Archive for July, 2009

Stop Whining…Your Attitude is Your Choice!

Friday, July 31st, 2009

Stop Whining…Your Attitude is Your Choice!

If you’ve ever said, “He gave me a bad attitude” or “That meeting ruined my attitude”, then you should realize that you have unknowingly told a lie. Why? Attitude is a choice; always has been and always will be. Perhaps you can’t choose what happens to you, but you do get to choose your response to it. There is great power in that choice and the quality of your responses will greatly determine the quality of your life. In an age of finger pointing at our teachers, coaches, parents, ethnic background, age, gender or surroundings in order to explain away our lack of greater success, it is helpful to shake off denial and face this fact: Success is more about our choices than conditions. And the longer we blame people or “stuff” for what is holding us back, the longer we will remain whiney and wimpy victims, going through life crying about how life hasn’t done enough to make us happy.

Your attitude is shaped by many factors, starting when you are quite young: personality, environment, self-image, the positive or negative expressions of others and your thoughts. While the first four factors listed influence your attitude greatly when you are a child, your thoughts will have a greater bearing on your attitude as an adult. For instance, if you grew up in a ghetto and had parents who divorced while you were young; if people routinely told you that you’d never amount to anything and your self-image took some major hits as a result, then it is safe to say that your attitude was greatly influenced as a youngster as a result of these conditions. Sadly, until you change your thoughts, these childhood factors will continue to influence your attitude—the prevailing way you choose to see the world—throughout your adult life. This baggage will impose tight boundaries around your personal vision for what you can become as a person and for what you can achieve in life.

The impact your environment has on your attitude while young, is precisely why the quality of your thinking as an adult is so instrumental in forming your world view. This explains why the most successful people guard their thoughts; fortify their thoughts, and think about what they’re thinking about. Failing to take control of your thinking causes you to serve a life sentence for the negative influences you experienced during their childhood. In fact, the rooms of therapists are filled with adults who have chosen to bond with and continually rehearse their past and who refuse to stop blaming mom and dad and take responsibility for reshaping their life by first changing the quality of their thoughts.

How you think of something or someone greatly determines your attitude towards it or them. If you have negative thoughts about Muslims, Christians, Caucasians, African Americans, old people, young people and the like, then your thinking will affect your attitude towards these people. By changing how you think about them you can change your attitude as well. This fact explains why attitude is a choice. Someone may alter your mood by the things they say or do, but you are still responsible for choosing how you respond to those actions. Giving up responsibility for your attitude and blaming outside conditions for its state, turns the reins of your personal happiness and well being over to others.

Following are five tips to tap the power of a productive attitude.

  1. Let go of the past. Realize that if you don’t let go of past failures, frustrations or rejection then you simply are not available to create your future with more productive levels of thinking that lead to better results.
  2. Guard your attitude from unproductive influences. This includes the immense negativity and filth you see on television, at the movies, read about in newspapers, on the Internet or in tabloids. These factors influence your thoughts, which in turn shape your attitude; for better or for worse. Another unproductive influence is your own inner dialogue. Guard this carefully! When you catch yourself spewing poison like, “I’m going to have another bad month” or “I’m never going to get the hang of this”, “I’m going to get fired”, or “I’m not going to be able to pay my bills”, put a stop to this nonsense quickly and focus on more productive, solution-oriented thinking that will shift your attitude.
  3. Guard your attitude from unproductive people. You cannot change a negative person. They will change you! If someone has chosen a sour outlook on the world, their views will begin to influence you if you choose to associate with this person. As a result, there are some people in life that you must give up to go up. This doesn’t mean they are bad people or that they are 100% wrong and that you are 100% right. Rather, it suggests that you share different values or that you’ve outgrown them. Even if they sit right across the desk from you at work, you can still limit the time you spend with them and the amount of minutes you waste listening to or dwelling on what they say.
  4. Fortify your attitude. Since your thinking comes under siege every day, it is essential that you fill your head with productive thoughts to replace the negativity that yearns to roost in your psyche. You cannot just try to not think about the negative, nor can you force those thoughts out of your mind. Instead, you must replace them with something else: inspirational reading, productive conversations with uplifting people, spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, meditation and the like.
  5. Change your thinking. Since your thoughts influence your attitude, it is essential to continually work to improve your quality of thinking. John Maxwell’s book, Thinking for a Change will be a huge help to you in this regard.

