Norman Vincent Peale wrote several self-help genre books that were popular and well read by the American population and a few other countries. His thesis was that by focusing on positive thought one could overcome adversity. Today that is called having the “right attitude” in life. Not a day goes by that somewhere in these United States some coach or sports writer or player talks about the importance of have a good or the right attitude. Usually this means the ability to think positively about the team goals and less about those of the individual players. Even in those sports where the competition is individual having a good attitude is seen as paramount. Those athletes who practice regularly and without complaint are seen to have a good work ethic towards the sport. Those whose practice is seem as lackadaisical are seen to have poor work ethics. One may have great natural ability but a poor attitude or laziness gathers little respect.
Of course this concept extends to all walks of life. One of Einstein’s professors accused him of being a lazy dog when it came to mathematics. Albert made up for that former time by putting in the hours of thinking that enabled him to propose the theories of relativity. These examples extend to music, science, education, and all manner of human endeavor. The moral is that if you want to attempt to be the best then your attitude needs to express that desire. And one of the ways to deal with those individuals who need some guidance in their lives is that they need to try and make those changes necessary to become happy, successful, and so forth. You see, in order to find that level of being one really needs to have the kind of attitude that facilitates the achievement of the desired goal. I must think I can be successful or loved or a great lawyer. To be a great or even a good tennis player one must visualize playing well. Call it making a dream a reality, for that is what we want to achieve, that goal in reality.
But what does all this mean to the average individual? As children we all have dreamed of growing up and being somebody. Maybe it is a firefighter or a nurse. Or we may want to be a professional athlete or a film star. We could even see ourselves living an ordinary life, that is, having a decent job, a marriage partner and children, all living in that nice neighborhood. Our dreams don’t need to be great, just achievable. But the onus is upon ourselves, that is, it ie we, each and every one of us, that make such dreams happen. But when we blame our lack of fortune on others then we commit a great sin. Maybe our family wasn’t as supportive as we believe it should have been. Or maybe that teacher was mean to us or the coach didn’t like us. Blaming others for our deficiencies and inabilities will never get us what we feel is our due. Did you dad not take the time to play catch and help you develop into a great baseball picture? Did you get a tennis ball and find a building wall to throw against? Was it inconvenient to walk a few miles to do just that? Life is not perfect and few individuals ever get handed the best opportunities. Athletes, corporate CEOs, Doctors and lawyers, scientists of every stripe all had to make the effort to put in the time and the effort to become what they achieved. And it wasn’t just mindless practice but practice with goals and purpose.
I have lived in various cities of different states in my time on this earth. One of the most distressing behaviors I have witnessed is the poor or bad attitude of blacks. I keep reading and hearing that all their problems are the fault of the white community and its racist attitudes towards the black population. I can see the point but only to a small extent. Racism does not explain all the problems and the lack of opportunities for blacks. I have seen racism and its effects and I have observed that few white individuals believe or practice racism. Yes, I know, there are surveys that show that most white people do not mix well with people of color. Poppycock! Most of us do not live in areas where there is a significant black population mixed in our neighborhoods. And if went cruising in the black neighborhoods looking for friends we would be taken for drug buyers and users. I have been fortunate to work with black coworkers and had the chance to sit and talk. It took time to gain their trust and not only open up to them but for them to open up to me. You see, it is a two way street. It takes good attitudes on both sides to make possible any understanding among those of differing backgrounds.
Yes, attitude is everything as Dr Peale pointed out. On the one hand his solution was a religious belief in God and the pursuit of that religious belief. He is correct that these things do take belief but not particularly a belief in god. It takes a positive belief in the world, a willingness to see the good in others and accept individuals for whom they are. It is not a matter that I “owe” something to someone. It is a matter of showing the respect due any individual who lives upon this earth. It is a matter of being willing to respect individuals without reservation. And it is a matter that we take ownership of the means for our success. This is what so many race baiters and political activists have missed, and perhaps they do it on purpose, for one that makes a living harping of the supposed wrongs of other groups can hardly be expected to give up the monetary return in the expenditure of their profession.