Attitude: Another Day In Which to Excel, Sir!


Everything we do in life is about attitude. If you do something well, you likely have a positive attitude about both starting and finishing hard work that leads to that accomplishment. And the opposite holds true if you have a bad attitude about what you are doing. Staying positive with your attitude and your thoughts is something you have to actively pursue. Typically, such a mindset does not come naturally. Even the most self-motivated and disciplined achievers in life need some form of attitude adjustment from time to time. Sometimes this attitude adjustment can come from your friends and family, a self-realization that your life is not as bad as you think it is, or even a simple mantra you say to yourself throughout the day.

Here is a story about one of my favorite sayings that I continue to use to this day every morning as I get out of bed.

When I was Midshipman Fourth Class Smith back in 1987, one of the common phrases you would hear as you were asked, "What day is it?" was, "Sir, it is another day in which to excel, Sir." I always thought that was a pretty motivating phrase and still do. But as a Plebe at the United States Naval Academy, once you start to like something, someone will find a way to make your life a little harder. I was asked, "Smith - What does that phrase mean? Where does it come from?"

At that time as a first year student at USNA, they drive home five basic responses: (1) Yes Sir, (2) No Sir, (3) Aye Aye Sir (meaning you understand the command and will do as instructed), (4) The Correct Answer, (5) I'll Find Out Sir. As you can guess, I had to say, "I'll Find Out Sir." So I was self-tasked with finding out more about the phrase that I chanted every day. I knew that if my squad leader asked me again and I did not know the answer, I would have some form of extra duty to eat up whatever spare time I had.

These five responses ingrain in you a sense of accountability, teach you to take the initiative, and find out information when you do not know it. Way back then, you did your research at the library as there was no Google. Luckily, Nimitz Library has an extensive collection of books and, after a relatively short period of time, I found a book titled Another Day In Which to Excel, written by Colonel Paul Barber (USAF).

Another Day In Which to Excel is the life story of Col. Barber, growing from a young boy in the Depression in the Dust Bowl of Kansas to becoming an Air Force pilot and his continued service in the highest levels of government. His own motivation and his daily phrase, "Another Day in Which to Excel," he shared with countless soldiers and airmen as well as young ROTC students after the War. And he has continued to motivate generations of new military members with that phrase.

Back to Attitude

It is scientifically proven that having a positive attitude has a direct connection with both happiness and success. To stay positive when you are having a bad day is the test. How do you do that? Here are a few ideas:

1. It's All Relative.

Your bad day will likely not seem so bad when compared to someone in a war-torn country, battling cancer or serious illness, enduring the death of a loved one or major catastrophic event where you lose everything. Eventually, we will have our share of REALLY bad days -- that's life, but the little things that tend to beat us up really pale in comparison to REAL problems. Snap out of it and move on!

2. Be Positive

First thing in the morning, start your day saying to yourself or reading a poster on the wall you made about how you are going to CRUSH your day. Quick sayings like CRUSH EVERYTHING, Another easy day, let's do this, or a quick prayer all can help frame your day positively. Doing so can jumpstart your thinking in the right direction, even when you are tired and hungry.

3. Eat, Drink, and Breathe

We NEED to do these regardless, but be aware that sometimes your mood can be directly linked to you being hungry (grumpy), dehydrated (drained), and stressed (anxious). Get something to eat (good fruits, vegetables, proteins), drink water, and focus on deep inhales / exhales when feeling anxiety about a future event.

4. Set the Example

Be an example to others around you. Smile and make them smile too. Your positivity and negativity are contagious. You can either be a faucet or a drain on others around you. You can fill them up or suck the life out of them. Your attitude matters to others around you.

5. Find Ways to Excel

Even when you are pushed to your limits and have to do things that seemingly have no direction toward your goals, do them at your best. Take meaningless tasks and time them. Race your personal best or that of others in your group.

We had a story about two former students who were attending a Spec Ops selection program recently. They were tasked with bear crawling for over a quarter mile as a punishment for being screwed up. Due to much of their preparation, which included bear crawls (Devil's Mile), they were crushing the event to the point that the instructor said, "Who are you guys, Varsity Bear Crawl Team?" This was certainly funny, but more importantly, a positive acknowledgement from an instructor is a good thing especially during an event of "punishment," when most people's attitudes are not in the excelling mode.

It is understandable that being a positive person does not come naturally to everyone. In fact, I am sure you know many who are just the opposite and are great at being negative. AVOID THEM. If you cannot avoid them due to your current situation, you have to really focus on the positive and let any negativity roll off your back. Keep pushing forward and remember that every day starts a new day "in which to excel."

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