Charles Swindoll wrote,
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.
Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home.
The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes.
John Maxwell wrote this poem,
It is the “advance man” of our true selves
Its roots are inward but its fruit is outward.
It is our best friend or our worst enemy,
It is more honest and more consistent than our words.
It is an outward look based on past experiences.
It is a thing which draws people to us or repels them.
It is never content until it is expressed.
It is the librarian of our past.
It is the speaker of our present.
It is the prophet of our future.
Attitude is important. Some would say, “It’s everything.” While it is not everything per se, it is everything when it comes to promotion and success for our attitude is sometimes the only differential between a success and a failure. However, it has everything to do with our lives, our perceptions, our jobs, our families, marriages and all relationships. Note this, “Stanford Research Institute says that the money you make in any endeavor is determined only 12.5 percent by knowledge and 87.5 percent by your ability to deal with people (87.5% people knowledge + 12.5% product knowledge = Success).”
Consider this story as told by Charles Swindoll about Elmer, who is 80 years old lying in a hospital bed. He says, “Ethel, is that you right there.” His wife of 56 years, “Yea…yea, Elmer it’s me. I’m right here.” He opened one eye and said, “I remember 55 years ago being in a veteran’s hospital…in San Fransisco. You were right there then too, weren’t you Ethel?” She said, “Yea, I was right there.” He said, “I remember in ’64 when we lost our house, burned to the ground. You were right then too weren’t you when we lost our house and lost everything.” She sighed, thought back, and said, “Yea, I was right there.” He said, “I remember when we went through that terrible financial crunch and I lost my job at the shop and we wound up with nothing to live on. You were right there then too, huh.” She looked out the window and remembered and said, “Yea, Elmer I was there.” He then looked over the top of his glasses and said, “You know Ethel, you’re baaaadddd luck.” Try living with that guy for 56 years. Some people see the glass as half-full and others see the same glass as half-empty. It’s the same glass, the same amount of water, the same set of circumstances. The difference is in one’s attitude.
In Attitude 101, John Maxwell writes about 5 Truths about Attitude. They are:
- Attitudes have the power to lift up or tear down a team.
- A [good] attitude compounds when exposed to others.
- Bad attitudes compound faster than good ones.
- Attitudes are subjective, so identifying a wrong one can be difficult.
- Rotten attitudes, left alone, ruin everything.
Let’s briefly think through these. First, “Attitudes have the power to lift up or tear down a team.” Have you ever played this game? It’s the game where a person stands on a pedestal or a stool and another person of the same size stands on the ground and both are told to try to pull each other. The one on the stool is to pull the one on the ground up onto the stool without falling and the one on the ground is to simply pull down trying to get him to fall off the stool. Inevitably, every time, the person on the ground wins. Why is this? It is always easier to pull someone down than it is to pull someone up. So no matter the talent, attitude has the potential to increase the talent and results or even drastically decrease.
Second, “An attitude compounds when exposed to others.” This is very true when done correctly and when people see leadership responding correctly to this good attitude. Sometimes all it takes is one person, an emotional leader of sorts. People are always watching each other. People notice things and regardless of how perceptive or discerning a person is, one can always see our attitude. And when a person displays a good attitude and everyone sees leadership giving kudos, rewarding the person, etc. then people will begin mimicking that attitude.
Third, antithetical yet parallel to the second, “Bad attitudes compound faster than good ones.” So we can either influence those around us positively or negatively, and negativity compounds faster. However, let’s be sure of this: being contrarian is not having a bad attitude (though some will take it as such). One can be a contrarian and still maintain a great, upbeat, positive attitude. In reality, I can say anything to anyone, but it is all in how I say it.
Fourth, “Attitudes are subjective, so identifying a wrong one can be difficult.” Notice what John Maxwell writes here, “Have you ever interacted with someone for the first time and suspected that his attitude was poor, yet you were unable to put your finger on exactly what was wrong? Attitudes are subjective. Someone with a bad attitude may not do anything illegal or unethical, yet his attitude may be ruining the team just the same. People always project on the outside what they feel on the inside. Attitude is really about how a person is. That overflows into how he acts.”
