Thursday, August 8, 2013

Are you positive about your attitude?

      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.


  1. From Linda Ponder: I like this one! I think it is important for all of us, and you are oh so right that co-workers can lead us down the wrong "attitude path." Today, as every day, I am grateful that Professor [Ponder] came into my life! I never want to lose sight of that. Along with him came many new, good friends like you and Bea. I don't keep a "grateful journal" per se, but I do note each day many of the blessings in my life.

  2. From Jimmy Russell: I enjoyed this, but if you were like me, you did not do your job for the money. You did it because you loved it and you had a passion for it. You got upset at the editor because you felt he was not appreciating you for sportswriting. You knew he cared little about it and what he was asking you to do what was demeaning and insulting. He had you for a small salary but you did not care, you loved what you were doing. I have given this advice to some young people in the last several years. Do what makes you happy and the money will take care of itself. I have made much more money since I quit coaching, but I miss it every day. My thoughts every morning when I get up are something about a defense or offense or how one would handle this situation or that. Why? Because I truly had a passion for the work. It was not a vocation but an avocation. I never worried about the hours or the days. I looked forward to the day and what was to be done. Main point: Do what makes you happy and enjoy it.

  3. From Kirby Ramsey: What an excellent article! I have had similar experiences when I felt my attitude was not the best, but like you said in the blog, in most of those cases, a coworker brought me to that point. My motto when I started my career at ULM was that I would strive to be the first at work and the last to leave. For most of those 27 years I was able to do that. I worked hard and was so proud of the department and university where I worked. If you work with someone long enough, even someone you truly admire, there will be a "tipping point" (Gladwell's term) when words that should not be said are said and the relationship is never quite the same, even if apologizes are made. The relationship never quite goes back to "zero" or where it once was; it will almost always be below "zero" or negative. ... I need to do as one famous general said, "We all make mistakes. Learn from them. Remove the rearview mirror and drive on." ... Thanks for the wakeup message. I will work on my positive attitude.