I got the following story in an e-mail, several times this year. It has a nice message. The thing that interested me, though, was that I got it in several different forms.
Jerry is the hero in this version. It was Mike in another. Sometimes he got shot, and was allergic to bullets … other times he fell off a tower and was allergic to gravity. Sometimes it was a plain text mail, other times it was in a PowerPoint attachment.
Made to Stick: Clearly it is a "sticky" story that people like to re-shape and re-tell. So, with no further ado, here it is for you to read for yourself.
He was a unique manager because he had several waiters who had followed him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was there telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.
Seeing this style really made me curious, so one day I went up to Jerry and asked him, "I don't get it! You can't be a positive person all of the time. How do you do it?"
Jerry replied, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself, Jerry, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood.' I choose to be in a good mood.
Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. I choose to learn from it.
Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I choose the positive side of life."
"Yeah, right, it's not that easy," I protested.
"Yes it is," Jerry said. "Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to situations. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good or bad mood. The bottom line: It's your choice how you live life."
I reflected on what Jerry said. Soon thereafter, I left the restaurant industry to start my own business.
We lost touch, but I often thought about him when I made a choice about life instead of reacting to it.
Several years later, I heard that Jerry did something you are never supposed to do in a restaurant business: he left the back door open one morning and was held up at gunpoint by three armed robbers. While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness, slipped off the combination.
The robbers panicked and shot him.
Luckily, Jerry was found relatively quickly and rushed to the local trauma center.
After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body.
I saw Jerry about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied, "If I were any better, I'd be twins. Wanna see my scars?"
I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place.
"The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door," Jerry replied. "Then, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live, or I could choose to die. I chose to live."
"Weren't you scared? Did you lose consciousness?" I asked.
Jerry continued, "The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the emergency room and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read, 'He's a dead man.' I knew I needed to take action."
"What did you do?" I asked.
"Well, there was a big, burly nurse shouting questions at me," said Jerry. "She asked if I was allergic to anything. 'Yes,' I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, 'Bullets!' Over their laughter, I told them, 'I am choosing to live. Operate on me as if I am alive, not dead."
Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day we have the choice to live fully.
Attitude, after all, is everything.
Lots of articles stress that how we react to challenges can dramatically affect the outcome, influence our health and the quality and length of our lives.
A new branch of medicine – psychoneuroimmunology – studies the relationship between mental attitude and health. Physicians have found that a positive attitude can result in faster recovery from surgery and burns, more resistance to arthritis and cancer and improved immune function.
For example, Yale University researchers conducted a 23-year-long study which showed that those who had a positive attitude towards aging lived roughly seven and a half years longer than participants who were dreading reaching their twilight years.
In "The Survivor Personality," Al Siebert has some interesting insights into why some people are stronger and more skillful at handling life’s difficulties. Interestingly Dr. Siebert says that survivor qualities can be learned, but they can't be taught.
Are life's best survivors different from other people? No; they survive, cope, and thrive better because they are better at using the inborn abilities possessed by all humans.
Will it be easy to think positively and look for the good when things are going bad? Not always; yet cost-benefit analysis indicates that the rewards are well worth the effort. I have two choices: I could choose to focus on what makes me strong, or I could focus on what makes me weak. I choose to focus on what makes me strong. I hope you do too.