Thursday, June 16, 2011

Positive Outlook

When I was in my early 30s, a senior manager at my workplace (one level up from my boss) called me into his office.  This was the first time we'd had a private meeting.  I'd been recommended to head up a rather challenging project at location in another city and he wanted to discuss it with me.

He introduced himself,  looked at at me speculatively across his desk, shook his head with a smile and said,  
"What is it about you?  Everyone seems to think that the sun shines out of your ass!  What do you do that makes them think that?

I laughed out loud at his "shines out of your ass" comment.  It was so unexpected!  I said,  "I don't know!   In my real life, I never brag about myself, but at that moment, I had to answer his question seriously:

  • I work well with everyone even if I don't particularly like them.  I can separate the personality clashes and the tittle-tattle which occur in a workplace with the task which needs to be done.
  • I said that I was pretty smart but more importantly had a lot of common sense and practical experience about how things work in our technological field.
  • I seek advice from others with expertise in the topic at every level. In particular, I always get input from the front line workers most affected by the decisions being made.  Most people in my position had egos which were too big to do this.
  • I never present my boss with just "a problem."   Rather, I always present the problem along with, "but here is what I think we can do to solve it."
  • The most important thing:   I am the most positive person that I know.  I think can make a valuable contribution in everything I do.
I was reminded of this several weeks ago when my spinal condition was at its worst and most painful.  I had lost the use of one arm (although I could move my fingers) and the numbness had spread  down to my feet.  I was actually starting accept the fact that I might end up in a wheelchair; it was as bad as that.

(As an aside, my marathon training which I previously posted about wasn't going particularly well due to some knee pain.)

I suddenly thought, "Hey!!  If I'm in a wheelchair, then I can starting competing in wheelchair marathons!   How cool is that! My knees won't bother me then!  And wow!!!  Just think of the great shoulder and arm muscles I will get!!   (My skinny bird-arms are my least favourite part of my body.)

I had second thought, "Am I insane?" .... here I am in excruciating pain and could end up being a cripple.

Here I am thinking how cool it would be to compete in a wheelchair; to have yet another life challenge to overcome.  What "normal" person would think that being in a wheelchair would be a positive outcome?

I did.  Somehow, I managed to turn this terrible prospect, even temporarily, into something positive. 

ps.  By the way, my recovery is going exceptionally well.  However, I've been referred to a neurosurgeon to discuss the underlying causes which still remain and possible courses of action.


  1. That positive outlook will continue to take you very far, so keep it up. What's amazing is that you had it with your physical issues. I am a very optimistic, positive person - at work, at home, etc., but not when I have an injury that keeps me from running like now. This post is such a great encouragement, thanks!

  2. Your outlook is half the battle! You have it won, my friend!

  3. Fantastic post. As someone who has pain in spine issues, I know what you speak of. I figured out awhile back that I will be in a wheel chair eventually. Mom did, I expect to. I just hope to delay as long as possible. I had never thought of doing a wheel chair marathon. But now, I think it might be something to try. Later. Now, I am concentrating on doing another "regular" half marathon. Don't care about the time (well a little) I just want to finish it.

  4. Paul: Runners can be the unhappiest of patients when their knee problem (or whatever) prevents them from running. Been there, done that!

    Wranger Man: I am trying very hard to keep a positive attitude about this spinal problem. I don't always succeed at this, but for the most part I can keep my thoughts positive.

    Just worrying about something is completely useless and self-defeating. Worry is only useful when you turn it into positive action, to deal with the problem at hand. Since I don't know much about spinal problems, right now, I'm not sure what this "positive action" might involve.

    Anonymous: Could you PLEASE e-mail me to share your spinal pain experience and the experience of your mother? I don't know anyone who has experienced this and I need to find out more! Thank you!! It would be very much appreciated.

  5. I think I'm going to have to check out the "sun shines out of your ass" bit for myself.

  6. Funny guy!! I don't know for sure if it's true since I can't look around to check. Maybe we could try using a pencil flashlight and lots of lube.

  7. Thanks for sharing. I consider myself a pretty positive person, for the most part, but I think you have me way beat. I have received more than one bonus at work for my positive attitude in the work enviornment, and it is always humbling, especially because I don't realize myself sometimes, how far a smile and positive attitude can go. Glad your recovery is coming along. A positive attitude is certainly one of the best ways to "self medicate." :)


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