Oswald Letter

Do you need an attitude adjustment?

by Dan Oswald

Years ago, I heard a story about a couple of salespeople that left a lasting impression on me. The story went like this: A British shoe manufacturer sent two salespeople to Africa to investigate and report back on market potential.

The first salesperson reported back, “There is no potential here—nobody wears shoes.”

The second salesperson reported back, “There is massive potential here—nobody wears shoes.”

Two salespeople, same situation, very different perception. Was the second salesperson right? Was there really “massive potential”? Who knows if the second salesperson ever sold a pair of shoes in Africa? But I know one thing for sure—the first salesperson certainly didn’t. It’s like Henry Ford said, “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.” The first salesperson thought he couldn’t, and his perception would become his reality. The same is probably true for the second salesperson, meaning he was met with success.

Helen Keller once said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” The second salesperson had that optimism; the first did not.

It all comes back to attitude. Your attitude determines how you behave and the decisions you make, and that, ultimately, determines whether you will be successful. A positive attitude is the catalyst for positive thoughts and positive outcomes. As Thomas Jefferson said, “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.”

So what’s your attitude? Would those around you consider you to have a positive attitude? Are you a glass half full or a glass half empty type of person? Think about specific situations in which your attitude was on display. Did you respond with a “can do” attitude, or, like the first salesperson in our story, did you look at the situation without optimism?

A positive attitude doesn’t mean you will embrace every situation with hope and optimism. There are situations that call for you, as a leader, to make choices. There are, quite simply, bad options. It doesn’t matter how positive you are about the choice you made if it was the wrong choice. Like they say, “You can’t make chicken salad out of chicken shit.”

A positive attitude isn’t the magical elixir that will solve every problem. But combining good opportunities with strong decision making and a positive attitude will lead to success more times than not. As a leader, you need to seek the right opportunities for yourself, your team, and your organization. Now faced with a number of different options, you must put your decision-making skills to work and determine which opportunities possess the most potential and where the likelihood of success is the greatest. It’s the whole risk versus reward thing. Once you’ve chosen which options are best to pursue, you lead with confidence and optimism. You’ll be amazed at what you achieve!