The Right Attitude 

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Sequence 31

20-Developing the Right Attitude

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.

—Thomas Jefferson

What does it mean to have the right mental attitude?

After a federal judge sentenced me to 45 years, I had to meditate on that question. Since I didn’t know what it meant to have “the right mental attitude” to overcome challenging circumstances, I turned to masterminds for guidance. The right mental attitude differs, depending upon how the person defines success. 

Course participants may want to consider the following questions to gauge whether they have an attitude that aligns with their commitment to success: 

  • In what ways does your attitude reflect a commitment to preparing for success?
  • How would you articulate the ways that your activities over the past five days advance your potential for success?
  • What further steps can you start taking today to prepare for the success you want to build in the future?

The earlier lesson on values prompted participants to think about how they would define success at every given stage in life. The lesson on goals encouraged participants to work toward success with a series of small, incremental steps. The small, specific goals we achieve prove our level of commitment to success, as we define it. 

Remember that success comes in tiny steps, not all at once. Sometimes we’re in difficult situations. Sometimes others attempt to pressure or influence us. They try to tell us what we can or cannot become. 

We determine whether we want to listen. 

Our values and goals should continually advance us along the pathway to success.


We can always take incremental steps to grow. First, we define success with our values. Then, we plant the seeds with our specific goals. If we plant seeds for success, we also must nurture those seeds with fertilizer. In time, as seasons pass, those seeds grow through the fertilizer. By nurturing the seeds appropriately, they will produce crops of abundance. We can feed off those crops for a lifetime.

I see three critical points in the paragraph above.

  • We must plant the right seeds.
  • We must nurture seeds over time.
  • The seeds must grow through fertilizer.

What does that lesson tell us? It means we cannot merely “plant seeds” and expect to get everything we want. We’ve got to work the seeds, nourishing the soil with fertilizer to get the outcome we want. We know that one of the most effective types of fertilizer comes from animals—a polite way of saying a profane word that I pledged not to use in this course. We’ve got to grow through the fertilizer (“livestock manure”) to build the future we want!

Start sowing your seeds for success regardless of where you may be today. Prepare yourself to nurture those seeds, growing through difficulties and struggles along the way.

Straight-A Guide:

In this lesson, we use our values and goals to move into the “Straight-A Guide.” Before elaborating on the “Straight-A Guide,” let me tell you how and why I created this tool. 

I had about 20 or 22 years of prison behind me. I didn’t know when authorities would let me out. There were some complications because federal sentencing laws had changed from when I committed my crimes. My release could come after I served 23 years, 24 years, 25 years, or 26 years. 

Regardless of when I got out, I knew that I wanted to advocate for reforms. That would not be easy. I anticipated myriad complications. For example, from what others had told me, I understood that a probation officer would place restrictions on me. The officer would require me to have a job, or dependable income stream. 

Further, when I finished my sentence, I’d be close to 50 years old—and I’d need to sow seeds for retirement. Although I aspired to teach others the strategies that masterminds taught me, I would have to anticipate complications and put myself in a position to overcome those complications. 

Good strategies help all people who choose to live a values-based, goal-oriented life. They help people who want to succeed. We simply must apply values-based strategies to every area of our life. We can use the strategies to achieve success with fitness, relationships, finances, careers, and community involvement.

I knew that I hated every aspect of being in prison, and I hated that our country incarcerated more people per capita than any nation on earth. To overcome, I wanted to earn a living by creating products that would empower others. But that would require me to sow a lot of seeds. I would need to grow through a lot of “fertilizer.” 

Although I didn’t quite know how I would start, I had many examples. Leaders such as Frederick Douglass, Nelson Mandela, Viktor Frankl, and Malcolm X used those personal stories to help others see the need for reform. If I could write in ways to document the pathway to change, I hoped to become more influential in being the change that I wanted to see.

During a visit with one of my mentors, I got inspired to begin writing this course. 

My mentor asked how I intended to earn a living after I got out. In response, I told him about a book I had read by Suzie Welch, a management guru. She used to work as a journalist and editor for a business magazine. After she married Jack Welch, the legendary CEO and chairman of General Electric, she launched a new career with him. Together, they advised business leaders. Suzie Welch wrote a book called Ten-Ten-Ten, I told my mentor. 

Using that simple concept, Suzy Welch advised leaders to think about how each of their decisions would influence life in the next ten minutes, the next ten months, and the next ten years. If a businessperson used that strategy, the person would make better, more deliberate decisions.

After my mentor listened to the story, he told me that I would need to develop a memorable teaching resource of my own. I wouldn’t be able to build a career teaching someone else’s story. He was right. 

I told him I would use the story of my journey and other people’s stories. By sharing those stories, I could show how all people that overcome struggles make small steps. When directed and deliberate, those small steps can take a person from struggle to success. 

My mentor gave me some good advice. Besides stories, he said, I needed a simple tool that people could remember, like Ten-Ten-Ten. 

After listening to his advice, I came up with the Straight-A Guide. The course’s moniker would be easy to remember. As described earlier, we must identify our values and goals to start on the Straight-A Guide. Then, each subsequent lesson begins with the letter “A.”

All masterminds start with the right attitude:

  • Their attitudes align with how they define success. 
  • They follow a simple path to overcome challenges, clearly defining success.
  • They set clear goals that align with how they define success.

With values and goals established, we move on to Attitude—the first “A” in our Straight-A Guide.

Masterminds like Nelson Mandela, Viktor Frankl, and Martin Luther King show the power that comes with the right attitude. Nelson Mandela’s powerful and inspiring attitude carried him through 27 years of imprisonment. 

Viktor Frankl had the right attitude to make it through the challenges of a Nazi concentration camp. 

Martin Luther King had the right attitude to work toward restoring civil rights for all people. 

Each of those masterminds defined the right attitude with a 100% commitment to success. With the right attitude, they overcome monumental struggles. 

It isn’t only world leaders that move through challenges with the right attitude. Business leaders like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Jack Welch prove that we can create value from ideas with the right attitude. Steve Jobs built Apple, one of the most innovative companies in history. Bill Gates had the right attitude when he led his partners to start Microsoft and change the world with computer software. Jack Welch built General Electric with a commitment to grow companies that would lead their industries.

By sticking with the same lessons that drive masterminds, we all can succeed on a personal level. Those leaders start with the right attitude, and we should do the same. Masterminds teach that success depends upon what we profess to hold essential. 


When it comes to the individuals I named above, how would you define their values? 

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