Do we have it wrong about attitude?
As I watched my hometown team win its first-ever World Series it struck me how all the players credited their “will to win” and that very little was said about actual skill. Team members lined up to talk about “heart” and “perseverance.” One ebullient player said about the other (losing) team: “They played a great series, we just wanted it more.”
Would the outcome have been reversed if the losing team spent more time in dream therapy or vision-casting? Should players favor meditation over batting practice? Rather than warming up a pitcher in the bullpen, should managers instead have them read inspirational poems before taking the mound?
Attitude is a valuable component in success, but we promote it to preeminence because we’ve been taught to downplay our abilities in deference to others. Society frowns on those who speak about their own abilities because doing so sounds braggadocios. If a player on the winning team says, “We won because we played better baseball” his words are translated into a criticism of his opponents.
Charles Swindoll is one of my favorite writers. He’s a great story-teller and teacher, and while conventional wisdom certainly supports his popular essay titled Attitude, he got it wrong when he wrote,
With deep respect for Chuck’s body of work, attitude alone will not give you the ability to play that “one string” you’ve been given.
Think about a reverse scenario. If someone really believes they can do something and they totally lack ability . . . we consider them deluded. So how is it that we can point to skill as being a mere 10% of the reason for success?
Truth is, victory doesn’t require a winning attitude, self-confidence or even perseverance. Consider an emotionless computer program that plays chess. Belief might help you retain a focus on your abilities, but the winning attitude must be backed up with actual skill or it’s only a pipe dream.
Please don’t hear something I’m not saying: I am not ignoring the importance of attitude, but rather questioning the common perception that it’s the most important factor. A perception it holds at the expense of ability, which I see as far more critical to actual success.
It’s time to start giving praise where it’s due. When you enjoy success, acknowledge the skill it took to achieve it. Have a healthy sense of pride in those things you’re good at. Don’t be arrogant about it, but don’t hide it under a bag or behind a wall.
- Which came first, the seed or the flower? Does a winning attitude precede superior ability, or does super ability foster the winning attitude?
- What factors are essential for success and which can add to success?
- Talk with your management team about recent successes and failures? To what degree were the results influenced by attitude and which by ability?
It may sound nice to downplay your skills, but the next time your team wins, be truthful and say, “I’m pleased with the way our team was able to combine their skills and put us over the top.“