Keith Harrell’s book screams, Attitude is Everything: 10 Life-Changing Steps to Turning Attitude into Action. Jeff Keller not to be outdone goes a step further and shouts, Attitude is Everything: Change your Attitude, Change your Life. Two of the fathers of modern motivational literature, Napoleon Hill, and W. Clement Stone, had in 1960 written what many consider the definitive treatise on attitude when Success Through A Positive Mental Attitude was published. Though it didn’t have the word attitude in its title, Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People was on positive attitude and was first published in 1937.
The very first ever book on positive attitude was entitled Self Help and was written by Samuel Smiles, a Scottish doctor, in 1859, and sold 250,000 copies. Oliver Swett Marden latched onto Self Help and in 1891 published his Pushing to the Front, which according to him were notes of “inspiration and help to strugglers trying to be somebody and do something in the world”, which culminated in his lunching of SUCCESS Magazine in 1895. According to the editors of SUCCESS Magazine, in SUCCESS, Marden “sought to inspire and uplift, to teach and to hold up models of success as a beacon for others who aspire to be the same.” With SUCCESS Magazine, Marden launched the “success movement”, otherwise called the “self-help movement.”
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, which came out in 1937 literally set the success movement on fire and the movement has never looked back. At the time of Napoleon Hill’s death in 1970, it had sold over 20million copies. The towering figures in this movement, excluding the founder Marden, and not necessarily in any order, include the early fathers like Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill, W. Clement Stone, Earl Nightingale, Norman Vincent Peale, Denis Waitley, Wayne Dyer, and Og Mandino. Next are the later-day followers like Zig Ziglar, Harvey Mackay, Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, Les Brown, and Tony Robbins. With the advent of the internet, a new generation of success gurus led by Brendon Burchard has exploded in the scene with millions of followers. Donald Trump, the real estate mogul, is in a class of his own. His Think Big and Kick Ass In Business and in Life is one of the definitive bibles of the success movement.
The Self Help industry according to The Guardian, is a $11bn strong in the US alone, with books in this space such as Chicken Soup for the Soul series selling over a billion copies. The book The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne, published in 2006, and the follow up film starring Bob Proctor made waves the whole world and was translated into 46 languages. The book has sold more than 19 million copies worldwide. The book is based on one of the several tendencies in the self help industry called the law of attraction. According to this law, what you think about, you attract. If you think positive thoughts, you attract positive things. The reverse, according to the author, is also true. Viola, change your thinking, change your life. John C. Maxwell, Wayne Dyer, Daniel G. Amen, Brian Tracy, and Marilee Adams are some of the more well- known authors that have books on how thinking positive help change our lives.
So back to our question: does attitude really determine altitude? For the non cognoscenti, altitude refers to the level of your monetary success, the height of your achievement glory, the stupendousness of your wealth. A deep look at some of the most successful people on the planet, whether in politics, sports, academia, business, and entertainment, to mention a few, however, shows no causal relationship between attitude and success, however defined. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Muhammad Ali, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Jordan, Nelson Mandela, Steve Jobs, Williams Shakespeare, Bill Gates, Ben Carson, and Oprah Winfrey, Tony Elumelu, Aliko Dangote, and Richard Branson, to mention a few, are some of the most successful individuals on record. How did each and every one of these individuals achieve stupendous success? One word: through grit.
By success, I don’t just mean financial wealth, because Nelson Mandela, one of the most successful leaders that ever lived was not a multi millionaire. So the one and only ingredient that separates successful people from others is grit, by which I mean hard work, burning the mid night oil, iron determination, standing for something, sacrifice. Malcolm Gladwell tells us to succeed in any endeavor, you need 10,000 man hours of continued practice, that is, about 10 years in the trenches. Ten years of learning, ten years of focus, ten years of faith, ten years of passion, ten years of sacrifice are what you need to reach the proverbial tipping point.
Attitude is a state of mind, of always expecting the best no matter what the world throws on your path. But attitude (the software) without hard work (the hard ware) will not put bread on your table, even if you are a comedian. As a comedian, you have to continually come up with fresh rib crackers otherwise you will become stale, and that calls for extreme hard work. John H. Johnson of the Ebony Magazine empire fame said “there is no defense against excellence”, and the boxing maverick, Don King, once said, “if you set yourself on fire, the world will come and watch you burn.” Don King was talking about passion, zeal, determination, to go out and make something out of yourself, not waiting for a dole out, social security or manna from heaven. Are you ready for success? Then wake up, put on your running shoes, fold your shirt sleeves, put your hand to the plough and never look back and the gods of success will smile on you. Only hard work will see you to the Promised Land because the maker of all the universe Himself decreed that he who does not work does not eat. You need great attitude. But attitude alone, my friend, is not enough. You need a ton of grit to stand on.