If You’ve Got to Have an Attitude, Make it a Good One!

Golden Rule #26: Attitude Really is Everything. So is Timing.

You hear it all the time: “Attitude is everything.” Turns out it’s absolutely true. You can be less than an expert, or less than experienced, but a willingness to learn, coupled with an impeccable sense of timing, will carry you very far in life.

What is the right kind of attitude? We talk about a great attitude, and a positive attitude, and an attitude of gratitude…we hear about it when we have a bad attitude, too. “Don’t give me that attitude, now.” “Watch your attitude, son.” And somehow we’re expected to wade through the attitudinal minefield and figure out what’s good, and what’s bad.

Turns out our attitude is kind of like a barometer other people use to measure us. Sometimes we control our attitude, and sometimes our attitude controls us. We can blame other people, but in the end, our attitude is our responsibility. We can’t own anyone else’s attitude, but we can certainly own our own. And good news here — attitudes can change! We can actually drive the attitudinal bus! It’s hard. It’s really hard. It takes lots of practice and sometimes even saintly older people have been known to have a less-than-stellar attitude.

I was waiting in line at the eye doctor’s office yesterday, a long line of patient gray haired people stretching in both directions around me, and I heard the girl at the desk say, “This isn’t my job. I don’t usually work here. Everybody is in a meeting. I don’t know where anything is.”

All those things were true. I didn’t see stress levels going up too terribly high among the gray haired group. In particular, the couple in front of me was the essence of patience. Patient patients…sorry…it just tickled me. Anyway, the couple in front of me looked like maybe they were in their 80s. They were old. They were wrinkled. They were bent nearly double. She carried a cane. He carried, very precisely, a checkbook, an appointment card, and a pen. They wore sensible shoes with no laces. I thought, oh boy, this is not who I want to be in a few decades.

And then they reached the counter, and the girl gave her same matter-of-fact speech. And the man looked at her, through very thick glasses, and said, after a moment, “Well, you’re just doing the best you can, and that’s all anyone can ask.” And his wife nodded pleasantly beside him. I could see the absence of stress in them, and the calmness in them, and the way it just flowed around all of us like a smooth wash of velvet. The girl whose job it wasn’t checked them in, and sent them to sit near their doctor’s office door, and I found myself just wanting to be near their reassuring presence.

We could have stomped and blustered and it wouldn’t have made a bit of difference. The girl still didn’t have a clue, nor did she have a great attitude.  But I took my cues from the couple ahead of me, and I’m still thinking about them today. I’d rather echo their influence than, say, that of the person who tailgated me hardcore all the way home from the airport this morning. People. It was 5 a.m. I didn’t relish being rushed, so I turned down a side street to get out of your way.

Maybe attitude is nothing more than thinking about how you’re influencing the lives and thoughts of people around you. A good attitude will carry you further than a bad one, for sure.


What has Copper taught me about attitudes? It’s rare for me to catch him with a bad one, that’s for sure. Sometimes I know he’s upset, or confused, or disappointed about being left behind (the people in my house tend to come and go. A whole lot.) But he rights himself like a rubber duck in a tub full of water. And I know this for sure: stuff surely does travel up and down the leash. My attitude definitely affects his. All the more reason to have a good one.

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