Attitude Determines Your Altitude

I became familiar with this simple phrase about attitude while serving in the U.S. Air Force many years ago. While it is a simple concept, I find it very powerful. No matter where you are in life, this statement is forever true and applies to everyone.

My life’s journey has taken me all over the world. Regardless of what country you are from, what your profession may be, or whether you are a frontline employee or an executive, the one characteristic common among successful people is a positive attitude. Life is complicated and hard at times, but how you respond determines you’re your ability to achieve greater things. As well-known pastor and educator Charles Swindoll identified, “Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.” How true that is.

I learned a valuable lesson about attitude while playing baseball as a kid. We were almost at the end of our regular season schedule. Our team was very good and had not lost a game. We were playing another undefeated team and was losing by three runs in the fourth inning. I was playing the position of shortstop and was coming off the field into the dugout where it was our team’s turn to bat. I was the first player in the line up to start us off. I hit a pop up to center field, which was caught giving us our first out. I ran back to the dugout very frustrated. As I passed by the coach he said, “Good try. Straighten it out next time and you’ll be fine.” I immediately responded with, “Who cares, we’re just going to lose anyway.” That was a defining moment in my life. The coach looked at me with a half disappointed and half ticked off facial expression and said, “You are now out of the game. Have a seat on the bench. No one deserves to play with that kind of attitude.” I never forgot that day. As a highly competitive person, I let the emotion of the game get to me where I lost control of my ability to stay focused and remain positive.

As they say, life is about the journey, not the destination. You will be challenged in your relationships, job, church, family, and everything else in life. I would encourage you to embrace those trials and tribulations as opportunities to grow. Unless you are faced with adversity and pushed out of your comfort zone, you will never be prepared for what may be in store for you in the future. I’ve learned that each phase of life is a stepping stone to the next one … attitude is the force that enables you to move you from one to the other.

In one of my career assignments, I was tasked to lead a particular agency. It was a large-size organization with a diverse group of people responsible for a wide variety of technology related activities with a highly visible and important mission. As I was settling into my new role, it didn’t take long to realize the dynamics in play. I found that there had been a lack of leadership for some time, not a lot of cohesion, and low morale. Things were being done in silos with minimal communication across the groups and the organization was not achieving desired results. Overall, the organization had gotten off in the ditch somehow and it was now my job to fix it. Sound familiar … good times, right? Some people would run away from that situation. Trust me, the thought did run through my head. Some people may resort to pointing fingers, making excuses, or just simply “survive their time” and move on leaving it the same as they found it. Those are the easy ways out though. As I thought about how to transform this organization and our next moves, I was taken back to that day in history where I was benched during the baseball game. The lesson I learned on the field helped me shape the future of this organization for many years to come. With the hard work of a lot of great people, I am happy to say this story has an ending that will make you smile. This group went from not being in a good place to being one of the best in the overall organization. Individuals and teams racked up several prestigious awards and morale soared to an all-time high. I left that assignment very proud of their accomplishments.

What changed? Attitudes on the playing field. It is infectious … leverage it. You decide how you show up every day. Decide to be positive. If not for yourself, do it for others. If you are a leader, you must always be in tune with people around you and what is going on with them. Leaders set the tone. Leading with the right attitude motivates and influences people to achieve their best. Do that and you will leave a lasting impact on the people you know and the world we all live in.

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