I had a tough week the week before Mother’s Day. I spent over 10 hours on the phone with customer service and technical
support reps resolving office equipment and software issues. One of these issues took five full days to fix.

I was feeling down and bad for myself. Then I remembered two articles I read in the Denver Post that week. The first was about Ethan Johnston, who was kidnapped in Ethiopia when he was five or six and intentionally blinded to be used as a beggar. The second was about Molly Bloom, who lost one of her legs in a tragic accident on prom night five years ago here in Denver.

On Sunday, May 2, Ethan, who now lives in Denver and is a college student, participated in a 5K race that is the kickoff for the running season here. He and his guide finished in 24:37. Molly is also a college student who is about to graduate. She is a member of the Rolling Nuggets, a women’s wheelchair basketball team that won the national championship in their class.

Ethan’s and Molly’s stories got me thinking about two things. First, stuff—especially technical problems—happens. I choose to be an entrepreneur. That means I also choose to solve my own problems without the help of a corporate help desk. Second—and more important—I got to thinking about the career advice in Tweet 39 in my book Success Tweets. “While other people and events have an impact on your life, they don’t shape it. You get to choose how you react to people and events.”

Some very bad people had a tremendous negative effect on Ethan’s life—and on many others in his home country. He says that there are about 1.5 million people in Ethiopia who
suffered the same fate. He begged on the streets for two and a half years before he was rescued and adopted by a family that brought him to the USA.

In Molly’s case, a limo driver got careless and drove away as she was half in and half out of the vehicle. The daughter of one of Cathy and my friends was in that limo that night. She said it was a horrible experience. She was sure Molly was going to die right there. Molly is tough though. She survived and has thrived.

As I’ve said, I read Ethan’s and Molly’s stories the same week that I had my technical problems—trivial in comparison. To paraphrase one of Humphrey Bogart’s lines in one of my all time favorite films, Casablanca, my technical problems didn’t “amount to a hill of beans” compared to what Ethan and Molly have endured. I lost some time that week, but so what? I made it up over the weekend, on the plane the next Monday, and at night in my hotel room the next week.

The common-sense point here is simple. Your attitude is the difference maker. A positive attitude leads to positive results in your career success and the success of your brand. A negative attitude leads to negative results. The good thing is that you get to choose your attitude. Remember Ethan’s and Molly’s stories the next time you want to blame people and events for the small problems that come up every day.

Follow the advice Success Tweet 39. Use your free will to create your life and career success. Choose a positive attitude. Choose to respond positively to the negative people and events in your life. Remember what Viktor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, says in his Man’s Search for Meaning, a book designated by the US Library of Congress as one of the 10 most influential in the United States: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and freedom.” Empower yourself to make the right choices, the positive choices, when you encounter negative people and events.

  • Bud Bilanich

    Bud Bilanich, The Common Sense Guy, is a success coach, motivational speaker, author and blogger. He is a faculty member at the Daniels College of Business at the University of Denver where he teaches courses in Organizational Dynamics and Human Capital Management. Bud has written five books on career and life success, which are the basis of his Common Sense Success System.


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