“Attitude is a little thing that makes a BIG difference.” That is a quote attributed to Winston Churchill over 70 years ago. It is found on the walls of many classrooms and public places. I was staring at it one day while proctoring students who were taking a test and it got me thinking. I was struck by the realization the quote is actually wrong! I’ve seen it a million times but never really gave it much thought before.
What is wrong with it is: attitude is most often NOT a little thing, it is, in fact, a BIG thing. With the right attitude people can accomplish amazing things. Sylvester Stallone wrote “Rocky” and was rejected over 1500 times when he tried to get it produced. He believed in his project, though, and did not give up. The other day at the video store, I helped a man find the Rocky series and he told me how much he loved it and how excited he was to be able to show it to his kids.
Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper because they told him he didn’t have any imagination. I’ve been to Disneyland hundreds of times and personally am glad he kept the right attitude about his dream and didn’t give up.
Attitude affects me in a myriad of ways. How I approach tasks or people or situations influences outcomes significantly. If I think I can’t do something and I try it anyway, 99% of the time I’m right, I can’t do it. My attitude determines the outcome. If I focus on believing I can accomplish what I set out to achieve - I very often find I CAN do it, even if it seems impossible. It’s annoying to talk to people who have bad attitudes. I’ve been in the situation before where every idea I presented was shot down when it barely left my lips. I’ve always been a person who reaches for the stars and I’m willing to give the impossible a try, but in order to do that I have to get past the Negative Nancys and Debbie Downers. I usually stop arguing with them and just go on and do what I intended to anyway.
Sometimes I fail. But I find even with failure, my attitude makes a difference. Sometimes I use failure to find a different approach to the problem I hope to solve. Sometimes it spurs me to try harder. And sometimes I realize what I am doing is starting to be pointless and I do a 180 and try something that appears to be completely different, yet accomplishes my original goal. I tend to only make goals to try things which are important to me.
I have to admit, there is a certain amount of stubbornness that accompanies a positive attitude. I have persevered despite some quite adverse circumstances. Over the years I have been part of some amazing groups in college, at work, and now particularly with The Torch. I’ve learned some important lessons that actually help me keep a positive attitude. I’ve also been part of groups which struggled. One thing I learned is it doesn’t matter what attitude I bring to a group if the leader cannot lead. No amount of positive thinking, perseverance and determination on my part can overcome a lack of direction and stamina. The impossible won’t work if the visionary can’t cast the vision, or lacks the ability to follow-through. Projects and programs I developed for school and work have struggled under lackluster leadership. Sometimes I stuck with them longer than I should have, believing I could overcome the adverse forces at work, only to finally have to realize and admit it was time to move on. But even then, I learned important lessons and my attitude about those failures is just as important as it has been about my accomplishments. I know what it takes to move a project forward and I have seen what it takes to stall or destroy one - and that knowledge makes me a better leader. I won’t do the things which cause a negative impact as I lead The Torch.
I sense something big is happening with The Torch. I have never felt so closely led by the hand of God and so calmly convicted I am pursuing the right thing. I am very aware one food truck will not alleviate all the hunger in Livingston County. While I am very passionate about the importance of making at least one more hot meal available to the people in my community, I don’t think I can take away all the hunger problems they face. What I do believe is I can make a difference for people by trying. I can bring a smile and a listening ear and offer empathy and understanding. Light always shines through darkness. I believe by having contact with people who are suffering or have been hurt, and having experienced it myself, I can impart an attitude of hopefulness and belief things can and will get better. I can help change attitudes, I know I can.
And attitude is a BIG thing that makes a BIG difference.