If You Believe You Can, You Can
The greatest discovery of my generation
is that human beings can alter their lives by
altering their attitude of mind.
—William James, Psychologist
A successful man is one who can lay a firm foundation
with the bricks others have thrown at him.
—David Brinkley, Television Journalist
More than Perspiration and Inspiration
Life magazine named him the number one man of the millennium. The number of things he invented is astounding—1,093. He held more patents than any other person in the world, having been granted at least one every year for sixty-five consecutive years. He also developed the modern research laboratory. His name was Thomas Edison.
Most people credit Edison's ability to creative genius. He credited it to hard work. "Genius," he declared, "is ninety-nine percent perspiration and one percent inspiration." I believe his success was also the result of a third factor: his positive attitude.
Edison was an optimist who saw the best in everything. "If we did all the things we were capable of doing," he once said, "we would literally astound ourselves." When it took him ten thousand tries to find the right materials for the incandescent light bulb, he didn't see them as that many failures. With each attempt he gained information about what didn't work, bringing him closer to a solution. He never doubted that he would find a good one. His belief could be summarized by his statement: "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."
Probably the most notable display of Edison's positive attitude can be seen in the way he approached a tragedy that occurred when he was in his late sixties. The lab he had built in West Orange, New Jersey, was world famous. He called the fourteen-building complex his invention factory. Its main building was massive—greater than three football fields in size. From that base of operations, he and his staff conceived of inventions, developed prototypes, manufactured products, and shipped them to customers. It became a model for modern research and manufacturing.
Edison loved the place. He spent every minute he could there. He even slept there, often on one of the lab tables. But on a December day in 1914, his beloved lab caught fire. As he stood outside and watched it burn, he is reported to have said, "Kids, go get your mother. She'll never see another fire like this one."
Most people would have been crushed. Not Edison. "I am sixty-seven," he stated after the tragedy, "but not too old to make a fresh start. I've been through a lot of things like this." He rebuilt the lab, and he kept working for another seventeen years. "I am long on ideas, but short on time," he commented. "I expect to live to be only about a hundred." He died at age eighty-four.
Fleshing It Out
If Edison hadn't been such a positive person, he never would have achieved such success as an inventor. If you look at the lives of people in any profession who achieve lasting success, you will find that they almost always possess a positive outlook on life.
If you desire to be an effective leader, having a positive attitude is essential. It not only determines your level of contentment as a person, but it also has an impact on how others interact with you. To learn more about what it means to be positive, think on these things:
1. Your Attitude Is a Choice
The average person wants to wait for someone else to motivate him. He perceives that his circumstances are responsible for the way he thinks. But which comes first—the attitude or the circumstances? That's really a chicken-or-the-egg kind of question. The truth is that it doesn't matter which came first. No matter what happened to you yesterday, your attitude is your choice today.
Psychologist Victor Frankl believed, "The last of our human freedoms is to choose our attitude in any given circumstances." He knew the truth of that statement. Frankl survived imprisonment in a Nazi death camp, and throughout his ordeal, he wouldn't allow his attitude to deteriorate. If he could maintain a good attitude, so can you.
2. Your Attitude Determines Your Actions
Family life expert Denis Waitley addresses this issue: "The winner's edge is not in a gifted birth, a high IQ, or in talent. The winner's edge is all in the attitude, not aptitude. Attitude is the criterion for success." Your attitude is crucial because it determines how you act.
3. Your People Are a Mirror of Your Attitude
I am constantly amazed by people who display a poor attitude, yet expect their people to be upbeat. But the Law of Magnetism really is true: who you are is who you attract.
If you look at Edison's life, you can see that his positive attitude and enthusiasm not only fueled him but also inspired his people to keep pressing on until they succeeded. He purposely tried to pass on that quality to others. He once remarked, "If the only thing we leave our kids is the quality of enthusiasm, we will have given them an estate of incalculable value."
