Home All Get in the No Garbage Trucks! Zone – An Interview with Author David J. Pollay

Get in the No Garbage Trucks! Zone – An Interview with Author David J. Pollay

written by Margaret Greenberg 14 November 2010

Margaret Greenberg, MAPP '06, is co-author of Profit from the Positive. After a 15-year career in corporate HR, she founded The Greenberg Group, an organizational effectiveness consulting practice, in 1997. Margaret specializes in coaching executives and their teams using a strengths-based approach. Full bio.

Margaret's solo articles are here and her articles with Senia Maymin are here.

Book Cover for The Law of the Garbage Truck

“Happiness is not out of reach, and civility is not dead,” says David J. Pollay, speaker, seminar leader, blogger, syndicated columnist, and MAPP graduate in his new book, The Law of the Garbage Truck. And he has the research to prove it!

Book Review: Pollay, D. J. (2010). The Law of the Garbage Truck: How to Respond to People Who Dump on You, and How to Stop Dumping on Others. Sterling Press.

In his new book, David J. Pollay backs up his “Eight Commitments” with findings from Positive Psychology and weaves in practical life experiences that everyone can relate to.

In fact, his No Garbage Trucks! Pledge has been translated into forty-eight languages, and people from more than one hundred countries have already taken it. Pollay has been teaching schools, businesses, churches, temples, charities, and community organizations how to create a No Garbage Trucks! Zone.

Following are highlights from a recent interview I conducted with him.

Greenberg: Let’s begin by sharing The No Garbage Trucks! Pledge with our readers.

The Trucks! Pledge

The Trucks! Pledge

Pollay: The No Garbage Trucks! Pledge is something I’ve been sharing with people all around the world for years. It’s about focusing on increasing happiness, success, and civility in life and in business. “The Pledge” begins with each of us. Before we prescribe how everyone else should behave in the world, we need to start with ourselves.

The Pledge centers our attention on bringing out our best. It focuses us on what’s important and on what we can control, and it guides us to let the negative things we cannot control pass us by.

Greenberg: Some people may think The Law of the Garbage Truck is just another self-help book. How is your book different?

Pollay: First, it’s more than a book. It’s a movement to increase happiness, success, and civility. People all over the world are committing to make the world a better place by not accepting garbage—needless and excessive negativity, anger and resentment—and by not dumping garbage on others. Second, The Law of the Garbage Truck is based in science. There are twenty-one pages of research notes and references in the book.

Greenberg: Tell us about some of the relevant research.

Pollay: What’s critical for readers to know is that how we respond to daily hassles is as important as the way we respond to the more dramatic events in our lives like divorce or bereavement.

The No Garbage Trucks Zone Poster

The No Garbage Trucks Zone Poster

Psychologists Susan Folkman and Richard Lazarus have written that our response to daily hassles has a critical impact on our happiness and health. Research by Robert Sapolsky of Stanford has found that if we allow people and events to trigger our stress response system too often we degrade our cardiovascular health. One common result is that all this extra stress just leaves us feeling more tired and run down.

We also know from the social contagion research of James Fowler and Nicholas Christakis that our moods and what we share with others, either positive or negative, ripple through our networks within three degrees.

I also considered the research of Sonja Lyubomirsky and her colleagues on what we can change and what we can’t. We know that fifty-percent of the variance in happiness levels across a population can be attributed to genes and ten percent to circumstances. But that leaves forty percent of the “happiness pie” within our control. That’s what The Law of the Garbage Truck is about. It’s about choice. It’s about not passing on the negative things we cannot control, but rather focusing on the important and positive things, and taking greater responsibility for the things we can influence.

Greenberg: What is one of the biggest take-aways from The Law of the Garbage Truck?

David Pollay driving the No Garbage Truck

David Pollay driving the No Garbage Truck

Pollay: The difference between venting and dumping. Venting is permission and time-based. “Can I vent for a moment? Is that OK?”

