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The Law of the Garbage Truck™

By on October 2, 2007 – 1:03 am  81 Comments

David J. Pollay, MAPP '06, is a co-founder of the International Positive Psychology Association (IPPA). David has an Economics degree from Yale University and has held leadership positions at Yahoo!, MasterCard, Global Payments and AIESEC. He is an Executive Coach who specializes in business relationships. He is also an author and keynote speaker known for his best-selling books, The Law of the Garbage Truck (how to navigate negativity) and The 3 Promises (how to create personal fulfillment every day). David's articles are here. For permission to reprint David's articles, please contact him.

Special Note to Positive Psychology News Daily Friends

Book Cover for The Law of the Garbage Truck

This month I am posting a column that I wrote a number of years ago known as The Law of the Garbage Truck™.  My column is now widely traveling the internet in mass emails and blogs.  I want you to have it too.  You can find my original article at the following sites:

The Law of the Garbage Truck
Facebook site for The Law of the Garbage Truck

If you would also like to include my column in your blog, please send me an email.  Thank you for continuing to support and acknowledge my work. I am deeply grateful.

Best to you,



The Law of the Garbage Truck by David J. Pollay


garbage-truckHow often do you let other people’s nonsense change your mood? Do you let a bad driver, rude waiter, curt boss, or an insensitive employee ruin your day? Unless you’re the Terminator, you’re probably set back on your heels. However, the mark of your success is how quickly you can refocus on what’s important in your life.

Sixteen years ago I learned this lesson. And I learned it in the back of a New York City taxi cab. Here’s what happened.

I hopped in a taxi, and we took off for Grand Central Station. We were driving in the right lane when all of a sudden, a black car jumped out of a parking space right in front of us. My taxi driver slammed on his brakes, the car skidded, the tires squealed, and at the very last moment our car stopped just one inch from the other car’s back-end.

I couldn’t believe it. But then I couldn’t believe what happened next. The driver of the other car, the guy who almost caused a big accident, whipped his head around and he started yelling bad words at us. How do I know? Ask any New Yorker, some words in New York come with a special face. And he even threw in a one finger salute! I couldn’t believe it!

But then here’s what really blew me away. My taxi driver just smiled and waved at the guy. And I mean, he was friendly. So, I said, “Why did you just do that!? This guy could have killed us!” And this is when my taxi driver told me what I now call, “The Law of the Garbage Truck™.” He said:

“Many people are like garbage trucks. They run around full of garbage, full of frustration, full of anger, and full of disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they look for a place to dump it. And if you let them, they’ll dump it on you.

So when someone wants to dump on you, don’t take it personally. Just smile, wave, wish them well, and move on. Believe me. You’ll be happier.”

So I started thinking, how often do I let Garbage Trucks run right over me? And how often do I take their garbage and spread it to other people at work, at home, or on the street? It was then that I said, “I don’t want their garbage and I’m not going to spread it anymore.”

I began to see Garbage Trucks. Like in the movie “The Sixth Sense,” the little boy said, “I see Dead People.” Well now “I see Garbage Trucks.” I see the load they’re carrying. I see them coming to dump it. And like my taxi driver, I don’t take it personally; I just smile, wave, wish them well, and I move on.

One of my favorite football players of all time was Walter Payton. Every day on the football field, after being tackled, he would jump up as quickly as he hit the ground. He never dwelled on a hit. Payton was ready to make the next play his best. Over the years the best players from around the world in every sport have played this way: Muhammad Ali, Nadia Comaneci, Bjorn Borg, Chris Evert, Michael Jordan, Jackie Robinson, and Pele are just some of those players. And the most inspiring leaders have lived this way: Nelson Mandela, Mother Theresa, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King.

See, Roy Baumeister, a psychology researcher from Florida State University, found in his extensive research that you remember bad things more often than good things in your life. You store the bad memories more easily, and you recall them more frequently.

So the odds are against you when a Garbage Truck comes your way. But when you follow The Law of the Garbage Truck™, you take back control of your life. You make room for the good by letting go of the bad.
The best leaders know that they have to be ready for their next meeting. The best sales people know that they have to be ready for their next client. And the best parents know that they have to be ready to greet their children with hugs and kisses, no matter how many garbage trucks they might have faced that day. All of us know that we have to be fully present, and at our best for the people we care about.

The bottom line is that successful people do not let Garbage Trucks take over their lives.

What about you? What would happen in your life, starting today, if you let more garbage trucks pass you by?

Here’s my bet: You’ll be happier.

You have a choice.  Make it today.
Have a Garbage Free Day!

You’ve read The Law of the Garbage Truck™; now join people from more than 100 countries and take The No Garbage Trucks!™ Pledge with me.
Click here to take The Pledge.

