Thursday, October 08, 2009

An attitude of gratitude

This morning, as I was making breakfast, I saw a large, gangly bug flattened at the bottom of the wet sink. It appeared to have drowned, but then I saw a slight movement in one of its legs. I took some paper towels and gently drained the water from around it, dabbed it dry, and then gingerly scooped it up on the counter - and then over the next half hour, I'd gently blow on it to dry it off further. Soon it lifted one leg, than another. Then one wing came free. And finally, it spread both wings and flew!

Right back into the wet sink.

After rescuing it *again* (and this time taking it outside away from temptation), I figured that there must be a blog in this somewhere. And sure enough, there is.

Do you know people who seem to be perpetually looking for a break - but once they get it, they don't appreciate it? For example, I remember a young man in my neighborhood years ago who was desperate for work and money. When I took pity on him and hired him to paint my basement, he never finished and did a half-baked job. Or the older professional who had been laid off for a long time, back when I was in corporate life, and swore up and down he'd appreciate the chance to "start over." As soon as I hired him, he moped around, complained about his long commute, and acted like the job was beneath him. I could go on, but let's just say there have been lots of "wet bugs" in my life.

Which leads me to a subtle but important difference I see in the really successful people I know. They almost never complain.

Do I ever have reason to gripe? Well, perhaps, at least on paper. Sometimes I have clients who demand urgent turnaround on a project, and then take a leisurely two or three months to pay my "net 30" invoice. I've had people promise me lucrative five-figure contracts that have turned into a pumpkin. And like most people, I could easily fill several blogs with all of the bad customer experiences I've had.

So how do I feel about these people? I love 'em all actually. The slow-pay client? Well, I do eventually get paid, and am thankful to have a big project with them. The projects that never show up? The same people have come through for me in the past, and may again in the future. As for the bad customer experiences? Grist for the mill in my writing and training. It's all good as far as I'm concerned.

Even during the worst slow periods in my years of consulting, I'd usually find myself feeling richly blessed to be in good health, wake up next to a beautiful woman every morning, and do what I love. If you asked me how I was doing during those slow times, I would usually respond, "Great!" And I believe, ironically, this is a big part of the reason I am successful.

Sure, once in a great while something bugs me enough that I'll say something. (For example, this recent blog entry about a very hurtful and aggressive fundraising call from my alma mater.) But in general, my "brand" has been all about staying positive and teaching skills, not calling out the sins of others. Now I realize this is a common success trait in lots of people I know, and a principle that goes all the way back to Dale Carnegie if not my Christian faith. So I'd like to thank that bug this morning for reminding me again. I'd say we're even.

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