Rick Capozzi | 04/4/20
Having a bad attitude is like riding a bike up a hill with a flat tire; you can exert a lot of effort, but you won’t make much progress until you change your strategy. When you allow people and circumstances to affect your outlook on life and subsequently how you behave in the world, you lose something precious: your personal freedom. When you give in to negative thoughts and feelings and allow those thoughts and feelings to permeate your life, you are really just giving away your personal power. At the end of the day, only you are in control of how you think and feel—nobody can ever steal that freedom from you unless you allow them.
A bad attitude often manifests in many ways. We blame others for our predicament. We focus on that which is outside of ourselves rather than that which is within. All of our energy becomes focused on this thing or situation or person that has wronged us. We complain. We spread negative thoughts to others. We create unrealistic expectations for how others should respond to our plight. This can happen a lot in the business world—which can be a very competitive place. Sure, there are people who are only out for themselves. Circumstances will inevitably arise that are outside of your control. You will likely come across people who don’t truly care whether you are wildly successful or whether you fail. And there will be people who don’t care if you get knocked down or if you don’t have the right circumstances to succeed.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe some people will go out of their way to help you and support you, but I wouldn’t ever expect it. Having the attitude that nobody cares about your tough situation will set you free and put you in the state of mind that you need to be in to take 100% responsibility for the outcome you desire. It sets you free from waiting around for validation or sympathy that you might not ever receive. You need to own both the process and outcome. That attitude gives you freedom because it puts you in control of your destiny. Setbacks and bad things happen to us all the time, and we often can’t control that. But we can control how we react and whether we let our enthusiasm diminish in the face of adversity. No matter what business you are in, you will have ups and downs, and the downs can sometimes seem insurmountable. Viktor E. Frankl, Holocaust survivor and author of the classic memoir Man’s Search for Meaning, said that we should banish the tendency to feel sorry for ourselves. When we do that, we can live as victors, not victims.
In the business world, having a victim’s attitude means having expectations for how the world should be and not accepting the way it is. Victims believe everyone should care about what is happening to them. They reject reality, and they don’t take strides to change their situation or the way that they think about their situation. Conversely, champions know that it doesn’t matter what others think about them (or their failures), and they are aware of the steps that they need to take in order to move forward in their present situation. They are willing to face the truth and do the hard work to change their outcome. I believe that too many people feel a sense of entitlement; they project an attitude that says the world owes them something. These people always seem to be whining and complaining. (It’s exhausting being around this type of person, and I wholeheartedly recommend that you avoid them if at all possible.) Champions know that nothing is owed to them, and that is why they do whatever it takes to better their situation, even when times get tough.
A person’s attitude is often revealed when a setback happens and they are knocked down. The question is, “Why are some people able to press on while others are incapable and feel that they are the victim?” During the writing of my book The Growth Mindset, I discovered that successful people fail all the time. However, successful people tend to have a strong purpose, believe in themselves, and understand that in order to win the game, they must continue playing, fighting, and moving forward, regardless of the setbacks and obstacles they encounter along the way. They embrace a champion attitude.
It takes a lot of courage to stay focused when things around you are falling apart. In his book Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl quotes German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how.” The why is your purpose: your vision of the future. As a Holocaust survivor, Frankl knew all too well that life holds meaning, even under the most miserable circumstances. His experiences convinced him that a person is capable of dealing with the worst conditions imaginable. Whether a person behaves with courage and dignity or succumbs to degradation depends on decisions, not conditions. Let me say it differently; it’s not what happens to you but how you respond to what happens to you that matters. Next time your flight is delayed are you going to whine about it? When you lose one of your best clients, are you going to be a victim for 20 minutes or will you drag it out for a month? When you ask for some feedback and it isn’t what you expected, how are you going to react? Your attitude should not be based on the conditions that you are in, but rather it should be based upon the decisions you make in response to the conditions. Make the decision to stay positive, because once you lose your enthusiasm or energy, you are riding on a flat tire again.
Let us hope that we will never know the likes of what Viktor Frankl experienced. We will, however, go through difficulties in business and in life. Ultimately, you are 100 percent responsible for your attitude. Don’t blame anyone, including your mother, your father, or your boss. If you don’t like the conditions you are in, do something to change them. Don’t be held hostage by a particular problem you might be going through. Make the best of your life on a daily basis. I’m not saying this is an easy task, but if you can embrace this victor attitude, you’ll more than likely find yourself getting to your desired outcome a whole lot quicker.
Once you believe that your life is based on the decisions you make and your attitude about how you respond to what happens to you, the victim mentality will slowly fade away because you will reject the notion that you are a victim of your circumstances. This game of creating and maintaining the right attitude throughout our lives is won or lost between our ears. I learned some valuable lessons working on Wall Street for 34 years. Successful people tend to have a positive attitude, and it didn’t just come out of nowhere. They worked to create and maintain this level of good energy. They stayed focused on the future, they let go of the past, they were resilient, they did not dwell in mistakes, and they celebrated small victories. They also spent quality time with family and friends, focused on new challenges, lived a healthy lifestyle, and lived with gratitude. Next time you feel your attitude slipping, ask yourself, “Am I going to let that little victim win? Is that victim going to take up precious real estate in my head? Are you going to allow that victim’s voice to steal energy and affect your relationship with your family?” It’s up to you and it’s all between your ears. Don’t worry about anybody else; you need to make happen what you want to happen. Get a new bike tire. Keep riding that bike up the hill. And don’t give up on your goal of making it to the top.