Attitude’s Role in Your Success

Pepper de Callier

As a magnet is to iron filings, so is attitude to success.

It’s quite simple actually. The world is full of “content” experts—people who know a lot about any given subject. There is no shortage of smart people today. If being smart was the key to success, the world of business would be awash in successful people, but it isn’t. The real shortage is an attitude shortage--people with the “right” attitude to be specific. (I’ll define that in a moment.)

For many years I have seen the phenomenon of attitude work its magic in positioning people for success. People, in general, understand that attitude plays a role in success somehow. But, what most people don’t realize is that the right attitude actually attracts opportunities to the person who has it. The reason for that is successful leaders and investors know a little secret about attitude: someone’s attitude is the single most powerful predictor of success—period—and the people with the right attitude are the ones who successful leaders want on their teams.

It is a simple word, attitude, but to me it is a very complex concept in that there are a wide variety of attitudes that a successful person must draw upon at any given time in her or his life, for example: Resilience— an ability to overcome setbacks; Openness—a willingness to take in information without prejudice of forethought; Empathy—caring about others, listening to them, learning about them, and helping them achieve their goals, and, Winning — living each day with the finish line in mind and seeing yourself cross it hands-in-the-air with people on the sidelines cheering you on. In a recent interview in Fast Company, a famous Hollywood casting director, Mark Bennett, explained how attitude was even a key differentiator when actors are selected for a movie production. “The actors I've seen succeed are the people who come with enthusiasm and confidence and are always prepared to have a positive experience.” (This sentence is worth re-reading.)

As you can see, the concept of attitude becomes many-faceted. Some might observe that what I have listed above are really personality traits, not attitude. Perhaps, but I would say that attitude is the foundation of all these traits. Without attitude there is no direction—good or bad. We could continue to add many more elements to the list above, but the real key is to have the “right” attitude.

What is the “right” attitude? The answer to that question is somewhat elusive, to be sure. However, from experience, I can tell you this--it’s a mix of confidence, common-sense, humility, optimism, resilience, a desire to succeed, and it permeates your entire being. This is more than just putting on a “game face” and accepting a challenge with a smile. This is real, it’s palpable, and many CEOs I’ve dealt with over the years feel that the “right” attitude outweighs functional skill any day of the week. Why? Because they know that someone with the “right” attitude will see solutions—not problems—and will approach projects with a certain eagerness, enthusiasm and can-do attitude. He or she will find out the things they need to know in order to succeed in whatever task they are given. In other words, they can be relied upon to be an example to others and to get the job done right.

Can the right attitude be learned or acquired? I put that question to a friend of mine, Prague-based psychiatrist, Michaela Novotna. With a quick nod of her head in the affirmative, she said, “Absolutely.” She was also quick to add that it’s not easy, though. “You have to define the specific change in attitude you want to make—specificity is important—without it you have no direction and no way to know if you’re making progress toward your goal.” The environment you create for yourself is important, too, according to Dr. Novotna. Seek out those who have the trait that you’re working on, and model the positive aspects of that trait—practice makes perfect. It’s like learning a new language—repetition is important—it doesn’t come to you overnight. It takes long-term commitment and the desire to make the change. “Without feeling a sense of urgency, or need to change, it will never happen. But, if you’re persistent and determined it can happen and, when it does, it can change your life in a number of very positive ways.”

People with the right attitude are people to watch; they always find a way to win. Good luck on your way up!