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Holding Your Own


“The longer I live the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.  It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people 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 everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past, we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable.  The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it.  And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.”


This was a note to all the newly hired employees on my first job, and I kept it. What better way to say that life is a mental game.  To make it, come to play with the mindset to win. You can’t control the external factors many times, but you can learn to control your response to them. You can learn to stay focused.  It’s really about learning to accept the things that happen in a way that won’t derail you. Your attitude ultimately determines what course of action you will take. You get to choose your course of action every day.

Isn’t that what we really love about a good book or movie? We love to see a character in trouble battling to get out. It’s  the choices he makes along the way that gives us the suspense of a good story. It’s about the attitude or the mindset of the hero that makes us want to stick around to discover how things turn out.

Not so sure?  Go back and watch the movie One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.  The important thing about this excellent movie is that the cast of main characters—except the lead played by Jack Nicholson)—were voluntary inmates. They chose to stay locked in a mental hospital to escape real life. And as a result, one of the best lines of the movie delivered by Nicholson: “you’re no more insane than the rest of the people out there” becomes the key to the story.

The rest of us choose to stay out here and fight it out. The rest of us find a way to “hold our own” and deal with the pressures of life. The rest of us are busy making choices and taking steps instead of leaving the decisions of our lives up to people like Nurse Ratched. Nurse Ratched, by the way, is in charge of the inmates on the ward and able to get patients lobotomized or sent to electric shock therapy when they disrupt her daily routine. There are others in society like Nurse Ratched, paid to make decisions about what to do with us when we stop trying.

We can figure out how to hold our own once we acknowledge that life responds to how we look at it. If we share the perspective that good and bad things happen to us all, and it’s our job to give it importance or not, then we’re on our way.

You may already have your life exactly where you want it, or you may still be making choices to get there, but it will all boil down to the attitude you cultivate that will help you pull this off.

Or not.


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