Asking permission shows concern and respect for the other individual. Dumping, on the other hand, starts without warning and shows no concern or regard for the other person.

Greenberg: In your second chapter “Let It Pass You By: Letting Go Is Not Good Enough,” you write about another important distinction.

Pollay: Yes, it’s critical that we understand the difference between “letting go” of something, and what I call “letting it pass by.” Letting something go means that we’ve already taken in, absorbed, and processed the negative experience. This is not the right strategy when we’re confronted by Garbage Trucks. Instead, we must let them pass by, and wish them well.

Calculating Garbage Worksheet

Calculating Garbage Worksheet

This is a core distinction of The Law of the Garbage Truck. To the degree we can quickly identify the things beyond our control; it gives us more freedom to focus our attention and energy on what’s important to us and inside of our control. The more we let negative things pass by, the less we have to let go, and the less of a burden we have to carry.

Greenberg: You share a number of personal stories in the book. One of my favorites is the story about taking your girls to the Blockbuster Video store. Can you share with our readers the difference between The Garbage Cycle and The Gratitude Cycle?

Pollay: When we went up to the counter to pay for our movie, I could see that the clerk was on the phone with a customer who was being very difficult. The customer was dumping garbage, and I could tell the clerk was struggling. Meanwhile the check-out line was building up. When the clerk got off the phone she could have continued feeding The Garbage Cycle. She might even have felt justified to stay in a negative state and dump on us, but she chose not to. Instead she made the world a better place by focusing her energy and attention on helping a dad and his two girls. That’s living in The Gratitude Cycle.

Greenberg: What inspired you to write the book?

Margaret Greenberg and David Pollay

Margaret Greenberg and David Pollay

Pollay: I wrote The Law of the Garbage Truck because wherever you go, people talk about how hard it is to be happy, how it’s harder than ever to be successful, and how incivility is getting worse. I wrote the book to show people that we can increase our happiness, that we can increase civility in the world, that we can achieve success, and it’s possible and not as complex as so many people think.

The essence of The Law of the Garbage Truck is that human beings are not meant to be garbage trucks. We are not meant to accept and collect all that is bad in the world. We are not meant to take all that is negative personally, fill up on it, and then turn around and dump all this negativity on other people. Instead we appreciate and absorb the good in the world, and we confidently address the issues that matter. The mission of The Law of the Garbage Truck is to make our businesses more productive, our families more loving, and the world a better place.

Greenberg: What final message would you like to give our readers?

Pollay: People deserve to live a great life and it is within their reach. When we stop accepting garbage, when we stop focusing on the negative things we can’t control, we take control of our lives. Each time we stop dumping garbage on others, we change the world. Happiness is not out of reach and civility is not dead. The Law of the Garbage Truck helps make happiness and civility a possibility for all of us.

Author’s Personal Note: David and I were classmates in the inaugural class of the University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) back in 2006 and served as the first officers of the MAPP Alumni organization.

Editor’s note: David J. Pollay was one of the authors who started PPND in 2007. He wrote an article titled The Law of the Garbage Truck™ here in 2007, and it is still our most visited and most commented on article. His other PPND articles, including two about Gratitude Cycles, can be found here.




Pollay, D. J. (2010). The Law of the Garbage Truck: How to Respond to People Who Dump on You, and How to Stop Dumping on Others. Sterling Press.

Resources associated with the book can be found here.

Christakis, N.A. & Fowler, J.H. (2009). Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. New York: Little, Brown.

Lazarus, R.S., & Folkman, S. (1984). Stress, Appraisal, and Coping. New York: Springer.

Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want. New York: Penguin Books.

Sapolsky, R.M. (2004). Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, Third Edition. New York: Holt.


The images in this article are used with permission from the Facebook site of The Law of the Garbage Truck and The Law of the Garbage Truck blog. If you decide to reprint this article, please ask for permission from David J. Pollay before using his pictures.

