Lemons or Limes, which do you give?

But the strength of even a little positivity can trump an ocean-sized pool of negativity. A single positive act can flip an entire group’s mentality.


But the strength of even a little positivity can trump an ocean-sized pool of negativity. A single positive act can flip an entire group’s mentality.

Are you a lemon giver or a lime giver? Positivity and negativity are in an eternal war with each other. Negativity seems to be such a powerful force in our world, always has been. It’s ingrained in us to automatically focus on the half-empty portion of any given situation. We are professional cynics. Sure there are those that are wired to find the positive in everything but they are an elect few and frankly kind of irritating. I mean no one can be positive all the time. But the strength of even a little positivity can trump an ocean-sized pool of negativity. A single positive act can flip an entire group’s mentality.

I have seasons where I do side work in restaurants to earn a little extra cash. In any type of service/hospitality work, negativity is king. If there is one thing people complain about the most it’s other people, especially when you are constantly waiting/serving/catering to/kissing the feet of other people; and especially when the general public pretty much pays your whole salary. Anyway, here is where the lemons and limes come into play.

One day, one of the managers came up during our pre-shift in the morning and proposed a “game”. She called it the Lemon Game. The whole concept was that a single lemon would be passed around from server to server throughout the shift. If you had the lemon, it was because the previous owner caught you doing something wrong–messing up an order, taking too long to get to a table, not pre-bussing, on your phone, not properly kissing the feel of the customer, that sort of thing.

What?? You Serious?!

As soon as the rules were laid out I was appalled! That’s a strong word, but still I pretty much decided right away that I was not going to participate. They were practically training us to look for the bad in others; to look for flaws, mistakes, the negative. And the lemon would become a sign of shame. The scarlet letter of the restaurant. No one wants to carry around a lemon, not to mention its just inconvenient with everything else the server has to haul around.

So of course, about 30 minutes into the shift, I get the lemon. A server “caught” me not using the proper scoop-ice-into-cup technique (I didn’t use a scooper). I mean, he was nice about it. He apologized as he handed it to me, saying something like “Sorry, I just don’t want to carry this anymore.” But, whatever. I put it in my pocket and decided I wasn’t going to hand it out. I’m not going to make it a priority to seek errors made by my co-workiers so I can then call them out and hand them a lemon and let everyone know they made a mistake. So I kept it in my pocket. About an hour later the manager came up to me and asked If I still had the lemon.


“Why haven’t you given it out?”

“Because it’s a stupid game.”

No I didn’t say that. But I did pretty much lay it out that I was not going to make finding mistakes my mission. 1) Im busy and 2) That is so negative. I know it’s just a game, but stuff like that creates a culture of disunity and negativity over time. We should be awarding positive work rather than shaming negative work!

Her response? Well, she did two things–one positive and one negative. First, she added a lime to the mix. Whenever someone witnessed an act of service or over-the-top teamwork, give out a lime.

Okay, that’s better I guess. I still don’t want to carry around fruit in my pocket but okay.

Second, she added 3 more lemons to the game because I wasn’t going to hand mine out…

But the strength of even a little positivity can trump an ocean-sized pool of negativity. A single positive act can flip a whole group’s mentality. 

The negative will forever attempt to outdo the positive. It is its nature.

A little later, I was still carrying the lemon. Something pretty cool happened. One of the lead servers came up to me.

“Still carrying that lemon?”


“You want me to carry it for a little while”

YES! Thats it! It is not about shaming others for doing wrong. It’s about carrying the load as a team. I thought hey, thats a great concept. We should just all take turns carrying the lemons. Pass them around freely. A few of us caught on and the mindset shifted: Don’t set your targeting beam on the mistakes and flaws of others and their work; but rather where others are falling, grab their load and walk with them.

A culture of positive thinking is not just the right thing, but it is actually healthy for your mind and body. It has been scientifically proven that a positive outlook can biologically alter your brain and have a great effect. In an issue of the American Scientist of The Scientific Research Society, Barbara L. Fredrickson writes,

Instead of solving problems of immediate survival, positive emotions solve problems concerning personal growth and development. Experiencing a positive emotion leads to states of mind and to modes of behavior that indirectly prepare an individual for later hard times (Source).

And again,

It seems that positive emotions do more than simply feel good in the present. The undoing effect suggests that positive emotions can reduce the physiological “damage” on the cardiovascular system sustained by feeling negative emotions. But some other research suggests that there’s more to it than that. It appears that experiencing positive emotions increases the likelihood that one will feel good in the future (Source).

Of course, there were still some that day that got a kick out of giving out lemons. There will always be those that are fueled by negativity. I’ve been guilty of it many times. Don’t be so hard on them. People have gotten so good at hiding what they are going through, and many times our personal struggles and trials act as a feeding ground for negative thoughts–a personal lemon garden if you will. When attacked by a negative arsenal, don’t return fire with more lemons. Give out a lime. That sounds silly, but you know what I mean.

This really gives a new perspective on the popular phrase, “When life gives you lemons…”


Author: CJ Phipps

I have found a love for culture and travel and have spent the better part of my life exploring this great earth. I had the pleasure of living in Argentina for a year living in a small town called San Miguel Del Monte where I learned the harmony brought by a good cup of mate and the wondrous ways of cooking and eating meat. I experienced big city atmosphere that Argentine cities such as Buenos Ares, Cordoba, and Santa Fe had to offer but not without descending to the breath-taking landscape of the south, boasting destinations such as Patagonia and the Andes Mountains. I also studied in California, traveled down the Pacific Coast Highway to visit the Arizonian home of a friend I met while out west. We stayed in Yuma for a few nights and walked the border over to Mexico. So many more stories to tell but I will only list places– Guatemala (about 8 or 9 times), all over the Caribbean, Kenya, and several handfuls of cities and states around the great USA.

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