September 6, 2006
News & Opinion: Which Has Greater Growth Potential: Attitude or Talent? by John Maxwell
When I first started training people, I thought everyone could learn to do anything they set their mind to. Ive taught leadership and personal development for more than thirty years, and I now recognize that my thinking was nave. When it comes to skills, people can grow only so much. If you were to use a scale of 1 to 10 to measure talent, most people are capable of growing only two points. In other words, if a persons natural ability in the area is a 6, then if he works hard at it, he can become an eight. Occasionally, a highly focused, motivated, and talented person can grow by three points, but that is not the norm.
Attitude is different. Ive met people whose attitude I would estimate to be a 1. Havent you? They are the kind of people you try to hide from when you spot them on the next aisle of the grocery store. Theyre always down, and they try to take everybody else down with them. But heres the great thing about attitude: People can go from a 1 to a 10. Attitude growth doesnt have the same restrictions that talent does.
People tend to misunderstand attitude. Ive heard certain motivational speakers say that attitude is everything. But we know that isnt true. Talent matters. If attitude were everything, then I could be a surgeon or professional singer just because I believed in myself. Itll never happen.
On the other hand, some people dismiss attitude as inconsequential. But studies show that people with a positive attitude achieve more than those with a negative attitude. In addition, people with good attitudes attract other people and they enjoy life more.
Thats why I call attitude the difference maker. I believe it so much that I wrote a book with that title. Whatever God-given talent you have can be taken farther with a great attitude.
Many people believe theyre stuck with the attitude they have today, but thats not true. Anyone can change their attitude. The process begins with understanding what your attitude is, and how it works. In The Difference Maker, I reveal those things and describe what a great attitude can do for a person. And I explain how people can change their attitudes. The process begins with wanting to change. It continues with identifying problem feelings and thoughts and then changing habits. Anyone can make their attitude their greatest asset.
Ive worked closely with people my entire career. Ive discovered that there are specific things that get people down. I call them the Big Five Attitude Obstacles: discouragement, change, problems, fear, and failure. I also spend time in the book explaining how to deal with them.
A good attitude is a lot like success. A person must go through a process to have it, and the hardest part is that you have to keep working at it. Having a good attitude is one of the key decisions I made early in life, and I wake up every morning determined to make my attitude all it can be. Why? So that it can make a difference in my life. I wrote The Difference Maker so that I could share those same strategies with others.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.