Is it time for you to give up the crutch of genetics, environment, the past expressions of others, or a poor self-image and begin taking more responsibility for the state of your attitude and the quality of your life? When you decide to give up your scapegoats and assume personal responsibility for the quality of your thinking, you’ll take an essential step towards gaining control over your own happiness and shunning the victim’s mindset that renders so many people both miserable and mediocre.  Of course, by accepting responsibility and refusing to blame, you’ll probably never be invited on the Jerry Springer Show, but you will have the self-respect and personal momentum that comes with knowing that you control your destiny and that the rest of your life is not at the mercy of others’ actions, whims or opinions. 

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Mind Your Business Manners!

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Mind Your Business Manners!

Occasionally, someone’s obnoxious actions remind me that just because he is a “professional” or is in a “profession” doesn’t necessarily mean he knows how to act professionally.  Thus, I believe it’s useful to be reminded of what we already know but often forget; the importance of exhibiting common sense business manners that can greatly impact others’ opinion of us. I understand that a couple of these are my personal peeves, but I believe that if something grinds one person, it is likely to do the same to many. Don’t be surprised if, while reading through the following five infractions, you are afflicted by the “cringe factor” as images of people that offended you pop into your mind and cause you to wince at their recollection. Being more cognizant of these offenses will help you ensure that you avoid them and are not the subject of someone else’s cringe as they recall an encounter with you.

  1. Taking phone calls when you are with someone else.
    This practice is as rude as it is stupid. The person you are getting ready to disrespect may shrug off your behavior as no big deal, but don’t count on them really feeling that way. In fact, I can think of little more that says to the person in front of you, “I don’t know who this person is or what the call concerns. All I know is that they must be more important than you, so excuse me while I render you to cellophane status and give my attention to them.”
  2. Giving your attention to technology when you should be focused on people.
     This expands point one to include reading or sending text messages while you are having a conversation with someone else. It’s bad enough when only you and the person you’re diminishing is in the room, but when play with your gadget in a meeting, you distract and disregard even more people. Unless your wife is expecting to give birth or someone dear to you is on life support, leave your gizmo out of sight until you’re finished with the matter at hand.
  3. Sloppy, unfocused handshakes.
     If you don’t have the decency to look someone in the eye when you shake their hand, your ignorance and indifference renders you hopeless. Avoiding eye contact, glancing past the person or down at your shoes makes you appear shady, arrogant or disingenuous. It also helps if you can put a little firmness in your grip so the recipient of your handshake doesn’t mistake your hand for a dead carp.
  4. Filling every silent space with trivial conversation.
    Speaking too much makes you appear common and self-centered. Don’t feel the need to fill each quiet moment or pause in a conversation with trivial banter. Incessant babbling is both boring and bad manners. I am acquainted with a total imbecile that fools others into believing he is wise by remaining silent and appearing thoughtful throughout much of a conversation. Many people would make more sales and friends by imitating this imbecile.
  5. Blowing your nose when you’re at the breakfast/lunch/dinner/meeting table.
    Is it just me, or does the sound of mucus rumbling around in someone’s head make you want to lose your lunch? To make matters worse, some morons insist on examining their haul, gazing intently into the torn and tattered tissue! Please understand that this behavior isn’t likely to impress clients or co-workers! How can anyone, in their right mind, believe that someone won’t care as they blow their brains out while they attempt to either converse or eat? This is what restrooms are for! If it’s inconvenient for you to leave the table to tend to your nasal drainage behind closed doors then please consider the wretched inconvenience others must endure as they witness the trombone section in the middle of your face transform into Mt. Vesuvius as they try to enjoy their oysters-on-a-half-shell.

I recentlly had dinner with a fellow that committed numbers 1, 4 and 5 before the appetizers even arrived. I knew at that moment that if ignorance were truly bliss, that I was in the presence of the happiest man on earth. 

