Deb Sofield

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Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude

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Recently I was flying to a speaking job, and as I left for the airport that morning it was raining. I looked out the window while we were waiting to take off, and I could tell it was going to be a cold wet and rainy ride, in fact, that was the outlook for the entire week where I was heading to speak.

Sitting on the plane determining what I was not going to be doing on this trip (since I don’t like to be out in rainy cold weather), within a few minutes after we took off and went above the clouds, as it always seems to happen, the sky cleared and the most beautiful shade of blue was above me and the white cotton balls of clouds were below, and I was reminded of the old Zig Ziglar saying, Your attitude, not your aptitude will determine your altitude.

I know you’ve probably heard that saying a lot, but it struck me this time, because the evening before I flew out I was a speaker on a panel for women in business, and the one issue that seemed to permeate the conversation was, How does one gain and keep power in the business world and in life? For me it was a clear reminder that your attitude; or one’s boldness, demeanor, brashness or approach to a situation; not your aptitude—i.e. skills, ability, talents or gifts—will determine your altitude (height or elevation), or simply put, just how high you will climb in the business world or your personal life.

I see a lot of people who act like this universal truth does not matter, and from what I can tell, oh, they’ll get by for a time, but it won’t last, because when your focus is always on the ground—the rainy days, the dark and cold days—your opportunities will never show themselves, because you’re not looking in the right direction.

And it is hard to get power, keep power and maintain power if your attitude is always looking at the negative things in life—the rainy days instead of the sun that is just above the rain.

When I talk about attitude I just want to touch on the issue of attitude as one of the few things you can change about yourself by yourself. You may not be able to control every situation and its outcome, but you can control your attitude and how you deal with it.

Pastor Chuck Swindoll has said about attitude, “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home, or an individual.

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for the day. We cannot change our past … we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude.

I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.”

I could not have said it better myself, and he is correct. I also like the quote, “It’s been said that a bad attitude can literally block love, blessings, and destiny from finding you. Don’t be the reason you don’t succeed.”

One of my favorite quotes is from Winston Churchill who said, “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” So, friends, whether you are in the rainy season of life and you can’t seem to catch a glimpse of sunlight or your heart has grown cold and you’ve grown bitter towards those who have done you wrong, please consider giving yourself a break and easing down your temperament to see if you can be strong enough to change your attitude for your future.

And I strongly believe that is your only choice for a successful life, because, although you might very well be the smartest person in the room, you might be the only one with the skills and abilities that can make big things happen. No one is going to seek you out and learn from you if your attitude is so off-putting that they’d rather struggle through than deal with you.

I talk a lot about your amazing gifts and talents because everyone I meet—believe it or not—has some gift that is recognizable to be of great use to others if we, 1) Knew you had it, 2) Wanted to learn from you, and 3) Respected you enough to ask.

The conference I spoke to the other evening was dealing with power, and power is found in a lot of ways, but I find that the best use of your power is when others seek you out to learn from you, and that only happens when you’re the kind of person who makes others feel valued or, put another way, powerful. It’s funny, they seek you to be near the power, and, if you’re good enough at the game, you will give them the vision to see their power to go and do great things.

Some people hope that their aptitude or intelligence will create a path for them, and I am sure in many cases it will, but I also know that when you treat everyone with respect, whether you consider them worthy or not, you’re doing a good thing to help them find their path because of your kindness.

Remember, Your attitude, not your aptitude will determine your altitude.

Because my speaking engagement was across the country, I went a day early to rest before I spoke, and every time I looked out the window from my hotel room it was still raining.

I wanted to go and explore a new city to see what they had to offer, but, since I can’t afford to get sick in cold wet rainy weather, I opted to stay inside and rest…and work on my presentation, because I determined years ago that I wanted to be a great speaker. I wanted my audience to learn something from me when our time was done. In a sense, I focus on my altitude—committing to doing the hard work to be the best in my area of expertise.

Yes, it is built part way on attitude, because I love what I do, and in my case it is part aptitude since I am an expert in my field, but I find that I enjoy the altitude of helping others reach the top of their fields to be their best for a lifetime of success. That is what drives me.

And, in thinking about the conference the day before, the speakers all agreed that one’s attitude is the key for success in today’s world, and, even when the going gets tough, those who choose success will keep going.

As dismal as the weather was in Alaska, the opportunity to work with such a great team of people made the trip worthwhile, and as I left in the rain again and got back on my plane and went above the clouds, I was now staring out the window to the most beautiful sunsets of orange, red and blue to purple to darkness, and then the stars came out and the moon was full once again. I was greeted with the majestic beauty of blue skies and fluffy white clouds all the way until dark, with its dazzling colors as the sun went down.

Og Mandino is one of my favorite writers and I love his quote, I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I endure the darkness because it shows me the stars.

While I was sitting on the plane, it became very clear to me that determining just how high you will go—your altitude—is a very important thing to think about and work towards, not only because it is beautiful up there, but because no matter where you are in life, in love, in loss or in leaving, once you get above the clouds, there is a whole new world just waiting to break through the darkness and show you the light.

Friend, you must hold on and believe that a better day is coming, and that starts with an attitude adjustment to remind yourself that just above the rain and clouds of life is a glorious view of blue sky that seems to go on forever.

So, after many hours and time zones later, I got off the plane again in the rain, but this time with the reminder that it’s just raining where I can see it, and (as the old familiar quote goes)…Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Deb Sofield

Deb Sofield is a Keynote Speaker, Author of the book, Speak without Fear – Rock Star Presentation Skills to get People to Hear What You Say and Encouragement For Your Life ~ Tough Love Memos to Help You Fight Your Battles and Change the World, Radio Talk Show Host in the Salem Network, Podcaster and President of her own Executive Speech Coaching Co., which trains women and men for success in speaking, crisis communications, presentation skills, media and message development in the U.S. and abroad.

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