Thanks for joining me.
I’m having a bad day. I know that you are likely not interested but a bad day it is. It’s time for my podcast and I don’t think I’m up to it. Can you relate?
What’s your notion of a bad day?
I’m not thinking here about big events that foretell major or lasting consequences. Rather I am thinking about those little annoyances and inconveniences that disrupt our otherwise comfortable and more or less predictable days.
You know the kinds of things I am talking about: not being able to find your car keys, dropping your iPhone and cracking the screen, dripping coffee on your clean shirt, getting a phone call that you have to take just as you are leaving the house when you’re already running ten minutes late, remembering as you head out for lunch that you were supposed to be at the dentist two hours ago, realizing that you still haven’t started that report your boss needs this afternoon and you had planned to finish yesterday.
It just so happens that I am having one of those bad days. My first discovery is that a bad day for me is always personal. By that I mean that like beauty, bad days are in the eyes of the beholder. I think the key is that a bad day gets us off our game. What gets me off my game might not bother you one way or the other. Conversely, what gets you off your game may be something I would just take in stride. As I said, bad days are always personal.
The next thing I have realized is that no one cares about my bad day.
Sure, I can tell someone about it and he or she might even have a little sympathy but not much. It’s not his or her bad day and after a small dose of sympathy, I will quickly figure out that I’ll just have to suck it up and move on.
My particular bad day started this morning. It was time to work on my podcast and I realized that I didn’t have anything to say. Normally not having anything to say is no reason for a bad day unless you are supposed to be podcasting, unless your significant other says, “We need to talk,” unless you are ten-years-old and your teacher asks you why you didn’t do your homework, or perhaps unless your boss wants to know why the report you intended to write yesterday isn’t on her desk this afternoon.
Back to my podcast and not having anything to say.
I admit it. I am hoping for an inspiration. I know that’s a little like hoping that the coffee stain on my shirt will suddenly disappear or or that the crack in my iPhone screen will magically repair itself. Maybe Teacher will just smile and tell you that you are really smart so for you, homework is optional or perhaps your boss will just chuckle and say, “No problem. When I asked for the report, I was only making a suggestion.”
As for that inspiration I am hoping for, Frank Tibolt said, “We should be taught not to wait for inspiration to start a thing. Action always generates inspiration. Inspiration seldom generates action.” This kind of sounds like that getting the cart before the horse thing.
I guess my personal bad day is likely to stay inspiration free so action is my only viable course. The situation calls for action, for doing something instead of just staring at the microphone, waiting for that inspiration. Alfred Adler said, “Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words.” If the point is not sinking in as I sit and stare, I need to remember what Arnold Glasow had to say about this inspiration thing. “An idea not coupled with action will never get any bigger than the brain cell it occupied.”
I may be experiencing a small flicker of motivation, especially given how small a single brain cell probably is. The key now is to see if I can convert that bit of motivation into a modicum of action. I do have a tendency to think that only the great and glorious are worth doing so must latch onto Peter Marshall’s perspective. He said, “Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.”
I can feel myself moving off the dime. My podcasting paralysis seems to be passing. Yes, I do recall that Ernest Hemingway said, “Never mistake motion for action,” but this feels a lot like real action. An Arabian Proverb advises that “A promise is a cloud; fulfillment is rain.” I do hope my bad day transissions from cloudy to rain, from contemplation to action, from will do to done.
I think I will let Betsy Cañas Garmon share the last word just to remind myself that there is more to podcasting than collecting clever lines from others. She said, “Note to self: finding a cool quote and writing it in your journal is not a substitute for Getting It Done.” I think this makes her one of the wise ones. It really is true that when we are having a bad day, our best option when more is said than done is to suck it up and move on.
OK, that’s out of the way. I could complain more about finding it hard to get up and going, but who cares? Sure, I care some but doubt if you care much one way or the other. So let’s talk.
I’m tempted to initiate our conversation by saying, “There are two types of people: ….” Since my plan is to talk about advice and attitudes, I think it will suffice to simply remind us that there are people who ask for advice and those who actually follow it only when the advice we offer is an exact fit with what they wanted to hear. They are usually the same people. Hannah Whitall Smith understood the key to advice giving when she pointed out, “The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not, and never persist in trying to set people right.”
If that adequately sets the stage for both of us,
Let me suggest that attitude matters, and quite often, attitude is all that actually matters.
If you doubt the truth of this putative fact of life and living, let me share the perspectives of some other folks who have given a lot of thought to the notion. From there, you can and of course, will draw your own conclusion. In turn, I will remain perfectly indifferent to your personal conclusion and will not persist in trying to set you right.
The first point about attitude is that attitude is nothing more complicated than knowing that we always get to decide what our attitude is today. It’s just a state of mind that we impose on our current situation or circumstance. It works like this.
From Annie Gottlier, we get this. “It’s so hard when I have to, and so easy when I want to.”
Publius Terentius Afer puts it this way. “There is nothing so easy but that it becomes difficult when you do it reluctantly.”
Leland Val Van de Wall makes the same point like this. “You only have to do something until you want to do it, then you won’t have to do it any more.”
And Samuel Johnson joins in, “He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts.”
Stephen Covey, William James, and Norman Vincent Peale all agreed.
“Our ultimate freedom is the right and power to decide how anybody or anything outside ourselves will affect us.”
“The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes.”
“Change your thoughts and you change your world.”
Personally, I favor this version of attitude is your choice, even though no one seems to know who said it first.
Your life is your garden, Your thoughts are the seeds. If your life isn’t awesome, You’ve been watering the weeds.
No one claims this version either, but I like it.
“Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out.”
David Ambrose, Arthur Christopher Benson and Helen MacInness also want a turn at the microphone.
“If you have the will to win, you have achieved half your success; if you don’t, you have achieved half your failure.”
“Very often a change of self is needed more than a change of scene.”
“Nothing is interesting if you’re not interested.”
I think I am safe in concluding that the point has been well made: Our attitude is within our control; and either we control it or it controls us, along with controling our future. All that is left are some little tips about a few of those sometimes annoying facts of life that may or may not be important to know. Dare I say that it depends totally on our attitude?
“Whenever you fall, pick something up.” (Oswald Avery)
“We cannot direct the wind but we can adjust the sails.” (Unknown)
“The world is full of cactus, but we don’t have to sit on it.” (Will Foley)
“Those who wish to sing, always find a song.” (Swedish Proverb)
“Sometimes life’s Hell. But hey! Whatever gets the marshmallows toasty.” (J Andrew Helt)
I have come to the end but find myself with three dangling tidbits that are begging to be included but don’t quite fit. If you want to stop without them, that works for me. But if you have a few seconds, I think they may be worth taking along with you as you get back to your day. Here you go.
“When you feel dog tired at night, it may be because you’ve growled all day long.” (Unknown)
“I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” (Mahatma Gandhi)
Ralph Marston gets the final word on this attitude thing. “Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.” Since that one leaves me thinking, I suspect it may leave you thinking too. “Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude.”
Now you know, so there you go.
Most of those little things that annoy us are little more than a matter of mind. If we mind, they matter. If instead, we suck it up and move on, we have other fish to fry, other opportunities to waste our time complaining.
For now, be well, do well, and do something nice for someone. He or she will appreciate it and you both will have a better day.