While driving through a parking lot recently I spotted a bumper sticker that read, "F--- my life." Actually, the bumper sticker was pasted on the tailgate of an SUV and the nasty verb was spelled out completely.
The repulsive phrase has become popular among unappreciative young people who believe they have the most unsatisfying life in the world.
Once I gave up on the question of why someone would put a bumper sticker like that on their vehicle I thought, "What a lousy attitude. That has to be one miserable character."
I thought about people I have known with bad attitudes and what it did to them. I cannot recall a single situation where someone with a lousy attitude ever benefited from it.
One of my advertising clients in Sioux City was a Gloomy Gus. He believed in one conspiracy theory after another and every one was horrible. One that I sadly recall is his belief that scientists had discovered a cure for cancer but the federal government would not allow it to be used because the country would quickly become over populated. I appreciated the man's business but was always glad to leave his office.
Another case was an employee who found fault with nearly everything and everybody. He once described someone as "sour as a sack of owl pee." I don't know how sour owl pee is, but this was definitely a case of the pot calling the kettle black. His attitude stunted his sales success which shortened his longevity as an employee.
Some years ago Charles Swindoll, a noted theologian and author, wrote a brief essay on attitude that should be mandatory reading for every American on an annual basis. Dr. Swindoll began, "The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life."
He continued, "Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company... a church... a home.
"The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past... we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude... I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.
"And so it is with you... we are in charge of our attitudes."
Over the years I have had the privilege of meeting and knowing hundreds - perhaps thousands - of people from all ages, races and walks of life, from diverse faith backgrounds and from all economic and social strata. I cannot recall one person with a crappy attitude that was happy, successful or pleasant to be around.
Several months ago I was invited to speak to a breakfast club. The individual who invited me advised that the membership was composed primarily of octogenarians. While there were a few younger men, most were well past retirement age. Enjoying breakfast at 7 a.m. on a cold winter day, these senior gentlemen had great fun teasing each other, telling jokes about the state of affairs in Washington, discussing current business issues and recalling winters much worse than this year's. I enjoyed my time with these obviously positive thinkers.
Most of the men, I learned, had been successful professionals and businessmen. I believe that their successes of yesterday and their relatively robust health and good spirits today are directly linked to a positive attitude throughout their lives. Negative thinkers seldom change course in their latter years.
Charles Swindoll is right: life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.
Every day may not be good, someone once said, but there's something good in every day.