The Winner’s Edge
The fall colors were peaking last October so I took a vacation day from work, hopped in the car at 4:30 a.m. and headed up to Mt. Chicora in New Hampshire to enjoy some early morning sunlight from the trail. As I approached North Conway and looked up at the peaks and down into the valley the sight was incredible – snow covered mountaintops and cloud filled valleys with beautiful sunlight shining down on it all. I spun along the Kankamangous Highway up to the parking lot thrilled that I had been lucky enough to pick such a rare day to hike.
I have heard it said that each day we have an opportunity to choose our attitude and that the world that we experience is a reflection of the attitude that we choose – today must have been my test of that theory.
For as excited as I was, it came to a quick halt when I set my keys, coat, camera, and back pack on the seat, wrote out a check for the cost of the parking, and walked across the parking lot to place the money in the self-service box. As I turned around and headed back to the car the door swung shut and before I could reach it the auto door lock provided a heart breaking … click, click. 30 degrees outside, a T-shirt on, keys, wallet, phone, coat, hat, gloves… you name it all in the car with not another car in the parking lot and not another car to come along for another 45 minutes. Finally my heart rose as I heard a car approach only to see the driver give me an odd look and drive on by as I tried to waive them down – ouch. Eventually two hikers pulled into the lot and offered their cell phone to me only to realize that there was no reception. They gave me a blanket to wrap myself into until I could find help and they started their trek up the mountain. Eventually New Hampshire DOT employees pulled into the lot, gave me a coat and gloves, and explained that they had a small job to do up the road but when they got back to Conway would call triple A for me. Well, three hours after pulling into the lot, I started my hike. Needless to say, when I got above the tree line the snow was melted from the peaks and the clouds were, well …. gone from the valleys and back up where they are supposed to be but I still enjoyed a remarkable day from which these photos are taken.
I figured it was what it was and made the most of it and it actually did result in a beautiful day. But it isn’t always like that for any of us is it? Often we are like chameleons – our attitudes change with our environment and are dependent on the stimuli at any point in time. We start each day in neutral and if things are going well we display a good attitude, but if things aren’t going well or if we find ourselves surrounded by sour pusses our attitude turns that shade for the moment. It’s easy to do isn’t it? Someone is positive and we chime in positive remarks, someone gripes and we provide support for that instead of redirecting them by offering a more positive angle to consider.
I know – it happens to me too. I was late for an appointment last week and the line into Dunkin’ Donuts was backed up onto Route One. The car behind me beeped at the people who were delaying everyone else’s travels and I had the choice to let it be or beep away too. There were all kinds of positive ways to look at why these people needed their coffee so badly that they would rather provide a road block than forego their much needed coffee. Maybe they were picking up coffee for others in the office, or had a bad night sleep and needed a pick me up – for some good reason they just needed their coffee. But I chose to be the chameleon and like the person behind me decided to find these people inconsiderate and joined in by giving them a honk. Needless to say it made me feel like a loser after giving it a little thought. Eventually the left lane opened up and I was able to go around the cars only to see a young girl look at me out of the corner of her eye and I am sure was thinking….LOSER. Maybe I should have followed the advice of editor and publisher Elbert Hubbard, “Be pleasant until 10:00 a.m. and the rest of the day will take care of itself.”
The truth is that our attitudes determine how we are perceived and what others think of us. It can take years to build a reputation for someone who possesses a good outlook on life and yet only a moment to blow it by choosing to demonstrate a bad attitude. Author and business consultant John Maxwell shares, “I have tried to live my life knowing that I can’t always choose what happens to me but I can always choose what happens in me. Denis Waitely in The Winner’s Edge shares, “The winner’s edge is not in a gifted birth, a high IQ, or in talent. The winner’s edge is all in the attitude not the aptitude. Attitude is the criterion for success. But you can’t buy an attitude for a million dollars. Attitudes are not for sale.”
The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude.
William James, psychologist and philosopher
Hall of Fame baseball player Yogi Berra’s math may be better than we realize when he offers, “Life is like baseball; it’s 95% mental, and the other half is physical.” For as author and professor Chuck Swindoll says,
Attitude, to me, is more important than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company … a church …. a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day. We cannot change our past …. We cannot change the fact that people act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing that we can do is play on the one string that we have, and that is our attitude …. I am convinced that life if 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you…We are in charge of our attitudes.
One thing is for sure, having a good attitude doesn’t happen on its own – it takes work, concentration and commitment to maintain a great attitude. Maybe we need to ask the same question of ourselves that major league baseball manager Earle Weaver used to ask when he would storm out of the dugout to argue a call with an umpire, “Are you gonna get any better, or is this it?”
Cup of coffee anyone? It’s on me.