Attitude = MORE than Survival!

By Sheryl Nicholson, CSP


Sheryl Nicholson, CSP

Sheryl Nicholson, CSP

How many of you out there feel like survivors? Have you experienced and survived a divorce, job change or life-threatening illness?  I, too, am a survivor! And I used to be so proud of that word that I almost wore it as a “badge of courage” pinned on my chest. I had lived in a tent for 18 months with four children and physically built my own home—and I survived! I built that home for $28,000; and 2 years later it appraised at $98,000.  And I lost it in an ugly divorce, walking away with nothing but my greatest assets, my four children; and I survived!

I ended up having to work three jobs.  Got up in the morning and repaired bathtubs on construction sites (I’m a plumber’s daughter; sold real estate in the afternoon; got home to greet the kids from school, start dinner, and then I was off doing free talks at Rotary and Kiwanis meetings trying to build my speaking and training business.  I was getting headaches and feeling like I was pushing myself to get through the day.  Can you relate?

And like most of us, I took care of myself last. I self medicated by popping aspirins. When I was up to 14 aspirins a day, my body said, “Uh uh,” and I ended up in the hospital with a doctor telling me that I probably wouldn’t survive the gangrene in my intestines. I went through major surgery and I survived! Going through a life-death situation, I got thinking about it…. survivor, survivor… as my children were growing up and asking me about life, was I just going to be able to say I had survived it? All of a sudden that magical word meant nothing and I decided I wanted to get more out of life than just survival. And I wanted to share those skills with others. So let’s get started on our path out of a life of survival.

Do you hope to one day leave this world as a success? Why wait until we’re on our deathbed to ask ourselves that question? Today, I want you to know that success is within your grasp, and you can go home and know you are successful. But to do that you must first take the time to define success.

Everyone has his or her own customized definition. For example, if you asked my son Erik, when he was a teenager, he would say “you’re successful when you own a Porsche and live in a house on the beach.”  Some say, “If the Porsche and the house are paid for and you have two years salary in the bank, you’re successful.”  And my mother says “If your kids remember to call you on Mother’s Day, you’re successful.”

Several years ago success was define by “things”.  “He who dies with the most toys wins” was a popular bumper sticker. Then came the recession and recently the dot com crash and many have suffered making the mistake of tying success into a dollar amount or even fame.  Hollywood and Celebrity Sports give thousands of examples of misplaced definitions of success that lead to drugs and suicide. In my business I’ve met many people who drive expensive cars and live in gorgeous homes, and I wouldn’t call them successful at all. They throw money instead of time at their kids and are often out of balance.

I recently heard this definition and liked it so well I often use it. You might want to copy it and put it up somewhere: 

Success is loving what you do so much, you’d do it for free, but doing it so well, you get paid handsomely for it.

That definition works for Joe the gardener who whistles while he works.  It works for me when I’m offered other jobs that I can turn down quickly because I wouldn’t love the job.

The first step is to realize positive mental attitude as imperative to your  success.  Research has shown that there are actually three ingredients in personal and professional success.  Education, Interpersonal Skills and Attitude.  Which do you think is the most important ingredient?  You can know the answer to that question by thinking about someone you admire and consider successful.  Now think of five qualities, not possessions, they have.

Did you list honest or integrity?  How about pro-active and caring?  Now think back over your list.  Won’t the qualities you listed fall into the realm of attitude more than in the area of education or skill?  Attitude is the No. 1 ingredient to their success.  To bring that fact closer to home, can you name someone who is better educated than you are but making less money?  How about someone who is less educated than you are but making more money?  So knowledge is not the key to success, attitude is most important, coupled with strong interpersonal skills and a continuing education.


About Sheryl Nicholson, CSP:  CSP Sheryl Nicholson is an International Professional Speaker and Author.  She has been doing training since the 1980s and also has a private coaching business.  She is known as a People Productivity Expert focusing on skill development in sales, leadership, time management, goals, communication, and life balance.  As a private coach she focuses on Successful Presentation Strategies.