I was trembling so ferociously that I could hardly hold my trumpet to my lips. My band director had introduced me as the “star of the band” as I walked up to perform my solo, “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.” Somehow I made it through the 2 minutes and 24 second song that seemed to last two hours. As I was walking back to my seat, my band director said something that I didn’t quite understand. He said “nose up, girl!”
Little did I know that that phrase and that moment would be a turning point in my life.
My band director, Mr. Nes, was a pilot. A few days later when he came into my private lesson, I asked him why he had said “nose up, girl“ when I finished my solo. He went to the board where my private lesson teacher had drawn a score of music we were working on. He drew a picture of an instrument panel on a small plane. He showed me how that a very small adjustment to the “nose up” button could cause a plane to ascend thousands of feet in a very short period of time. I was fascinated, but still unclear why he had said it to me. But after he had dusted the chalk off of his hands, and was headed to the door, he said over his shoulder, “You have great places to go and great things to do if you will only get your ‘nose up’.“
It was the most powerful lesson on “attitude“ that I had ever had. Since that time, I have often heard it said that attitude determines altitude … and I believe that completely!
In my Power of Purpose workshops, I always read aloud Chuck Swindoll‘s amazing quote about attitude. After years of reading it, I had it memorized. And it’s amazing how many times a week I have the opportunity to share his powerful message on attitude:
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church….a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude…I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you…we are in charge of our attitudes.
Think about that. It is more important than our failures, our gifts, our skills. It will make or break our lives !And we are in charge of it? Totally in charge? If we truly embrace this, it makes a world of difference in our altitude.
There are so many things that we cannot control. We cannot control the weather, the stock market, or many other things. But perhaps understanding that we cannot, and should not, control other people is actually a gift.
I remember when I was working on giving up control of other people and their actions, My mentor, Pia Mellody, said something so powerful. She said, “Neecie, when you understand and embrace that other people have the right to be in the world exactly as they choose to be, you will focus differently. Rather than focusing on how you can change them, be like mother Theresa, and be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Then she said, the difference between people who peck around in the chicken yard, and the eagles who soar with great might, is this … the Eagles do not carry the responsibility of other people chained around their neck. They are weightless and free to soar.
I thought about that for quite some time, and realized that what she was basically saying is my attitude about others needed to change from one of control, to one of influence. I can tell you that I felt like I lost about 1000 pounds overnight, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I had wings to fly! I changed my attitude, and the soaring began!
It gave me the freedom to pursue my life‘s purpose, which has to do with healing hearts.
But my change in attitude affecting my change in altitude did not end there. It affected every area of my life. It changed my lifestyle (what I ate, how I worked out). It changed my finances (my giving increased and my income increased significantly). It changed my relationships (with my family, with my friends, with significant others). It changed my relationship with God (my faith increased, joy and peace became constant companions).
But does a change of attitude and altitude make as exempt from challenges? Oh, I only wish that were true! But I can tell you this for certain… It does equip us to deal with challenges in much more effective and healthy ways!
You may be thinking, “Well I could certainly benefit from a change in both attitude and altitude, but how on earth do you do that?”
Here are some of the crucial steps that had impact on my change in attitude, which profoundly affected my change in altitude:
1. Nose up. My conversation with my band director did not end that day in my private lesson. It continued all the way through my graduation from high school. He coached us all to look up. He would bang his little director’s wand on his podium in the middle of a song to tell us all to look up. We had memorized the music that took us to a national championship. But our habit was to keep our focus on the sheet music in front of us. He explained that keeping our nose up kept us all in unison in harmony, and indeed it did. Since then I have learned that keeping my eyes and my nose up help me connect to others and to the world in a whole different way. Begin to practice that. Keep your nose up.
2. Practice gratitude. An attitude of gratitude is probably one of the most profound ways to influence your altitude. Gratitude is a theme throughout my blogs. Why? Because it is a priceless tool that we often ignore. If you missed my blog regarding the benefits of gratitude, I would highly recommend you read it. (You can do so by clicking here.) I encourage everyone I can to begin writing in a gratitude journal and make at least three entries every evening. It’s a practice I have done for many years. And it sets your reticular activating system to look for things to be grateful for throughout each day. (To read more about setting your reticular activating system to work for you daily, click here).
3. Listen to something inspirational every morning. I began istening to something inspirational first thing in the morning years ago. Since I realized I had to the right and responsibility to choose my attitude each morning, it helped me set a whole new standard. YouTube is full of inspiring things to watch. Each morning while I’m putting on my make up and getting dressed, I choose from my favorite speakers and listen in order to set my day with a great attitude, so I can soar!
4. Move. Yes. M – O – V -E! Don’t turn this into “exercise.“ I know so many people are resistant to that. But move! Although I do exercise daily, I choose to set my attitude each morning by dancing. I dance, I fly around the room, I jump up and down. Research shows that increasing our heart rate increases our positivity. And increasing positivity improves our attitude. And improving our attitude excels our altitude.
5. Think and expect the best. This was a difficult one for me. Mostly because I was so busy throughout the day that I could not remember to think or expect the best. I started the habit of every hour, on the hour, thinking the best of whatever was happening at that moment. When I began this, I was in graduate school. Sometimes, on the hour, I would be sitting in a class with a professor that was not my favorite. I would think the best by imagining that they were going to teach something over the next hour that would impact me personally in a positive way, and impact my ability to help others. it was amazing how many of the greatest gems I learned in graduate school came from that “on the hour“ decision to “think and expect the best.“ Now it is very natural for me to think the best.
Dr. Larry Nesvadba, my band instructor from sixth grade through graduation, had a major impact on my life. He told me shortly before I graduated that I was going to do great things. I laughed when he said it … because it was not something I could envision at the time. But I’ll never forget the look on his face as he spoke the last words I remember him saying to me, “Girl… You get out there and defy the odds!”
Although I know longer play my Doc Severinsen trumpet, I keep it where I see it almost daily. And with every accomplishment, I often looked up heaven (nose up) and thank Mr. Nes for the powerful impact he had on my life.
I believe that every person, regardless of your age, your educational background, your cultural background, are your socioeconomic status has purpose and great things to do. That may simply mean that you are the greatest dad possible, or that you are the employee that goes into your office daily and affects others positively. Or it could mean that you will buy a pig farm and create a refuge for thousands of children, teenagers, and adults to find healing!
Whatever your purpose is, whatever great things you are supposed to do, it all starts with a great attitude. That great attitude will dramatically affect your altitude. And as you sore, your greatness and your purpose will be fulfilled!