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CIO Unplugged 3/1/17

March 1, 2017 Ed Marx 1 Comment

The views and opinions expressed are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.

Attitude, Not Aptitude, Determines Altitude

I have never been the smartest person in the workplace. I never will be. We all have talents, skills, and special gifts, but you won’t see my name on any Top 10 lists for brainiacs. Not even the Top 1,000.

I can’t blame genetics since my siblings are pretty dang smart. Each of my kids excelled academically as well. Our gifts are unique to each individual. I suspect what makes the difference is how we steward our gifts.

I was going through my school report cards with my youngest daughter recently. Not pretty. From first grade through high school, it was clear I was not the sharpest tool in the shed. College undergrad was the worst, starting with a wicked 1.6 GPA.

My lackluster grades made my Army Officer assignment of combat engineer all the more perplexing. I was the only non-engineer, non-math major accepted into our cohort. I barely graduated with a degree in psychology and there I was in engineering school! On our second day, we took math and engineering competency exams and I was immediately directed to the remedial section.

Out of desperation, I clung closely to the Zig Ziglar quote that, “Attitude, not aptitude, determines altitude.” I had no choice. Ziggy gave me hope that, despite my intelligence, I could still thrive by adopting a positive outlook.

As I entered the workforce and looked towards the ranks of management, I could not compete on sheer aptitude, but I could with attitude. I was astonished to surpass peers who were much smarter than I. While I worked on building my core business and technical smarts, I doubled down on ensuring an infectious attitude. I started to see that altitude was something I could control.

We all know people who are super smart, but who never realize their full potential. Clearly there are many reasons why this happens, but certainly a lackluster attitude robs many of the personal and professional heights they were destined for.

That said, it’s not only people of average intelligence that benefit from good attitudes. Everyone, regardless of aptitude, benefits from good attitudes.

I’ve shared previously my experiences of being part of strong teams that accomplished some pretty cool things. One common characteristic of each team member was attitude. I understand my success as a leader is predicated on having a good attitude, which ultimately separated me from many peers. I wasn’t better-looking or taller. I did not always dress the part. I was not the product of private schools, nor boosted by a familiar family name. I had few if any advantages.

As I said, I was not smarter. I was pretty much average, except for my attitude. Attitude is one key to a prosperous life. And you control it.

How can you change your level of attitude?

  • Admit you need to change your attitude.
  • Hold yourself accountable to people who will get in your face and tell you the truth when your attitude is poor.
  • Surround yourself with people who have infectious attitudes and soak it in.
  • Seek professional help if there are unhealed wounds that keep your attitude low.
  • Practice the art of smiling and don’t stop even on bad days.
  • Accept your shortcomings and move on.
  • Avoid negative self-talk or putting yourself down in front of others.
  • Be thankful daily for something. Anything.
  • Step outside of yourself and see a different perspective.
  • Remember the big picture.
  • Live a balanced life, routinely taking time for yourself to recharge.
  • Drop friends and colleagues who have bad attitudes.
  • Surprise someone every day with something that makes them laugh.
  • Pray for your haters.
  • Stop feeling guilty for things you have not done.
  • Address the gaps or barriers in your life that may be driving you down.
  • Don’t worry about things you can’t change.
  • Believe in something bigger than yourself.
  • Practice random acts of kindness.
  • Be the bigger person and mend broken fences.

I believe that because of a shift in my attitude, I was able to transform from college flunky to holder of multiple master’s degrees.

I believe that because of a shift in my attitude, I went from remedial Army Engineer student to graduating in the top 10 percent of my cohort.

I believe that because of a shift in my attitude, I went from average career to something beyond my dreams.

I believe that because of a shift in my attitude, I love life despite my wounds.

Simply put, not only do people with bad attitudes typically underperform, nobody wants to be with them. They are sad, mad, full of unconstructive criticism, and no fun. No wonder they are not getting promoted.

Attitude does determine altitude.

Ed encourages your interaction by clicking the comments link below. He can be followed on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or on his web page.

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