Attitude really is everything
grew up receiving unusual gifts. Whether it was my birthday or Christmas, my Mom always managed to uncover some quirky or meaningful trinket.
They weren’t really functional and yet they weren’t silly or childish either. One year I received an embosser that read “From the Library of Perry Skoutelas”. I think I was probably 12. I spent a few afternoons letter pressing everything that I came across and then stowed it away in my desk.
There was one gift that persisted over the years. “Attitude is Everything”. I collected desk ornaments, placards and frames with this phrase printed in large letters. I’m not even certain where my parents found these things or if they had them made.
As a kid, getting a placard with a quote on it as a gift is kind of like being told you’re going to play a game instead of having your regular class only to find out it’s a game about that day’s lesson.
We got so many of these things it became an expected part of every family get together. My sister and I used to do a soft eye roll and say, “yeah, yeah, we know- ‘attitude is everything’”. We certainly didn’t take it to heart. Although it was anything but subtle, it took time to appreciate the importance of the message.
In the years since, I’ve had the opportunity to live in a number of cities and countries, meet a wide variety of people, study various subjects, and work at a few different companies across a couple of industries. I’ve gathered many observations along the way. Even so, not until the past year, has this saying really returned with such clarity and such power. Now, in particular, I’m able to see how universally important and defining your attitude is.
As a fun exercise take the next interaction you have with your spouse, friend, colleague or complete stranger. In that interaction really make a mental note of your attitude and the feelings you went into the conversation with. See if you can note what you said, how you said it, and what type of response you received. Were you ticked off when you started the conversation? Did the other person also seem a bit annoyed? Did you commiserate together or did find yourselves getting annoyed with one another? Were you happy about something totally unrelated when you went into the conversation? Were you optimistic and energized? Did the other person also seem positive and happy to be chatting with you?
I think we often bring a lot of unnecessary and unrelated baggage into our interactions. We start our weekly team meeting pissed because someone cursed us out or bumped into us on our commute. We arrive home annoyed at how our last meeting went. Those around us respond in kind. Maybe they think we’re pissed at them and they get annoyed because “I can’t believe they’re annoyed with me, I’m the one who should be annoyed with them”. And the downward spiral continues.
Recognizing the power of attitude allows us to realize that we are in control.
Learning how to drive is an amazing experience and one that’s both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. It also holds important lessons about control. Think back to your first driving experience. I’m not talking about driving around the parking lot but your first open road experience. You flip that turn signal on and move into open traffic. There is a sense of constant motion that you feel you need to keep up with. You feel like it’s not up to you when you start and when you stop. You have to move with the traffic or risk wrecking havoc. That in turn creates this artificial sense of hurriedness. The car is moving and you gotta look over your shoulder fast and decide to make that lane change fast and you don’t have a lot of time and there is a car coming up on your right side and another turning into your lane from left side, and, and, and. It can be overwhelming, until you have that realization that you’re in control. True, you can’t control everything on the road. There will be situations you could not foresee and could not prepare for. However, that right turn that’s coming up, you’re approaching the corner, the corner is not approaching you. If you want to make sure you have the time and space to make the turn smoothly, you have to give yourself the time and space you need to make the turn smoothly. You’re controlling the accelerator and the brake and how quickly you approach that corner. It sounds simple and stupid but we often forget that we control the accelerator and brake in our daily lives.
You decide what kind of day you’re going to have when you get up in the morning. You decide how smoothly or poorly that conversation is going to go. You decide whether to bring that baggage from your last interaction into your next.
We cannot control what happens to us but we can control how we perceive it and how we respond. Our attitude and our response is everything.