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Choose your 'tude

Everyone, no matter what their ultimate career goal, should be required to do one simple thing before they're allowed out into the world.

They should have to work at least a year in retail.

My first job, off the farm, was selling athletic shoes at a store in Manhattan, Kan. The hours were flexible, the pay was decent and the people were nice. The actual job itself, though, had its drawbacks.

Frankly, anyone who tells you retail is an easy career needs a CAT scan. It's hard work. Hours spent rushing around a store, on your feet behind a register, or stocking shelf after shelf full of goods, tend to wear a person down physically and mentally. Sure, there are bright spots to the work, but they're few and far between.

In the course of my stint in retail, I realized several things about myself. One, I never want to see, smell, or touch other people's feet again for the rest of my life. Two, I do not have the patience or the temperament to have a long-term career in customer service. And, three, if you let your attitude rule your life, you'll never get anywhere.

It's that last lesson that I think would do everyone a world of good to learn.

Now, I don't know where the original philosophy came from, but I once had a co-worker explain to me that the secret to her success was simple. Each morning she "chose her 'tude."

She could come to work and take out her frustrations and sleep-deprivation on others, causing a ripple effect of meanness and pettiness in everyone she came into contact with for the day. Or, she could "choose her 'tude" and make the conscious effort to be cheerful, pleasant and upbeat.

Let's see--a day spent being petty and sniping at everyone, or a day spent smiling and spreading good will? The choice is obvious, isn't it?

Her little adage has stuck with me, and, even though I no longer work in the retail sector, I wake up each morning and choose my attitude for the day.

Some days I have to work longer at it than others, and some days I fail miserably, but I still make the effort. Of course, I find it easier to choose my attitude if I bribe myself with coffee first. Hey, whatever works, folks.

We all have those mornings when we get out of bed and just let the self-pity take over: "I'm too tired to deal with the slipping transmission on that feedwagon this morning." "It's too cold/hot/wet/dry/nice/bad outside to do that equipment maintenance I had planned." "The bills keep piling up and the prices never cover the inputs and I don't know how we're going to survive another year."

Does any of this sound familiar?

But what happens when you let that attitude spill over into your life? You infect your spouse, your children, your employees and your customers with that same self-defeat. No one wins in a war of self-pity.

Just think how much easier your day would go if you chose your attitude. Would you get into an argument over coffee with your spouse, or would you spend your breakfast remembering why you married him in the first place? Would you spend time yelling at your children for their faults, or take the same minutes telling them that you love them just as they are? Would your employees respond better to a harsh taskmaster, or to someone who inspires them to be better people?

We all get the same 24 hours in a day, we just don't know how many days we have. So, why waste one precious second on self-defeating thoughts or gloom?

Tomorrow morning, when your alarm wakes you from slumber an hour before dawn, and you don't want to emerge from the warm cocoon of your down comforter, I challenge each of you to find a way to choose your attitude. Remind yourself of the blessings you have because you are a farmer or rancher. Find pleasure in the small things you encounter each day and remember one simple thing.

At least you aren't working in retail.

Jennifer M. Latzke can be reached by phone at 620-227-1807, or by e-mail at jlatzke@hpj.com.

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