4. Maintaining a Good Attitude Is Easier Than Regaining One
In Earth and Altar, Eugene H. Peterson wrote, "Pity is one of the noblest emotions available to human beings; self-pity is possibly the most ignoble . . . [It] is an incapacity, a crippling emotional disease that severely distorts our perception of reality .... a narcotic that leaves its addicts wasted and derelict."
If you already have a positive attitude, I want to encourage you to keep it up. On the other hand, if you have a difficult time expecting the best of yourself and others, don't despair. Because you choose your attitude, you can change it.
Reflecting on It
English heart surgeon Martyn Lloyd-Jones asserted, "Most unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself rather than talking to yourself." What kind of voices do you hear? When you meet people, do you tell yourself they'll let you down? When you face new experiences, does a voice in your head say you're going to fail? If you're hearing negative messages, you need to learn to give yourself positive mental pep talks. The best way to retrain your attitude is to prevent your mind from going down any negative forks in the road.
Bringing It Home
To improve your attitude, do the following:
Feed yourself the right "food." If you've been starved of anything positive, then you need to start feeding yourself a regular diet of motivational material. Read books that encourage a positive attitude. Listen to motivational tapes. The more negative you are, the longer it will take to turn your attitude around. But if you consume a steady diet of the right "food," you can become a positive thinker.
Achieve a goal every day. Some people get into a rut of negativity because they feel they're not making progress. If that describes you, then begin setting achievable daily goals for yourself. A pattern of positive achievement will help you develop a pattern of positive thinking.
Write it on your wall. We all need reminders to help us keep thinking right. Alex Haley used to keep a picture in his office of a turtle on a fence post to remind him that everybody needed the help of others. As incentive, people put up awards they've won, inspirational posters, or letters they've received. Find something that will work for you and put it on your wall.
When you look at any professional athlete, you see great talent. But the mind is what elevates the best to the highest level. For example, look at Chris Evert. One of the greatest female athletes of all time, she holds 18 grand slam titles and an overall win-loss record of 1,309 and 146. In her seventeen-year career, she never ranked below number four. She commented, "The thing that separates good players from great ones is mental attitude. It might only make a difference of two or three points in an entire match but how you play those key points often makes the difference between winning and losing. If the mind is strong you can do almost anything you want." Is your mind "conditioned" to win the key points ahead of you?
I’M GLAD SHE SAID, “ALMOST ANYTHING YOU WANT.” TO HAVE AN UP-BEAT HAPPY POSITIVE MIND IS WHAT EVERYONE SHOULD DESIRE AND AIM FOR; BUT “IF YOU BELIEVE YOU CAN, YOU CAN” IS REALLY STRESSING AND STRETCHING THE POINT WAY ABOVE LOGIC. CERTAIN THINGS NEED NOT ONLY THE MENTAL POSITIVENESS BUT THEY NEED THE BRAIN POWER AND THE PHYSICAL BODY ABILITIES. YOU MAY WANT OR WISH YOU COULD BE A 10,000 METER CHAMPION, FOR YOU LOVE THAT SPORTING RACE; YOU MAY HAVE A POSITIVE MIND-SET BUT YOUR BODY DOES NOT HAVE THE ABILITY TO RUN 10,000 METERS. SAME GOES FOR WANTING TO DO THE 100 METER DASH UNDER 10 SECONDS; YOU HAVE THE POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE, BUT YOUR LEGS SIMPLY WILL NOT GO FAST ENOUGH TO DO THAT SPRINT UNDER 10 SECONDS. NO MATTER HOW HARD YOU TRY IT IS NOT POSSIBLE TO PUT A ROUND PEG IN A SQUARE HOLE.
NOW WITH THE ABILITIES YOU DO HAVE AND THE POSITIVE MIND SET, YOU CAN DO SOME GREAT STUFF.
EVEN NOT AIMING AT SOME MIGHTY FEAT, IT IS JUST A MUCH BETTER LIFE TO HAVE A POSITIVE UP-BEAT ATTITUDE.