FOOTLOOSE IN THE CLOUD
Written by Jim “Gymbeaux” Brown, February 21, 2020
Whenever I feel overwhelmed I oftentimes read Jeffrey Gitomer’s book, The Little Gold Book of YES!Attitude. I don’t know how many times I have read both the original version and now the revised edition. I also have it on CD and have repeatedly listened to it. Why do I continually read it?
I realized decades ago that I am far from a perfect human being but I also recognized that life is much easier when you maintain a positive attitude. Gitomer states that probably less than 1% of all mankind ever takes a course or reads a book on “attitude.” I was (past tense) guilty! Now I can’t stop reading them, especially YES!Attitude. I have also read most if not all of Orsion Swett Marden’s books written between 1890 and 1920 and there are a lot of them. They all deal with attitude and the importance of not only reading about attitude but also making it a life-long study. A lot of Marden’s books can be found on Amazon as a Kindle read for just 99 cents each. It will be the best dollar you have ever spent!
With that said, I sat down this evening to read YES!Attitude, again. Life in 2020 has rarely been as good and has rarely been as bad with all the politics involved in just about everything and everyone’s lives. Like so often happens, I read the following section from the YES!Attitude book and I had to stop reading as the floodgates of history were opened in my mind and the memories were not pleasant. Read it yourself:
“Negative people are worse than negative occurrences.
The argument is over in ten minutes –
the person may hang around for years.”
Jeffrey Gitomer, The Little Gold Book of YES!Attitude.
That one thought caused me to think back to the mid-1970s when I was stationed at the Coast Guard Training Center in Petaluma, California. I can’t tell you how excited I was when I was selected to become a Yeoman Instructor at the Class-A Yeoman School on Governors Island, New York. It was truly an honor to be selected to teach students how to become what I was – a Yeoman in the United States Coast Guard. One of the first things we were tasked with doing was to move the school to Petaluma, CA. The transition went as smoothly as possible and we were open for business. For most of my 3 years at the school we had four YN1s that taught class and we were supervised by a Chief Petty Officer (YNC). The assignment should have been one of the best possible duties in the Coast Guard for a Yeoman, to be a Yeoman School Instructor.
It became a mental nightmare for me and I am sure the other three YN1s as well. The School Chief had issues. Since we are talking about a military organization it was not considered appropriate or even possible to report on your supervisor(s) and you basically did as you were told or ordered to do. In the case of the Chief, there were a lot of very unfavorable rumors about him and his activities. He was also absent a great deal of the time and no one knew where he was. In addition, he had a drinking problem and everyone at the school knew it. We went about teaching our classes almost as if he was not even present at the school. We had a list of excuses to explain away his absences if the Command Training Officer ever inquired.
I don’t remember what the actual “occurrence” was that triggered what happened next and that fact alone is important because things are rarely as severe or important as they appear to be in the moment. Nonetheless, I felt that for my own happiness I had to make a change. Being in the military, quitting was not an option, I was under contract. I researched my options and discovered an obscure sentence in the Personnel Manual that suggested an instructor may be transferred if the instructor or School Chief felt the instructor was no longer qualified to teach. I sent a memo to the Training Officer stating that I felt I was no longer qualified to teach and that I was simply burned out and it was not good for my students. The Chief heard about the memo; I know not how. He tried to get ahead of the story with the Training Officer by writing him a letter telling him what a horrible instructor I had become.
Before you form any opinions of what I have written thus far, here is the rest of the story. The same Chief had given me the best points on my annual evaluations. He had given me the highest recommendation to take the YNC service-wide examination. He had also given me the highest possible points to take the Chief Warrant Officer’s examination. Fast forward just one year and I was promoted to both Chief Petty Officer (YNC) AND then to Chief Warrant Officer (W-2).
The Training Officer now had two documents in his possession. One from me and one from the Chief that I was unaware of. The Training Officer asked to meet with me where he showed me the Chief’s letter. I had no intention of airing the School’s “dirty laundry” with the Training Officer but the Chief thought that was my intention and as stated, he wanted to get ahead of the story. When I read his letter, I was angry beyond words and I truly mean that. I was unaware that a person could get that angry. The Training Officer, concerned as to how mad I had become, directed me to go to Sick Bay where I was seen by the Base Doctor. My Blood Pressure was off the chart. He made me lie down in a darkened room for about 90 minutes to calm down.
It is strange that I don’t remember much of what happened next but I do remember that I was not transferred and I continued to teach at the school but the school had a new Chief in charge and life went on. I was later transferred upon completion of my normal three-year assignment and eventually was promoted to YNC and then to CWO2 in rapid succession at my next duty station.
The point I want to make is that for more than two years I was giving the Chief “rent free space in my brain” or to use 2020 language in my “cloud.” There was no doubt that it was a very negative working environment in regards to the Instructors and the Chief. At the same time, it was a very rewarding assignment to be able to teach your profession to students. It was truly the best of times and the worst of times made so because of one individual. What I wouldn’t have given to have access to the Gitomer’s YES@Attitude book at that time in my life.
It WAS a military situation and it was not as simple as just changing jobs or locations. You were under orders and worked as directed. For the most part we just buckled up for the ride and went about our business.
Most people are not in the military and as such have far more control over what they must tolerate and what they can change. I thought my story may help people understand the ramifications of allowing people to rent free space in their brain or as the title suggests for 2020, in their “cloud.” Negative people can literally kill you with their negativity if you permit them to occupy that space in your head as I was obviously doing for quite a while.
Here's a valuable exercise for you that I learned from Joe Tye much later in life. He said that to solve a problem you must name it to make it real and to give it weight. Tye then suggested that I obtain a rock (I went to Home Depot and bought an 8x8x1 patio brick). He then said to write what the weighty problem was on the brick with a black magic marker. My instructions were then to put the brick into my brief case and carry it around for at least a week to serve as both a constant reminder of the problem and how much importance I had given to it. It gives you a physical reminder that most problems are actually in your head and very few have a life beyond your head. Then came the most important part of all. He said to take the brick and throw it over a bridge in a lake or river. That physical action signals the brain that the problem is now gone – you are relieved of carrying it around with you on your back. IT WORKS!
If I had this exercise in Petaluma I would have put the Chief’s name on the brick and would have carried it everywhere I went to serve as that reminder that I have a job to do in spite of what I perceived to be an insurmountable problem. It really didn’t matter what I thought of the Chief as a leader or as a man. It mattered what I did about it and whether it affected my job performance. It would only affect my job performance if I let it; I didn’t. I did let it affect my attitude and that is what this Nugget is all about.
In a sentence, how do you stay positive in such a negative world? As Gitomer points out throughout the book – you must think about a positive attitude and you must study YOUR positive attitude. PERIOD! He also said that people allow people to rain on their parade because they have no parade themselves!
If you want to have and maintain a positive attitude, my advice would be to first read Jeffrey Gitomer’s book, The Little Gold Book of YES!Attitude; you won’t regret it. Then ead it more than once. And especially read it when you are feeling low and/or unloved.
What is a positive attitude? “The simple definition”, according to Jeffrey Gitomer, “is the way you DEDICATE yourself to the way you think. Interestingly, it’s also the definition of a negative attitude!”