Fifth, “Rotten attitudes, left alone, ruin everything.” We cannot simply ignore bad, rotten attitudes. Think about these common bad attitudes.
- An inability to admit wrongdoing.
- Failing to forgive.
- Petty jealousy.
- The disease of me.
- Critical Spirit.
- A desire to hog all the credit.
These rotten attitudes and other bad attitudes must be nipped. Simply explain to them that it is unacceptable. While Thomas Jefferson once said, “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude,” the way that you can help the person with the wrong mental attitude is by not ignoring it, not walking on egg shells, but directly confronting it. Whenever we as leaders ignore bad attitudes, we are condoning it; we say, “That’s ok!” Hence the reason, “Attitude reflects leadership.”
And as the quote goes, “Attitudes are contagious; is yours worth catching?” Probably one of the most important axioms regarding attitude is John Maxwell’s, “Our attitude determines our relationship with people.” We all know people who’s attitude are simply remarkable, contagious, encouraging, and exciting. It’s not just their personality though it has become a part of their personality.
Here’s another story as told by Charles Swindoll. It’s a letter from a scout named Cole who wrote his mom. Think about being the mother and how it relates to attitude.
Dear Mom and Dad,
Our scoutmaster told us all write to our parents in case you saw the flood on TV and worried. We are OK. Only 1 of our tents and 2 sleeping bags got washed away. Luckily, none of us got drowned because we were all up on the mountains looking for Chad when it happened. Oh yes, please call Chad’s mother and tell her he is OK. He can’t write because of the cast. I got to ride in one of the search & rescue jeeps. It was neat! We never would have found him in the dark if it hadn’t been for the lightning.
Our Scoutmaster Walt got mad at Chad for going on a hike alone without telling anyone. Chad said that he did tell him, but it was during the fire so he probably didn’t hear him. Did you know that if you put gas on a fire, the gas can will blow up!? Did you know that? The wet wood still didn’t burn, but one of our tents did. Also some of our clothes. David is going to look weird until his hair grows back.
We will be home on Saturday, mom, if Scoutmaster Walt gets his car fixed. It wasn’t his fault about the wreck. The brakes worked OK when we left. Scoutmaster Walt said that a car that old you have to expect something to break down; that’s probably why he can’t get insurance on it. We think it’s a neat car. He doesn’t care if we get it dirty, and if it’s hot, sometimes he lets us ride out on the fenders. It gets pretty hot with 10 people in a car. He let us take turns riding in the trailer until the highway patrolman stopped and talked to us about that. Scoutmaster Walt is a neat guy. Don’t worry, he is a good driver. In fact, he is teaching Terry how to drive on the mountain roads where there isn’t any traffic. Did you know you don’t need guard rails on roads that don’t have much traffic. All we ever see up there are logging trucks.
This morning all of the guys were diving off the rocks and swimming out in the lake. Scoutmaster Walt wouldn’t let me because I can’t swim, and Chad was afraid he would sink because of his cast, so he let us take the canoe, all by ourselves, across the big lake. It was great! You can still see some of the trees under the water from the flood. Scoutmaster Walt isn’t crabby like some scoutmasters. He didn’t even get mad about our losing the life jackets. He has to spend a lot of time working on the car so we are trying not to cause him any trouble.
Guess what? We have all passed our first aid merit badges. When Dave dove in the lake and cut his arm, we got to see how a tourniquet works. Wade and I threw up, but Scoutmaster Walt said it probably was just food poisoning from the leftover chicken. He said he got sick that way with the food he ate in prison.
I’m really glad he got out and became our scoutmaster. He said he sure figured out how to get things done better while he was doing his time. I have to go now. We are going into town to mail our letters and buy some more bullets. Don’t worry about anything. We are fine.