, we host the Vue events with the Vue Core Team. So the State of Vue, Vue Contributor Days, Vue Ecosystem events. If you go to reactjsmeetup.com, you'll see things like State of React, and React Contributor Days, React Ecosystem events. Same thing with it's GraphQL-meetup. And then angularmeetup.com. So we do a lot of events, now that I think about it. But you can go to any one of these, and you can... The point of all these events is really to make all of these people that we look up to more accessible.

Tracy Lee (11:27):
So State of Angular, you can talk to the Angular Core Team. Ask them whatever questions you want. Find out all the details. With things like GraphQL Contributor Days you can come as whoever you are. Come as you are, be thrown in a room with like 20, 30 GraphQL contributors and talking about the foundation, and really trying to help push the ecosystem forward. So, yeah, that's definitely the goal of all these events. Or if you're like, "Man, I really want to become popular in JavaScript," this is a great opportunity as well to have a voice in those spaces.

Kent C. Dodds (12:09):
Absolutely. I think it's just great. And getting these people together, like you said, just to make it more accessible, but also it increases collaboration as well where people just have ideas together.

Tracy Lee (12:24):
Yeah. Especially right now where most of us are dialing in remotely. We're craving that collaboration experience. And I feel like these types of events really help with that, stimulate the conversation. And the thing I love about it is seeing what happens afterwards. So for example, with RSGS we did RSGS Contributor Days, and the Angular Core Team shows up, and it's like, "RSGS is too big." So guess what? It was prioritized that RSGS got smaller. Things like that happen. Vue Contributor Days we were having conversation, and the decision was made to say, "All right, that's cool. We can stop supporting a11y finally." So it's really fun to hear these things come together.

Kent C. Dodds (13:12):
I'm not sure how to transition this in a good way. So I'm going to do a hard transition over to... One thing that we wanted to talk about in this conversation was providing, or pushing more positivity into the world. So there are a lot of negative things happening. And I think that those things need some mindshare, and mindspace, for sure. But even those negative things that are happening I think can be thought of in a positive light. More what can we do about this terrible thing, rather than this is a terrible thing. I think a lot about Twitter doomscrolling, and stuff like that. That can be more demoralizing than motivating. I want to hear your take on the current state of the social world, or maybe even the mental world. Where are we as a world with regard to positivity versus negativity right now?

Tracy Lee (14:19):
Yeah. Twitter is not the world. But it's definitely a world that a lot of us live in. And even as I'm scrolling through my Twitter, it's not that there's negativity necessarily on any one thing. It's not microaggressions, but it's like these small little things of this bad thing happens to me, that bad thing happens to me, this bad thing has happened in the world. "Oh my gosh, did you see this. Oh, what am I going to do about this? Oh, I can't get this job." Just small little things here and there, which collectively just make Twitter not the most exciting place to be, and really start impacting how people think. So there's definitely something to be said about just generally thinking more positively. Because if you put more positive thoughts into your mind, your brain chemistry actually changes, like physically.

Tracy Lee (15:23):
So I think it's really important to just try to put positivity out there, and slowly try to... One positive tweet can really change the world. Because I may be scrolling, and Kent I see your tweet. And I'm like, "Oh man, I'm so excited that cat loves strawberries," or whatever. Something so small. Versus just the negative sludge. And then you get into that space. And is your life's better for it? Not really.

Kent C. Dodds (16:03):
Yeah. This is such a nuanced point, for sure. We can't ignore the bad things that are happening in the world. But sometimes I think eventually maybe humanity will go beyond our galaxy, and we'll be everywhere. Right now with the way that communication and information is being expanded, we're literally being exposed to all the bad things that are happening. Well, of course not all of them. But some of the worst things that happen in the world we're being exposed to.

Kent C. Dodds (16:33):
And as we expand to the galaxy, how much of the intergalactic news are we going to be exposed to, the terrible things that happen? Will we just spend all of our time consuming this negativity and this terrible stuff? Because it really changes you mentally and emotionally. It would be very difficult to get yourself out of that, and into a space where you can create positive change in your environment, which could potentially hopefully prevent those sorts of terrible things from happening in the first place. I think that it's good to acknowledge the bad things that are happening primarily locally in your community, and work positively to make an improvement primarily locally in your community.

Tracy Lee (17:24):
Yeah. I'll give you a good example, which just made me so sad. And it was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back, I think. So I just saw on Twitter that she was going to be the editor of Teen Vogue. Now I can't remember, but something like that. And she got canceled because something she said when she was 16 or 17 from Twitter when she was 16 or 17. Like man, can we have just been happy for her instead of cancel her? And what she said probably wasn't right, but everyone's human. So it's so scary these days to go on the internet because what could you say that could be construed as wrong? And how is that going to screw you over in the end? For her it was probably her dream job as editor for Teen Vogue. And now is she going to be able to be employed anywhere? Is that fair for something that she said when she was 16 or 17?