The Trucks! Pledge

You can see people taking the fun and meaningful No Garbage Trucks!™ Pledge on the streets of New York City and around the world in the video below (also here, in case you want to send someone the link). The Pledge has now been translated into more than 50 languages.

See the No Garbage Trucks pledge on Youtube.

To learn more about my book, click here.


  • Clark says:

    Tha Law of the Garbage Truck has been really helping me a lot! Until recently, when people came across to dump their garbage on me or did other things that got on my nerves, I would just be full of anger and thoughts of revenge. Just the other day, I was suddenly punched by a guy from my class in highschool. He was apparently angry with me for some reason, but when he dumped his garbage, I remembered the Law of the Garbage Truck and just let it by. Thank you very much for this great way of thinking. It really does make my life a lot easier!

  • Hi Clark,

    Thanks for your post, and congratulations on taking back control of your life by following The Law of the Garbage Truck™ in your life. Unfortunately, we run into a lot of Garbage Trucks when we are growing up, particularly in high school.

    Clark, congratulations to you for not escalating the incident with your high school classmate. However, I want to make sure that you are safe. I am not happy to hear that the Garbage Truck you faced came with a punch. Physical violence is never acceptable. Email me directly to connect:

    Congratulations again on focusing on what’s important in your life and letting the Garbage Trucks pass you by. Remember to email me when you can. You’re on the right path.

    Best to you,


    p.s. Clark, take a look at There are now many thousands of people doing what you are doing.

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  • […] some more content which was skipped in the chain mail ” Beware of Garbage Trucks!™ – The Law of the Garbage Truck™ " on Positive Psychology… __________________ Everyone crashes. Some get back on. Some don’t. Some can’t Accidents hurt – […]

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  • Introducing The Law of the Garbage Truck™…

    Introducing The Law of the Garbage Truck™…

  • Lavika (jakarta, Indonesia) says:

    Thanks David.
    I always like your articles !

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Lavika,

    Thanks so much for your kind post! Stay in touch! I appreciate your support.

    Best to you,


  • I encountered many similar articles with this one. I have noticed that they really are having the same point. I just wonder why.

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Bucket Truck Sale,

    Great to hear from you. Happy New Year! The Law of the Garbage Truck addresses a universal concern: how can we take control of our lives, increase our happiness, and increase civility. If you’re interested in more about The Law of the Garbage Truck, take a peek at

    Best to you,


  • Michelle says:

    Hi David, my friend Joyce recommended I read about the Law of the Garbage Truck. She was very insistant. You see, we were both living in what turned out to be a cult. Joyce was manipulated into leaving her husband (with the ‘signs and wonders’ that the cult leader supposedly did and knew…) Joyce was there 4-1/2 years and I was there for almost 17, when I separated from my husband. I am now 43 and when Joyce and I “wised up” and with every ounce of courage a person can have, escaped this cult (you see, the leader had threatened us and our families if we did…long story but this leader knew lots of things, so we were scared). Joyce moved in with her brother then got her own place and I went to live in a domestic violence shelter for almost 6 months. Both of us are still trying to get our families to accept us back. Joyce’s sons don’t want anything to do with her. My parents offered me a place with them so I moved in with them about 6 weeks ago. They fight and cuss at each other (just like when I was young). My mom is highly emotional and my dad (who has had a major stroke and is disabled) spends his time calling her names and trying to find his mistress on facebook (or any nurse who took care of him who was “hot”). I have tried to set boundaries like I learned in the shelter but it’s very difficult. I am fighting hard. Dad said some things tonight to me and I walked outside rather than let them know I was crying. I called Joyce in tears and took a walk while I listened to her. She asked me if I’d read the Law of the Garbage Truck yet (she told me about it this morning) and insisted I get online and read it before I went to bed. She said it sure helped her and I can tell by the sound of her voice that she sure is calmer.

    Well I read it, saved it as a Wordpad file and am going to print it. If my mom and dad do not want to try to be civil to one another, I’m just not going to let them dump their anger and bad things all over me. As soon as I get my disability, I’m going to get my own place but until then, I’ve got to just let them be how they want to be. I’ve prayed for them; I’ve tried to be a model person (make my bed, clean up after myself, etc) so that I do not put them out. Mom wants me here, and Dad well he brings up things from the past and wants to get the last word in. Sorry I’ve given you all of this…I’m not trying to be a garbage truck for you!!! I just wanted you to know what I had to deal with and to also know how I’m going to make this Law work for me.