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Abby 14 November 2010 - 11:20 am


Thank you so much for such a great interview with David J Pollay! It has kicked my day off to a great start already.

I have David’s book and love it! It has been so helpful to me and my family.

Thanks Again,


Alberto 14 November 2010 - 4:43 pm

Thank you for sharing the interview with us. David continues to build his mission and purpose with “The Law”… Thanks again.

Senia 14 November 2010 - 5:36 pm

Hi David and Margaret,

Margaret, thanks for the great, spot-on questions in the interview.

David, am so excited about you and your book! We’ve always been delighted to have you as one of the first authors on PPND! David, I especially was caught up in two distinctions you made in answering Margaret:

* the difference between letting something pass by and letting go – nice distinction. Something I don’t think about often at all.
* the difference between venting and dumping – very cool and accurate distinction!

All the best,

LIL 14 November 2010 - 5:41 pm

Hi Margaret, I enjoyed your interview with David Pollay. I think it’s great how you asked David about his distinction between letting things go and letting things you can’t control “pass by”. I know that I have taken in more than I have needed to over time, and I will begin putting David’s advice to work immediately. Thanks, Lil

Max 14 November 2010 - 5:52 pm

This interview is just what I needed today. I’m glad to know I can save my energy for the difficult things that matter by not spending it all on the things that don’t. Im going out to get his book. Thanks, Max

Laura 14 November 2010 - 10:55 pm

Thanks for that distinction between letting go and letting it pass by. I realize that I don’t have to take in the negative energy of others and deal with it then let it go. How healthy to just let it pass by! A definite plan to act on this week!

Becca 15 November 2010 - 1:30 am

Thanks for the great intervew with David Pollay. I’m always interested in learning about an author’s thoughts when developing a concept for publication.

I have read his book and use The Law of the Garbage Truck everyday. It has improved my life by allowing me to focus on what is most important in business, as well as, personally and spiritually.

Margaret 15 November 2010 - 10:23 am

Abby, I’m so glad to hear that David’s book has been so helpful to both you and your family — powerful, yet simple messages to live by.

Margaret 15 November 2010 - 10:24 am

Alberto, thank you for your positive feedback — sounds like you live by the Gratitude Cycle.

Margaret 15 November 2010 - 10:28 am

Thanks Senia. I have found those 2 distinctions really helpful when coaching clients, too.

Margaret 15 November 2010 - 10:34 am

Lil, Max, Laura & Becca – thank you for sharing your positive feedback and how you’re applying the lessons from The Law of the Garbage Truck. Isn’t it great when you can put advice to use immediately? I love the metaphor of the garbage truck. It resonnates with clients, family, and friends. No wonder David says people all over the world are committing to the Pledge.

Ronna-Renee 15 November 2010 - 12:28 pm

Oh what good timing for this interview. Thank you Margaret for sending it to me! I have been struggling with letting some things just pass me by and this article made me aware of the distinction and the need to do so. Whenever I tap into this community, I am refreshed and replenished. Please keep it up!

Margaret 15 November 2010 - 6:03 pm

Ronna-Renee — so glad the “pass me by” resonated with you! Wishing you and your family a Happy Thanksgiving — a wonderful tradition of gratitude.

Michael 16 November 2010 - 10:08 am

I am a walking example of the power of The Law of the Garbage Truck. I was dealing with a very messy and negative divorce when I was first introduced to The Law, and implementing it’s powerful lesson in to my life gave me back control over how I with things. Gone was the need to engage in every argument and accept the negative energy that was being thrown at me. It made me a happier person, a better father and gave me the strength to deal wit the real issues in the divorce, not just the garbage. Kudos to David on a great book!

oz 16 November 2010 - 3:31 pm

Haven’t read the book but keep thinking of the metaphor around recycling – sift through the garbage and find out what can be recycled and then bury the rest. And by being selective about what we use we have less to bury.

