Attitude inspires success

  • Published
  • By Commentary by Chap. (Lt. Col.) Tim Porter
  • 21st Space Wing chaplain
When I was in seminary, the professor who taught church administration and management said, "There are three keys to success." As I waited on the edge of my seat anticipating his profound words, he continued, "Attitude, Attitude, Attitude!"

I thought to myself, "Really? You've got to be kidding ... there must be a formula for success more enlightening than this!" Then I realized I had a bad attitude!

Following graduation and entering into church ministry and later joining the U.S. Air Force Chaplain Corps, I discovered that my professor's words were true. The leader sets the tone by his or her attitude. They influence the work environment by the way they handle conflict, by the value they place on people and by the way they solve problems. The leader can escalate a negative situation by their attitude or de-escalate it by their steady, disciplined nerve.

Now, don't misunderstand me -- I'm not saying that we cannot have a gripe session occasionally or that we deny reality when things are bad; however, we cannot allow negative thinking to result in a chronic state of complaining and cynicism because it has the potential to hurt morale and impede our performance. Therefore, we must push past our frustrations and into a positive problem solving mode in order to persevere and experience success.

It is important to note that the leader isn't just the highest ranking member of the squadron, unit or flight. Someone has defined leadership as influence; therefore, anyone -- civilian employee, military member or family member -- who wields a positive, can-do attitude can be a bright spot in the workplace and use their positive influence to get the mission accomplished.

Why would a chaplain talk about attitude? Because our attitude is a reflection of our spiritual core. Our attitude is influenced by such things as our beliefs about God, how we see ourselves, or the perspective we have on our circumstances. Our outlook in life has a lot to do with faith and hope which inspire us to see beyond our immediate setbacks by believing that things will get better in the future. I am one who believes we can find meaning and discover a higher cause in any situation we face -- positive or negative -- and therefore it affects my attitude.

Dr. Viktor Frankl is a historical figure who inspires me. He was an Austrian Jewish psychiatrist. During the Nazi occupation in Germany, he was interned in a concentration camp. Tragically, his wife and the rest of his family -- except for his sister -- died while in confinement. He could have given up hope very easily like many of his fellow prisoners, but he was able to persevere through the suffering. What did he learn in the concentration camp? He wrote in his book, Man's Search For Meaning, "Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way."

These are profound words. Hopefully we will never have to face the deprivation, hardship and loss that he and his fellow Jews endured at the hands of their captors; however, his wise and insightful words still provide us with vital perspective today. On any given day, we can encounter negative circumstances, relationship conflicts, challenges in the work place, or unforeseen promotion or assignment news, etc. that we may not have anticipated and it may negatively impact our lives and emotional state. We might have very little control over these things, at least temporarily, but as Frankl discovered in the midst of his hardship, we do have control over one thing -- we can choose our attitude.

In conclusion, leadership expert, Dr. John Maxwell in The 17 Laws of Teamwork writes, "There's only one thing more contagious than a good attitude -- and that's a bad attitude." We probably all would agree that one person with an optimistic, positive, can-do attitude has the potential to pull others out of the fog of negative thinking and cynicism by their example. Their encouraging words can rally people around a common cause and instill hope that the task at hand can be accomplished as they work together. As we await the consolidated unit inspection, each of us who make up Team Pete can be that positive person -- the one who inspires a spirit of optimism in our workplace and it will be a key to our success.