 If you’re guilty of these bad business manners or others like them, try to become more aware of how they negatively impact your image, your influence and the regard others have for you. Sometimes people have such a difficult time getting past “who you are” that they are unable to focus on what you’re saying or selling. In other words, an offensive messenger destroys the message.  

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How to Battle the Ubiquity of Self-Interest!

Monday, July 13th, 2009

Sometimes it seems as though we live in a world that is filled with mirrors and void of windows. People gaze into the pane of self-interest so long and intently that they are oblivious to the needs and feelings of others, becoming infected with the “Disease of Me” and crowning themselves as the center of their own self-absorbed universe. The pervasiveness of spoiled, selfish, entitled brats from all ages and social classes has made me particularly grateful for some “little things” that, are no longer little in today’s world. I’m sure that you can add many of your own to rally around, but here’s a start: 

  1. I appreciate the graduates who take the time to send a prompt thank you note for the gift they solicited with an announcement to a ceremony they knew I’d never attend.
  2. I am grateful for the customers who take the time to acknowledge receipt of the help or suggestions I send them when they request it through email. Over the years, this courtesy has become incredibly rare.
  3. I thank the ladies and gentlemen who can refrain from taking a phone call or playing with their text messages while conversing with me.
  4. I tip my hat to the parents who still teach their kids to say, “sir”, “ma’am”, “excuse me”, “please” and “thank you”.
  5. I respect the member of any team that is willing to subordinate his own comfort and personal agenda to the welfare of the overall unit.
  6. I value the friend or relative that makes contact with me just to talk or see how we’re doing and not because they want something.
  7. I enjoy the occasional conversation where the other party stops talking about themselves long enough to let me help turn their monologue into a dialogue.
  8. I esteem the vendor that can apologize and take responsibility when they screw up and not make it appear as though their incompetence is something I should learn to live with.

While you and I cannot control whether or not others behave in the positive manner I’ve outlined in these points, we can do two things to encourage more of these behaviors and battle the ubiquity of self-interest. We can demonstrate behaviors like these personally and acknowledge, commend and reinforce considerate and unselfish people at work, home and elsewhere that demonstrate gratitude, respect and old fashioned courtesy. In times past, complimenting these behaviors would seem unnecessary since they were expected, common place and considered as the social norm. But the norms have changed and acceptable behavioral standards have diminished to a level of insensitivity and ungraciousness which prior generations could not have fathomed. But you can and must do more than complain about the selfish behavior of others. To combat the ubiquity of self-interest, you must be the person that you want to see more of in others.

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My Apologies to Michael Jackson

Monday, July 6th, 2009

I owe Michael Jackson an apology. For years I criticized his quirks and eccentricities and considered him as a borderline nutcase. I always enjoyed his music, but frequently took shots at his indulgences, ever-changing appearance and peculiar lifestyle. In my rush to judgment I never considered how much his behavior; values and worldview could have been shaped by a highly abnormal childhood and the selfish sycophants and leeches that surrounded him. It took his death and the subsequent behavior of his father, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to bring this realization to life.

 Before an autopsy was even completed, Papa Jackson was holding press conferences shamelessly promoting his new record label. And then the circus came to town as Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton swooped into LA, poking their mugs in front of cameras and belching out hysterical sound bites as they jockeyed for position as family spokesman and auditioned for the star speaking role at the funeral. I’ve seen sharks in a feeding frenzy conduct themselves with more dignity than these old school opportunists. If this single glance into the character of the “friends and family” that influenced Michael Jackson during his lifetime is any indication of how he was used, abused and confused for five decades then perhaps the most incredible result of his life is that he was as normal, kind and sane as he was.

I learned a lesson this week. I’m going to practice being less judgmental and to give people more benefit of the doubt when they act in a manner that doesn’t fit my cookie cutter definition of what “acceptable” or normal should be. I knew better. Now I’ll do better.

Admittedly, I could begin my resolution to be more understanding by trying harder to comprehend the actions of the three men I’ve addressed in this piece. But that’s not going to happen. After all, I’m not critiquing their quaint little quirks, but condemning the callousness of their character, the tackiness of their timing and the maliciousness of their motives. Bubbles the Chimp had more class than these clowns. I’m sorry, Michael. Rest in peace.  

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