It depends on your attitude. Having the right attitude is the key factor in almost all your endeavours. A negative attitude will usually lead to failure, while although a positive attitude may not always bring success, it will certainly make you feel better.
There are, of course, dozens of ways to achieve a positive attitude. Three that have worked for me are:
First, STAND UP FOR YOURSELF. Second, NEVER GIVE UP. And third, FIND THE UP SIDE.
Let me start by telling you about someone who got picked on in a very public way.
Being an underdog
On Saturday, the 3rd of April 1993, a little grey man in a brown trilby neglected to wave a small red flag, and the world’s most famous horse race, the Grand National, descended into farce. In the chaos and confusion that followed, that recall man, Mr Evans, was castigated as the culprit. But what I saw was a clutch of incompetent high ranking officials scurrying around like headless chickens, looking for someone to blame. They picked Mr Evans. The underdog.
Has that ever happened to you? Have you been cast as the underdog and bullied or blamed?
Just remember that there is a huge difference between being an underdog and being an underling. It’s all in the mind, in your attitude. As Shakespeare’s Cassius said, The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.
No one needs to be an underling. Underdogs who stand up for themselves often emerge stronger and more effective than others around them simply because they have had to be better at what they do and fight one more round, when even their corner wanted to throw in the towel. The black salesman, the woman politician, the new boy on the block, all have to work harder and smarter.
Attitude and sharp elbows
A friend of mine was twice orphaned, left school at the age of 16, and had a succession of dead-end jobs before discovering a talent for engineering. He went to night school, while working for a London-based engineering company. No one made it easy for the pushy young man with attitude, and he had to create all his own opportunities. Socially and educationally, he was an underdog.
But he had sharp elbows and to prove that he was as good as anyone else, he switched jobs several times within the company. He became an advertising copywriter. He became a super salesman, and eventually he won a transfer to America. There he changed track again, joined a different manufacturing company, and worked his way up to become its President.
What was in him that made him successful? It was his belief that whatever job needed doing, he could do it better than the next man. And when he retired at the age of 60, he was worth one million dollars. Not bad for a Limey in the fiercely competitive Californian market, eh?
Got it in you?
That leads me Point No. 2, which is NEVER GIVE UP. Some years ago, I was Press Officer for a famous running club, the Blackheath Harriers. I remember reporting a cross country race in which a talented young runner finished close behind the leaders. But he looked almost as fresh at the end as he had at the start of that gruelling event. So I asked about him and said, “I reckon that young chap could have been among the medals if he’d tried.”
An older club member nodded and whispered behind his hand, “But he won’t take the pain of effort – hasn’t got it in him.”
What a waste of talent, I thought, and I thought so again a few weeks later when that same young man coasted through the London Marathon in 2 hrs 45, but with the minimum of pain.
In the same event was an older man who, having turned 40, had decided to run his first marathon. Over-excited and inexperienced, he set off too fast. So just before the 17 mile marker, all his energy reserves drained right away. He’d hit the dreaded Wall. Now it was character testing time.
Five miles on he was forced by cramp to stop and apply brutal massage to the back of his thigh. A woman in the crowd shouted, “Don’t give up now!” He managed a feeble wave, and shuffled along on legs that felt like perished rubber. Now his shoulders were hunched in pain, his cheeks were sunken, his eyesight blurred.
Every nerve in his body shrieked in agony, urging him to stop! But he kept remembering those words, “He won’t take the pain of effort, hasn’t got it in him.” If he quit, his name would appear in the results with the initials, DNF, which stand for Did Not Finish. And would his clubmates then speak about him behind their hands, saying, “He hasn’t got it in him”?
Would he now abandon his first Marathon because of the pain? He would not. And although the final, interminable mile took nearly 11 minutes to complete, he somehow found the strength to fall across the line in 3 hrs 45.
So who performed better, do you think? The young man who ran one hour faster, but who saved himself from pain? Or the older man, who crossed the line with a totally empty tank? I’d say that not giving up when the going gets tough is a question of fibre – moral fibre. Wouldn’t you? With moral fibre you’ll be better equipped to deal with the knocks in life.
An attitude of hope
Point No. 3 is LOOK FOR THE UP SIDE.
Let me give you an example of someone who looked on the positive side when most people would have seen only the negative. Dame Cicely Saunders founded the Hospice movement for terminally sick people, to provide somewhere for them to die with dignity, and in an atmosphere of caring. She had been a nurse when she met and formed a close bond with David, who was dying of cancer.
Conventional wisdom would have advised against opening her heart to someone who had only weeks to live. But instead of wishing for more time with him, she decided to make the most of the time they did have together. She talked to David about her wish to provide a home for patients like him, and when he died he left a small legacy so that, as he put it in his will, he could be a window in her new home.
That started her on the path to fulfilling her dream and forming the Hospice movement. Today the UK hospice care sector supports more than 225,000 people with terminal and life-limiting conditions. By entering into a seemingly hopeless relationship, Cicely Saunders brought happiness to David in his final weeks on earth, and gained for herself an irreplaceable sense of personal fulfilment.
What have you get left?
In the 1946 movie, The Best Years of Our Lives, one of the stars was Harold Russell. He had no hands. When he lost them in a training accident during World War 2, he was in despair. How could he go through the rest of his life crippled? Then someone else with no hands told him: You’re not crippled – only handicapped. That turned him round, and he went on to be a successful author as well as an actor. Then he said, “It’s not what you have lost, but what you have left, that counts.”
When we are successful, we claim the honours. So the losses belong to us too. Aspirations are easy. What matters is how we perform when it all goes wrong. That’s when you need a fighting spirit and a positive attitude. Then, like the Victorian poet William Henley, you’ll be able to stand erect proudly and declare, Under the bludgeonings of chance, My head is bloody but unbowed.