positive attitude

Five Important Life Lessons I Learned from My First Job

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I had just turned sixteen when I accepted a job as a server at Coco’s Famous Hamburgers restaurant. The now defunct restaurant chain had a loyal following of customers who wanted not just delicious food, but also outstanding service. Unfortunately, I was a tremendously shy teenager, not necessarily a good attribute for someone who had to greet hundreds of hungry strangers as part of her job duties.

Needless to say, my foray into waitressing was rough. Once my arms and hands were shaking so bad from nerves that I inadvertently dropped four plates of famous hamburgers right into the laps of four ravenous guests. Once I slipped on a puddle of water and fell, with a large sundae in each hand, straight onto the hard floor in front of a waiting line of customers. Fortunately I was desperate enough for money so I could put gas into my 1973 Chevrolet Bel-Air that I persevered through my first few weeks, all while managing to avoid being fired.

Throughout the next three years, I learned many valuable lessons that I carried forward into my career and life. Decades later, I still benefit from the below lessons that taught me much more about myself and life in general than I ever imagined:

  1. Practice makes perfect. At first, I admit I wasn’t a great server. In fact, I was pretty darn bad. I made mistakes, dropped plates, and delivered food to the wrong table. Yet through it all, there was one thing I knew for sure: I could do that job if I just focused on being better, one day at a time. So I did and then one day, everything just clicked. I delivered piping hot food to the right tables, cranked out delicious malts from the malt machine, and kept my footing even on the wettest of floors

  2. Never give up. There were times, especially in the beginning, when giving up was an attractive option. Being a server is one of the hardest, least appreciated professions. Still, I persevered through the bad days, all while keeping my focus on the good days. I learned new ways of doing things, kept looking forward, and developed great friendships with my co-workers. There was one thing I knew for sure: Quitting wasn’t an option because I was transforming my weaknesses into strengths every day.

  3. Failure is part of success. I’ll never forget the night that a foursome came into the restaurant. They had a plane to catch and were in a hurry. They all ordered fried chicken, a dish that took 40 minutes to cook. I notified them of the wait. What I didn’t realize is that I had inadvertently left the ticket in my pocket and hadn’t submitted it to the cook. An hour later, the customers were livid, late for their plane, and I was in trouble. From that point forward, I always double-checked my pocket to ensure I hadn’t forgotten to submit an order. As I navigated through that failure and many later failures, there was one thing I knew for sure: We all make mistakes. What is important is to learn from them.

  4. There are more good people than bad in the world. Being a teenager comes with lots of insecurities. Although I waited on a few customers who were angry and rude, I waited on many more who were kind and thoughtful. One morning, I waited on two guests who were quiet yet respectful. I didn’t think I did anything extraordinary. Yet when the guests finished their meal, they left me—a pretty dorky teenager at the time—a generous tip along with a handwritten note that said, “They say that the eyes are the window to the soul. If that is true, then you must have a beautiful soul.” That note touched me so much that I still have it today. From that moment on, there was one thing I knew for sure: It only takes a minute to positively impact someone’s life with kind words or a thoughtful gesture.

  5. A smile goes a long way. A smile is a powerful tool. As a server, I held that power every time I put on my uniform and showed up for work. We all have bad days where we want to throw in the towel and live on a deserted island. Still, it doesn’t seem fair to transfer that momentary unhappiness onto a random stranger, does it? Throughout all the hundreds of days that I greeted and helped strangers fill their empty stomachs, there was one thing I knew for sure: Smiling provided happiness not just for me, but for everyone who crossed my path.

In reflecting on our first jobs and every job we have held since then, it can be enlightening to think about what important lessons we learned from each experience. In our lifetimes, some professional roles will be challenging, others will be easy, and some may prompt us to question every decision we have ever made. But if we focus on taking the positive lessons with us—the kind that help us grow professionally and personally—then it allows us to move forward and become better employees, managers, or entrepreneurs in the future.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach based in Omaha, Nebraska, who specializes in helping her clients both locally and nationwide to move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.

 

How to Avoid Catching Negativity

A cold is contagious. The flu is contagious. But the one thing that is more contagious than anything is negativity. Thankfully, all of us have a choice every day whether to be a carrier of the kind of attitude that spreads faster than anything else in life.

Think about what happens when you encounter someone in the hallway at work. You smile and innocently ask, “How’s your day going?”

When their response is something like, “Oh, it could be better,” or “God awful,” or “I’ll be glad when it’s over!”, our natural instinct is to sympathize and then ask, “Why, what happened?” Before we know it, suddenly our need to relate prompts us to nod our heads in agreement and subsequently grumble about things that we may have brushed off as insignificant only moments earlier. And so the cycle begins.

Now as we part ways with that person, we have sadly become a carrier of the same infectious pessimistic attitude. Even worse yet, our smile may have disappeared, our heart rate may have increased, and we may not have the same spring in our step. Luckily, all hope for staying positive, even when those around you aren’t, is not lost. By following these five simple steps, it is possible to be sympathetic to someone who is suffering while still managing to avoid catching a negative attitude:

Believe that you have control over everything, including your mindset. No one forces you to take on a negative view of anything in life. We are all on this earth to love and learn. When looking at each experience in life as a lesson, it becomes possible to transform negativity into positive energy. Silently repeat to yourself throughout every day, “I am in control.”

Find a way to gracefully move away from negativity to a place of peace. While conversing with someone who is drowning in pessimism, remember to breathe while discovering a balance between feeling empathy and not transforming into a sponge. Smile and nod, pat their hand, and show them that you care. But ending it there and not carrying the attitude with you throughout the rest of the day empowers you to stop the cycle.

Focus on the positive aspects of every day. No matter what happens, there is always good in every day. Perhaps a stranger opened the door for you or your dog greeted you at the end of a long day with a slobbery kiss. Maybe a friend called unexpectedly and invited you to dinner. When feeling yourself caught up in a negative cycle, train your mind to concentrate on the good in the world. If you are somehow not able to find the good in others, perform a random act of kindness yourself.

Practice gratitude for the simplest of gifts. Many of us take the simplest things for granted. Not everyone in the world has clean water and a warm bed. Others do not have good medical care or a house without a leaky roof. When those surrounding you attempt to pull you into their darkness, focus on what you have, not on what you do not have.

Surround yourself with friends and family who share your attitude that life will always get better. While sometimes it is not possible to avoid negative people, it is possible to create a squad of supporters who believe in you, encourage you to follow your dreams, and love you unconditionally. If you are not receiving what you need from anyone in your life, it is perfectly okay to give yourself permission to move on.

When you wake up tomorrow and begin preparing for a new day, remember this: No matter what you are wearing on the outside, it is the attitude you are wearing on the inside that people remember more. Now go tackle the world.

Vicky DeCoster is a Certified Life Coach who specializes in helping her clients move past obstacles, create a plan for happiness, and cross the bridge of transition to find a new and fulfilling direction in life. To read more about her and her practice, visit her at crossthebridgecoaching.com.