I'm taking an attitude check. How's my attitude toward life today? How's yours?
Mine's good, thank you, and I try to remember to keep it that way each day. Wasn't always so, but perhaps age, and retirement, have put it into focus.
In addition to the graditude journal I've kept for the past year and a half -- at my wife's suggestion and example, of course -- I try to reflect on my mind-set daily.
Mostly, I try to remember that there are many, many things out there I cannot control or influence, that I have to deal with the things that directly affect me.
No use railing about our government (national or state), or world politics, or even -- yes, go ahead and laugh -- a baseball team that doesn't hit all that much this season or an NFL team whose management is off-track.
In the grand picture, do the games really make a difference? Only temporarily.
Sure, there are times that I lose sight and rail/complain anyway. But I really hate falling into that negative state.
It's easier to keep a positive attitude now that I am no longer involved in a work situation, where people who surround you can steer you in the wrong direction. It was a work situation many, many years ago that I often recall and, really, is the basis for this blog piece.
I had been at my first fulltime job for little more than a year, was making $95 a week and working an average of 10 hours a day, maybe six days a week. I'm not bragging about this, or being a martyr; you have to understand where I was in life at that point.
That job meant almost everything to me. Honestly, I didn't have much of a life outside of sports and the newspaper, and I was so driven. I thought that even if I didn't have as much ability as others in the business, no one was going to outwork me. So I was in that office almost every day, even on my assigned days off.
I wasn't in it for the money, that's for damn sure.
One day -- on one of those "extra" days that I was in there -- a managing editor suggested I could do a story on ... I don't even remember what it was. But it was beyond my normal range of the stories I did.
The suggestion didn't hit me right and I snapped, "Maybe if you paid me more, I could do that."
Wrong reply. Not appropriate. This managing editor was a nice person and a very good newspaper person.
The next day I was in the editor-in-chief's office, with my boss, the sports editor, also in there. And the editor-in-chief opened the conversation (lecture, actually) by saying, "I don't like your attitude."y
That stung. Obviously, I never forgot it.
My immediate thoughts were (1) well, I don't like your attitude either; I did not think he appreciated sports or knew much about it. He merely tolerated it; (2) dammit, you're not paying me all that much; and (3) me, a bad attitude? You should pay attention to what some other people in the office are saying and doing.
Look, I was young and naive and immature, and I wasn't always compliant. Through the years, I was never always compliant; I didn't always do what was expected or the conventional way, especially if I felt management was not being practical or being unreasonable.
But I never lost my work ethic or my desire to excel. I didn't have to apologize for lack of effort.
And I learned from that day in the editor's office. I vowed never to ask for a raise again, and I don't believe I ever did. Received plenty of raises over the years, but not at my request. At the end of my career, I even took a good salary cut, considering an across-the-board newspaper cut and furlough times.
Still, I didn't completely avoid salary issues. Here's what I found: Two of the times I changed jobs because my salary was going to increase -- when I let money influence the decision -- were the two most miserable jobs I had.
Another time, when I interviewed for a job at one of America's top newspapers (and sports sections) and asked about salary, the sports editor gave me a figure that was really subpar, considerably less than what I was already making in a smaller market. Obviously, I wasn't a prime candidate.
In any subsequent job interview, I always let the interviewer bring up the salary figure ... and I didn't hold out for more.
So, at least my attitude changed in that regard.
I also learned to have a life, that there were women out there and fun things to do other than watching games or attending them. That being a workaholic leads to burnout; that it's not always productive. That working hard was important but not everything. That, most importantly, working smart and doing good work is better than putting in a ton of hours.
Now, I had days when I wasn't happy with things, and I didn't handle those days well, and there were personal mistakes that went far beyond anything I could have imagined when I was younger.
But all those unhappy, stupid moments/days contained lessons and attitude adjustments, and have brought me to today.
Can't say that I'm a 24-hours-a-day happy guy, or an always-sunshine person, or that I don't lose my head -- why can't we hit the ball and score some runs? -- but I'm better at reminding myself that the world's not perfect and neither are the people in it. And that starts with me.
So I try to reason, and try to remain positive. Because I don't want anyone telling me they don't like my attitude.