Kent C. Dodds (18:33):
Yeah. The nuance gets totally lost with cancel culture. So I don't think that it's okay for us to just say, "Oh, well this person has terrible views on this thing that they're going to have an impact on. So let's just be okay with that or whatever." But cancel culture does not allow for people to evolve and improve. It assumes that you are 100% every single one of the tweets that you've ever made, or every single statement that you've ever made. That statement is 100% you, and there's no way for you to change.

Kent C. Dodds (19:12):
And one example I can think of was a few years ago this reporter was flying to Africa and said something sarcastically on Twitter. And then hopped on the plane, and didn't see any of the fallout of what happened. When she landed she had been fired from her job, and everything. Her tweet had gone viral. And it was a sarcastic remark that maybe she shouldn't have made, but anybody who knew her, any of her Twitter followers would know exactly what she meant. That she was actually trying to communicate the opposite of what she was saying. But because it got picked up by somebody, it was taken at face value. So yeah, maybe she should have been more careful, not been so sarcastic. All nuance is lost on Twitter, but you can destroy people's lives. And I don't think that's okay. I think that's wrong.

Tracy Lee (20:11):
Yeah. I think it's this idea of everyone is human. For example, I see a lot of employees going on Twitter and bashing their employers. Now were their employers right at something they did? No probably not. That's probably why they're bashing people. But they're also human. And I think for some reason social media has made it okay for us to forget that people are human. And that's not okay, or at least it shouldn't be okay. It definitely makes me sad. And I try my hardest to be positive in that light. And I'd love to say more, but it's difficult. I think it's also a thing that we deal with as a society. For example, you even look at moms on Instagram, let's say. Okay. If you're a mom on Instagram, you have to post the "We're pregnant" picture, and take professional photos. And then you have to do the Baby Smash Cake. And you have to have a balloon garland at the party because everyone else does. And you have to do this. And if you don't, you're a bad mom. So I think it's just generally a culture that we fall into as a society.

Kent C. Dodds (21:40):
Yeah. I think there are so many facets to this problem just generally. And there are lots of studies on the negative impact of social media on people and things. And it's actually really kind of scary. But there's something we can do about this. And every individual needs to make this choice for themselves. And what I find is personally, I've definitely been negative on social media, or just in general. And literally every time I always regret it. I can't think of a time where I was super negative, and thought, "I'm so glad I was negative about that." There are legitimate things that you can say, "Hey, this is not okay." But you don't have to be negative about it. You say, "Hey, this needs to change." There's a different tone that you can take in that. But I think if it's really that bad, then it's worth instigating change. And the best way to instigate that change is in a positive way. And so what are some of your strategies to be positive, and just fill your own life with positivity?

Tracy Lee (23:04):
Well, I'll give you that example that my husband loves to give me. So sometimes my husband doesn't spend enough time with me. And then when he starts spending time with me, I'm like, "You never spend enough time with me." He's like, "Literally I'm spending time with you right now. Maybe you should say, 'I love it when you spend time with me.'" So it's small things like that where instead of thinking like, "Oh man, my day was so terrible." Think like, "Man, at least I woke up today." It could be that simple.

Tracy Lee (23:36):
One thing I do is I write in this thing called The Five Minute Journal. And every morning it's like, "Okay, what are you excited for today? What are you grateful for? Who are you?" And just try to create moments of positivity. But I think also generally if you're on Twitter or social media, instead of thinking about the negative, thinking about the positive. And I think, for example, if you take people who maybe are being negative and trying to create positivity in them somehow. I don't know how that is. But you can definitely try to change the conversation if it comes naturally. Don't go out there and try to do it proactively, or whatever. But just in your Twitter feed it can start from just how you think so that you can be a more positive human being in the world.

Kent C. Dodds (24:38):
Yeah. That sounds like it takes a lot of introspection, and thinking about how you view the world, or view a certain situation. We all know what it feels like to be outraged. And so when you start feeling those feelings, take a step back, take a couple of deep breaths. And look at it, try to be objective, and think, "Okay, so I have good reason to be outraged, but I'm not going to respond outrage. I'm going to take this emotional energy and move it into something that could actually instigate the change that I want to see," which is a positive way to phrase this.

Kent C. Dodds (25:23):
So for example, we're going back to the JS wars, somebody's like, "Svelte is the best and React sucks, or whatever." Well, for me I'd probably just ignore it. If this is somebody you respect, and you really want to engage in a conversation with them about this, rather than responding in outrage, you can say, "well, what do you love about Svelte so much? Or what are you really struggling with React?" Or whatever the case may be.

Tracy Lee (25:55):
And talk to them.

