Blog Article 

 11—Check Your Attitude 

Michael Santos

Michael Santos

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One leader wrote a great quote about attitude. I don’t remember the leader, but I remember the quote. The leader said nothing could help the man with a bad attitude. Similarly, nothing can stop a man who has the right attitude. The attitude we bring to any task will make all the difference in what we achieve.

I started serving my sentence at the dawn of the computer generation. Bill Gates, a co-founder of Microsoft, spoke about his vision. He said he wanted to build a society where every house and every business would have a personal computer. Since he had the right attitude, he could create plans, strategies, and tactics to make his dream a reality. Today I have more than six computers in my house, and the internet connects me to the world at all times.

Anticipating that I would serve multiple decades, I worried that not knowing about computers would put me at a disadvantage. Wanting to do everything possible to overcome this, I found a prison job requiring me to use a computer. The supervisor who gave me the job admired my attitude. When I laid out the adjustment plan guiding me, he said he would support me. After completing my assigned duties, he surreptitiously authorized me to use the computer to complete my schoolwork.

For three years, I used a computer every day. The computer had few applications. Most importantly, I could learn how to use a word processor and an electronic spreadsheet. Every day I set a goal of writing at least 1,000 words. Through that practice, I learned about computers and developed more confidence as a writer. I needed to practice writing and basic arithmetic to get the highest use of my access to the computer.

Without notice, my supervisor changed. The new supervisor did not support my computer use and transferred my work assignment. Although the supervisor had the title of “supervisor,” he told me he did not think people in prison should be going to college. He certainly did not want to support the effort.

Although nearly three decades have passed since that encounter, I remember the disappointment. When I lost access to that computer, I lost a massive part of my adjustment. I had learned how to write on a keyboard. Using a pen and a piece of paper did not feel natural. It was harder. I had to adjust.

To make that adjustment, I had to check my attitude. I couldn’t allow the disappointment to suffocate my hope. I had to create a new mindset. I remember forcing myself to write sentences and paragraphs. Before the computer, all authors wrote by hand. They had to learn.

Similarly, I would have to learn. It would work. Complaining about losing access would not empower me in any way. But if I could learn to feel comfortable writing by hand, I could develop a new skill to help me overcome the challenges I expected to face. Making that adjustment became a character-building exercise—another opportunity to show that neither external circumstances nor the decisions of others will define who or what I am.

That example from decades ago taught me a lesson. I could not control what others did, but I could always control how I would respond.

  • In what ways has your attitude influenced your response to a difficult situation?
  • Provide an example of how a good attitude helped you overcome a problem.
  • Provide an example of how you’ve seen a bad attitude aggravate a problematic situation.
  • Think of an objective way to gauge whether you have a positive attitude.
  • How would those who know you best describe your attitude about the predicament you’re in now?

Word of the day: surreptitious / Define surreptitious:

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