    Smiles always (that’s why I got the e-mail address I have now. I created it when I left the cult as my old address had references to the cult in the name)

    God bless,
    p.s. I feel happier just since I read the law 15 minutes ago! 🙂

  • David J. Pollay says:

    Hi Michelle,

    What an incredible email. Thank you for your post. And I’m so happy for what you are doing in your life. Your focus on what is important, and your courage to make things right in your life, is awesome. I’m very glad to hear from you.

    Please tell Joyce I send my best to her, too.

    Michelle, take a look at The Law of the Garbage Truck Facebook page.

    New resources that you’re going to like are coming online. We’re about to put online the TV version of my telling The Law of the Garbage Truck (filmed in New York City).

    Stay in touch, Michelle. And stay strong.

    All the best,


  • David J. Pollay says:


    …and keep reading the great articles on Positive Psychology News Daily.

    All the best,


  • Chaw says:

    Oh, It’s really great.
    I like this post very much indeed.
    Let me share on my blog and I’ll translate to our language.
    Pls come and visit to my blog. (here)
    Really thanks.



  • David J. Pollay says:

    Thanks, Chaw, for your nice post. It’s great to hear from you. Email me at to learn more about our translations of The Law of the Garbage Truck.

    All the best,

  • Chaw, I fixed your link, but that made me curious. What language would you be translating into? I don’t think I have the character sets on my browser to see the language in your blog.

  • Patrick CANSA says:

    Deep, refreshing the selesteem and encouraging. I made the pledge and there is a feeling of assurance in front of the day by day issues. Garbage is not my share and I will not allow any garbage on me anymore. “From Shades To Light” would I sing after reading this.

  • sruthi says:

    its late night in india and while browsing happened to see your law of garbage truck which was apt for me in many ways.right now,i am going through a lot of scandals and criticism and humiliation from public.(i dont want to go in detail as i have stopped being a garbage truck)i was feeling ashamed and humiliated and insulted.was feeling depressed after hearing many people’s comments.and may be i too dumped my garbage onto others.and your law taught me a lot.i am taking the pledge and feel very relieved ,now itself, after reading your article.thankyou very much.god bless you.


  • Hi Patrick,

    Great post…I just saw it. Keep honoring your No Garbage Trucks! Pledge. You’re helping make the world a more beautiful place for everyone every day. Stay connected to The Law on our Facebook page:

    All the best,

  • Hi Sruthi!

    I’m so glad The Law of the Garbage Truck has helped you! Keep living The Pledge. I can feel the relief you are experiencing. Stay in touch here and at

    All the best,

  • Nancy says:

    This is awesome, I am definitely going to share this with friends. 🙂

  • very nice keep it up…Tha Law of the Garbage Truck has been really helping me a lot!

  • Thanks, Nancy! Stay in touch on FB, too.
    And check out the book on Amazon:

    Thanks for all your interest, and for spreading The Law of the Garbage Truck message.

    All the best,

  • Marilyn Gore says:

    This Morning I was dumped on in a group of 4 women…the conversation was dominated by a women with negative comments of her hard she worked on the farm,how she fed the animals this morning..while her husband slept in ..I would try to interject in the converstaion…and was ignored…my whole emotional being was turned up side down..I am thinkng of the whole situation why I became distressed,,,depressed..not so much of her problems but my being mutual connectedness..I asked questions about their life…I was asked one question..HOw many kids I had…I said none ..she replied ..oh GOd…and she begins to talk about the grand children antics..
    why do I internalize the rude way I am treated and let it ruin my emotional well being for the day,,,what am I missing..that I need to know to live a Happy life.,
    Thankyou for reponding

  • Hi Marilyn,

    Good to hear from you. I saw your other note that you’re reading my book, The Law of the Garbage Truck. That’s awesome. I think you’ll find a lot of guidance that will help you navigate these unfortunate situations.

    The biggest thing in life is that we do not want to take personally the negative things we cannot control. It’s hard enough managing our own happiness; we need not let negative people and events dominate our thinking. We have other people that need us more, and we have more important things to focus on. You have a lot to contribute to the world. Center your energy there.

    Marilyn, get back to me after you read the book, or as you’re reading. I’m happy to be of help.

    All the best,

  • Judy Krings says:

    As Appreciative Inquiry says, “What you focus on grows.” So keep looking ahead and not behind. This is a blog for all seasons. Big thanks, David.

  • Dave says:

    But if the garbage truck keeps bringing more and more and dumping it on you, then there comes a point when it does get to you.
    4 years I’ve been living with regrets over a financial decision and the consequences have involved the deaths of 2 people, the loss of about £1m and the destruction of my family.
    Just let it pass you say. Yes fine if I t stopped but it keeps building up and such is the problem of depression in older men as we have a lot of things we have done that may be regretted

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