Kent C. Dodds (25:56):
Yeah. Yeah. And maybe they're right for themselves. Who cares. They feel that way, I guess. It's fine. But anyway, maybe I'm going too far with that.

Tracy Lee (26:11):
No, but I just think that's generally being respectful that we all have different values, and that's okay. I think the world lately has taught us that we have to be this way. And if we're not this way, then we are wrong. And that's not necessarily the healthiest thing. Some things are definitely wrong. But I think if we start constantly thinking about that over small things, like React versus Svelte, and, "Oh my gosh, you like Svelte. Canceled." That's definitely taking it a little bit step too far. But that's kind of what we're training ourselves to do, or what we see. So we need to take a conscious step back, and say, "Hey, you know what? We got to change how we interact with this type of content."

Kent C. Dodds (27:08):
Absolutely. Yeah. It really takes a lot of self-awareness. And I think that in general self-awareness is under appreciated by humanity in general. And taking a few minutes to talk to yourself, like, "How do I feel about this?" And give yourself a little therapist session, or something to analyze your feelings and say, "Okay, I do feel negative feelings, and there's a reason for those feelings. How can I turn this situation into a more positive one, which will have a more positive outcome?" Because normally when you're speaking from a negative perspective, the outcome will also be negative.

Tracy Lee (27:55):
Yes. Very much so. Yes. Just like you said. What did you say? You have regrets about every time you were negative online. And I would say so to. Because what ends up happening is you're bringing that energy to you. You're negative, and then all the negative energy is following you. And sure some people are trying to cheer you up and be positive or whatever, but it's further encouraging that type of negative emotion that's going on.

Kent C. Dodds (28:36):
Yeah. Oh my goodness. You mentioned how people are trying to cheer you up and stuff. That takes emotional energy. And that's emotional labor that they are performing for you. Where if you were just a little more self-aware, and more thoughtful, and intentional about your actions, you wouldn't need them to perform that emotional labor for you. And then on top of that, you would actually increase the positivity in your own life and in the lives of those with whom you interact. And I like what you said. In the world of emotions, likes attract. So if you're a positive person, you're going to bring more positivity into your life. If you're a negative person, or if you act negatively, sorry don't want to label people. There's no positive or negative person. It's just people who act positively and negatively. But the more you act negative, the more negative things come into your life. And negativity is just unhappiness. It's not the way to find happiness at all.

Tracy Lee (29:38):
Yeah. Gosh, I don't remember who said it. But there's this thing that's like one negative, in order to counterbalance that you have to do six positive things, which is a lot. So it's like you lose a bunch of weight, and then you eat that one chocolate bar, and then you gain five pounds. And you're like, "Man, I have to run 15 hours for that one chocolate?" It's the same thing with positivity and negativity. So I feel like save yourself the time and energy too. Because if you are being negative where you do get in that mindset, you'd be surprised what it does attract. Just like you said, if you're positive, I'll bet you tons of positive things are going to start coming into your life. But you have to practice that.

Kent C. Dodds (30:24):
Absolutely. You made me think of a book that I listened to recently called The Power of Bad subtitled, How The Negativity Effect Rules Us, And How We Can Rule It by John Tierney. Really great and interesting read. But basically to sum up, bad things stick much better for us. Negativity it just... And it's built into us from the beginning as life preservation sort of a thing. But yeah, it's just so much easier to remember the bad. So it makes sense to me that you'd have to have a lot of positivity to try and make up for some negativity. So if your day is equal positive, negative, it's actually not.

Tracy Lee (31:07):
Yes, yes. Yes.

Kent C. Dodds (31:09):
Well, cool. Tracy it's been such a pleasure to chat with you. We're down to the end of our time. Is there anything else you wanted to talk about before we wrap up?

Tracy Lee (31:17):
No, I think just that we're hiring. So if you love JavaScript, and you want to come work with a really cool, inclusive team, definitely apply. You can always find me on Twitter again @ladyleet, and happy to chat.

Kent C. Dodds (31:31):
Super. All right. Let me give the homework here. So for the next two weeks, we want you to think of something specific that's positive and share it with someone, or just generally on social media. I'm sure that most people probably say something positive at least once a day just naturally. But we want something specific. We want you to be intentional, and think about it, "Okay. This is my specific positive thing for the day," and share that with somebody. And do that for two weeks. And just see how your life changes. Anything to add to that, Tracy?

Tracy Lee (32:05):
No, but I think that's great. I also think it's great if you write it down too. Because then you can reflect back on that two weeks and say, "Oh man, look at all this bright positivity that I was able to create."

Kent C. Dodds (32:18):
Absolutely. I love it. I love it. Well, thank you so much, Tracy. It's been such a pleasure to chat with you. And yeah, we'll see everybody later. Bye.

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