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Attitude for success

ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. -- Anytime someone tries to initiate change or look for a better way to do things, inevitably they face naysayers--the "road blockers" who try to stop you. They say "it can't be done" or "there's an Air Force regulation that says we can't do that". Many don't even try to think outside the box.

As author Barbara Pletcher said, "The real winners in life are the people who look at every situation with an expectation that they can make it work or make it better." They have a positive attitude and expect things to be possible.

So, how do we win the battle to drive positive changes that are so much a part of our jobs in the Air Force? How can Airmen examine their processes and implement improved methods? What kind of qualities do people need to be successful?

· Have the courage to leave your comfort zone, go through some tough times and try to make things better, in spite of the naysayers.

· Don't expect somebody else to do it. Napoleon Hill said many years ago, "The best job goes to the person who can get it done without passing the buck or coming back with excuses." The successful person simply does what needs to be done, instead of expecting someone else to take care of it.

There are many who don't take responsibility for making things better, who never step up to the plate, because they honestly believe others are more qualified. Their intentions are good, but they are wrong. Those who make the biggest impact in life or at work are seldom the most qualified. More often than not, the ones who make the difference are those who simply decided to try. Instead of saying "we can't do this because..." they say, "We shouldn't do this now, but if we were going to do it, here is what we need and what the cost will be."

· Once a team is moving in the right direction, it is critical to maintain focus. Further success requires one to continually ask one important question: will the present action take us closer to the goal? If so, do it. If not, skip it. Most people are easily distracted. Unexpected events take them off course, and they spend too much of their time chasing the "urgent" things in life rather than the "important" things. Effective people understand the importance of choosing the correct actions in any situation they face. As a result, they tend to be very successful. But when they aren't, they don't blame others. They take responsibility for their own actions and attitudes.

Max Steingart wrote about the connection between responsibility, choices, and self-discipline: "Success isn't something you wait for; it's something you must pursue." "Opportunities sometimes come disguised in the form of misfortune or temporary defeat."

· Successful people know that the little things count. They take the time to address small tasks, such as straightening up the conference room after a meeting or showing up at a company picnic. Unsuccessful people tend to dismiss the details. Either they get busy and forget, or simply don't think these details--that are important to other people--really matter. Unfortunately, all they offer are excuses for their lack of responsibility.

· Follow through - finish what you start. Those with a tendency to quit before they finish should make some relatively small goals that require them to stretch just a little. They should start in some areas they care deeply about. Once these small goals are met, then work on more challenging goals. Nothing breeds success like success.

· Successful people know that everything they have - possessions, knowledge, or talent--should be shared with others rather than kept to themselves. What is learned must be passed on to others. Useful knowledge must not remain imprisoned in your brain. Do something with it, and pay back what was given to you.

· Accept responsibility. One of the constant, irrefutable characteristics of all successful people is that they accept ultimate responsibility. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower was given responsibility for planning the D-Day invasion. Without question, the decision to begin the operation was a painful decision; he knew it would lead to many deaths, yet success would guarantee victory over the Axis powers.

In the hours prior to the assault General Eisenhower wrote a press release to be used in the event of the invasion's failure: "Our landings have failed ... and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and this place was based on the best information available. The troops, the Air Force and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to this attempt, it is mine alone."

· Successful people remove negative words from their vocabulary. What we talk about we tend to bring about. As author Florence Shinn wrote, "The game of life is the game of boomerangs. Our thoughts, deeds and words return to us sooner or later, with astounding accuracy." Our choice of words is very important. Avoid using such words as impossible, can't, won't, hopeless, and so forth. As the original Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right."

· Be self-motivated. Others can certainly help to motivate us, but we are still responsible for our own motivation. Start what you finish. Write down the steps required to finish the project, and establish a deadline for the completion of each step.

· Value your people. Team members can sense how leaders feel about them, and it is difficult to motivate if members feel they aren't valued. Successful leaders must, above all, value their people, in order to generate trust and earn the right to have people follow them. It is important to be tough when it comes to standards, but very tender when it comes to people.

· Attitude! The attitudes one brings to their team will have a tremendous impact on the ultimate results. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale states "There is a basic law that like attracts like. Negative thinking definitely attracts negative results. Conversely, if a person habitually thinks optimistically and hopefully, his positive thinking sets in motion creative forces, and success ...instead of eluding him ... flows toward him." Attitudes and happiness are not hinged upon better circumstances. A person with bad attitudes will still be a person with bad attitudes ... wherever and with whomever he or she lives and works ... unless he/she learns how to get and keep a better attitude.

I challenge you to cultivate a positive, "can-do" attitude. Think outside the box. Focus on the possibilities and don't worry, someone will tell you what the drawbacks are. Welcome that, and take your positive attitude and energy forward and make your world a better place!