Mark Terry

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A Few Thoughts On Attitude

November 17, 2011
Have you ever met someone who just seems to always look on the bright side of things? Do you just want to kill them and wipe that happy smirk off their face?

Sometimes I do. There are certainly some people - in my experience anyway - who go through life happy, happy, happy never acting as if a bad thing will ever happen.

Then there are others who seem well aware of the gamut of outcomes, but choose to go for the positive.

This was driven home a couple weeks ago and I've been thinking about it ever since. We went to the Sanchin-Ryu Fall Workshop a couple weeks ago, a three-hour karate workshop held in the metropolis of Leslie, Michigan. It was held in the town's middle school gym and there were probably a couple hundred people there. One of the things about Sanchin-Ryu that's a bit unusual is it starts to seem like family - you get to know a lot of people if you spend any time visiting other classes and going to workshops, and in a very unusual tradition, Sanchin-Ryu people are huggers. Yeah, a bunch of skilled martial artists greeting each other with hugs (which is good, because a short time later they may be kicking you in the crotch).

Anyway, before the workshop got going I was chatting with Sensei Chris, who was the sensei (teacher) whose class I came out of. Chris asked me to substitute for his class this week because he was having sinus surgery the weekend before and didn't know if he would be in shape to teach.

Because of my medical background and upbringing, I tend, like most people, to focus on the discomfort and risks of the surgery. Also, just a few days before, a woman my wife worked with went in for sinus surgery and, she was told, died on the table from a hemorrhage. (Actually, Leanne told me a few days later she got the real story, which was that the woman went in for a nose job, got home, started hemorrhaging and died. Either way, horrible story). I wisely didn't mention this to Chris, just told him I hoped everything went well.

As we were chatting, Chief Grand Master Robert Dearman came in and gave us both hugs. CGM is a 10th degree black belt and the creator of Sanchin-Ryu. Chris mentioned the surgery and CGM promptly said, "Well, you'll sure be able to breathe better after that."

Then we joked around a bit about what Chris would do with all the extra oxygen that would be going to his brain.

I've spent some time mulling the conversation over, because I really liked the approach and attitude CGM showed there. It was focused entirely on the positive outcome. I don't doubt he was aware of the discomfort involved, that surgery has risks, but what he focused on was the reason Chris was having the surgery and how much better things would be when it was done.

Which I think is a pretty good way to go through life, actually.

I know that I can't successfully be a freelance writer without having a positive attitude, without believing that good-paying work is just around the corner, that I can stay busy, that my clients will pay me in a timely fashion. I KNOW that there will be droughts, that some clients don't pay, that projects fall apart, that there's a current trend for really low-paying work with "content farms," that the book publishing industry is undergoing a huge change right now, that yes, THINGS GO WRONG.

But I stay positive. I tell myself there's good-paying work, that I'm uniquely qualified for much of it, that I'm quite good at what I do, I work hard, and I prepare myself to deal with the droughts by managing my money reasonably well, etc.

That's different than being all happy-happy-happy that everything will just be all kittens and unicorns and rainbows. You don't run a steeplechase without figuring out how you're going to get over the water hazard. You prepare.

And you keep a positive attitude.


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Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

I guess I tend to have what some people would describe as a negative attitude. Of course, a lot depends on a person's point of view. Some people, if you point out that there's a water hazard on the steeplechase, accuse you of being negative.

I don't like the sort of negativity that just makes people lie down and stop trying because it's no use.
My idea is prepare for the worst. My experience has been that very often -- too often -- I was glad I did so. Is trying to look out for all eventualities -- bad as well as good -- negative? I don't think so. But I realize, that people who exude optimism and seem to always expect the best and ignore the bad things that could happen are easier and more inspiring to be around.

What can I say? I guess I was just born an old misery guts.

As far as writing goes, and changes in publishing....I've pretty much decided that the less I think about the publishing industry the better. My job is to write. I can't control the publishing industry so why fret about it.

7:53 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

I've been described and often describe myself as a realist. That is to say: hope for the best but expect the worst.

I don't see any point at all to ignoring the obstacles in the path. But some people only seem to see the obstacles, and that can keep you from getting anything done. I had a friend (who died of a heart attack at the age of 47) who only saw the obstacles. He planned to buy a house, all he thought about was the maintenance and the upkeep. He hated his job, we encouraged him to go back to school (he was single) and all he could complain about was how much it would cost and when he got a degree he still wouldn't be able to get a job.

I didn't have a lot of patience for that.

But I've also worked with people who seemed sunny all the time. Shit could be raining down and it was like she didn't even notice.

8:26 AM  

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