Perhaps I could write the second book of the series.

Louisa Jewell 16 November 2010 - 8:39 pm

Hi Margaret,
Thank you for a great review. I just finished reading the book and I loved it. When I completed the quizzes half way through the book I realized how much garbage I was allowing into my life! It was an eye opener and now I will forever be reminded in those moments of the garbage I can keep out of my life. I also liked the distinction between letting it go and letting it pass by – you can feel the difference in the energy. That is very powerful.

I’m looking forward to interviewing David on my radio show if anyone’s interested, please listen in live at http://www.ciut.fm at 11am EST this Friday November 19th. I also interview Margaret Greenberg about her upcoming book, co-authored with Senia Maymin, ‘The Power of the Positive’ that is coming soon. Please join us!

Thanks David for a wonderful movement.

Margaret 17 November 2010 - 9:26 am

Louisa, so glad you love the The Law of the Garbage Truck and found the quizzes so helpful! To me, the quizzes & action guides are like having your own personal coach. Looking forward to the interview on Friday. BTW – I just saw your note about a “late night typo” in your comment above: The title of the book I am co-authoring with Senia Maymin is called “Profit From the Positive”.

Margaret 17 November 2010 - 9:28 am

Oz, interesting notion of recycling. I’d love to hear David’s thoughts on this. David?
PS – are you from FL by any chance? I just met a guy on Friday named Oz.

Margaret 17 November 2010 - 9:34 am

Michael – thank you for sharing your personal story. It sounds like the messages in David’s book changed your life. Traditional psychology has studied post-traumatic stress disorder since WWII, and today positive psychologists are studying post-traumatic stress development. Kudos to you on not only surviving a difficult period, but growing from it.

Kaitlin Keegan 17 November 2010 - 10:57 am

Hi Margaret,

Thank you so much for sharing David’s Law of the Garbage Truck. I have read the book and personally found it very helpful in dealing with familial relationships, but I find new ways to share The Law with people I meet almost daily! I love the fact that The Law of the Garbage Truck is applicable to so many situations in our lives.


oz 18 November 2010 - 3:04 am

Margaret, I’m from ozstralia

Amanda Horne 23 November 2010 - 5:55 am

Margaret, I enjoyed reading this article, and appreciated the interview style, particularly knowing that you and Dave are MAPP-mates. What I like about the ‘garbage truck’ metaphor is that it encapsulates so many of the PP and other non-PP theories, and mindfulness. It is also a metaphor that we can all be creative with. For example, how about a redesigned garbage truck that compacts and separates the garbage, and the driver is nicely protected and unaffected in their driver’s cabin. We have our stuff, but we don’t have to let it affect us.

Amanda (also from ozstralia)

Margaret 23 November 2010 - 8:49 am

Love the notion of the redesigned garbage truck Amanda – you make me smile!

David J. Pollay 24 November 2010 - 10:10 pm

Thanks again, Margaret, for a fun interview. You’re a joy in every way. It’s always great connecting.

And thanks to everyone for your great posts (Abby, Alberto, Senia, Lil, Max, Laura, Becca, Ronna-Renee, Michael, Oz, Louisa, Kaitlin, and Amanda). I appreciate all the interest and support of The Law of the Garbage Truck. I’m grateful “The Law” has been helpful to you.

Your notes about the power of letting the negative things you cannot control “pass by” versus taking them in – letting them pile up – and then having to “let them go” later are right on. Additionally, your comments about making the effort to vent thoughtfully, rather than dumping carelessly, highlight an opportunity we all have to improve our relationships. For those particularly interested in where we put our energy, you’ll enjoy reading the Sixth Commitment of The Law of the Garbage Truck: “Do Live in The Gratitude Cycle and Live Free of the Garbage Cycle.”

Have a great Thanksgiving to my friends in the U.S., and good wishes to my friends around the world.

All the best,

p.s. And thanks, Louisa, for a great radio interview.


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