I'd like to share a true story from my history with you. Back in 1969, my dad, who was career military, was being sent to Vietnam. Because of a series of circumstances, my mother and I ended up living with my grandmother in this black neighborhood in Kansas City, Missouri. When she first bought the house, it was a nice middle class area, but by the time we got there it had declined into a ghetto; harsh, but true.

Dad & Me,
December 1969

I was something totally different than what these kids were used to seeing. Because I'd gone to better schools out of state, I was way ahead of them in every single subject. Because we'd had at least a modicum of a nice income (when you live on a military base, things cost way less), I had very nice clothes. My mother made sure I looked, well, as pristine as a 10 year old can look going to school every day; that was her style.

Unfortunately, these were not things that were seen as anything to admire at the school I had to go to. The overwhelming majority hated me from day one, and who could really blame them? The teacher spent the first hour of each morning taking kids into the back bathroom and cleaning them up. Some kids wore the same clothes to school every day. There was no homework because the school didn't think kids would bring the books back. I was in 5th grade, and they were still reading Dick and Jane, which I'd read in first grade.

Suffice it to say I had a tough year. After 3 or 4 weeks, I only had to report to class to sign in, then I would go to either the principal's office to do projects for them, or to the library where I spent my days either reading or filing book in the Dewey Decimal System, totally by myself; what a life, eh?

I tried to be positive every day, even though I spent great amounts of time by myself; luckily, being an only child gives you lots of training on how to handle it. I was always still nice to people, even when they wanted to hurt me or say bad things about me. I'd be lying if I said I was never scared, but I never let any of it keep me from being true to myself; I wanted my parents to always be proud of me.

There were many things of significance that happened in that year. I'm not going to mention them all, because if I do this story would never end. Instead, I'm going to talk about the day my dad came home early.

He'd been injured in Vietnam (turns out he'd been shot, which I just learned earlier this year), came back to the states for an operation, and showed up at the doorstep by surprise one day. We were all elated and happy, of course. Dad had known what had been happening to me on a daily basis, with kids threatening to beat me up and trying to get me to cry every day (I never cried, and they never beat me up, but that's for another time). So the next day, in a half body cast, my dad said he was coming to school with me. I didn't understand it at first, but I was happy to have Dad with me.

We went to school, and suddenly every single kid in the school who had hated me throughout the year wanted to be my best friend. They saw my dad in this half body cast and thought he'd been shot in Vietnam (they knew better than me). For some reason, in a tough neighborhood, that gave him a status that no one else had ever received.

These were the days of the Black Panthers driving around in the purple van, and people getting murdered and shot all over the place, including the neighborhood where we were living at the time. Then here comes Dad, in uniform by the way, and he was seen as a hero by all these kids. By extension, I was now something they had never seen before; the son of a hero.

The last two months at that school, before we got relocated, was something special. Suddenly people were coming to me, asking for help in learning their lessons. I was asked to play sports with them, and I turned out to be good; that was a nice bonus. There wasn't anything that had changed about me, as far as I knew; but there were positive changes in my environment just the same.

Each day we each go out into the world trying to make our way. Some scratch and claw, some cruise, and some vacillate, sputter, and reach out for assistance. A small event can affect great changes; sometimes it's something you do, sometimes it's something that just pops out of the blue. We each need to be ready to see the positives that occur in our lives, be ready to use the positives in our lives, and take the positive and see where they can ultimately lead you. Sometimes, a negative turns out to be a big positive.

How does this apply to you?

Every day is another day you have to make some kind of difference in your life. Every day is another opportunity to see and do things you haven't thought of before. Every day is another day to change your attitude and perception towards how you view your job, career, and the people around you. Let's take a look at some of these things.

Do you absolutely hate your job. Why? Have you thought about whether there are any positives in your workplace?

I have. No matter how bad things are during a regular day, usually there's at least one funny thing that happened. If you can distance yourself from the bad events of the day and relive the funny moments, you'll feel better.

You'll usually learn one new thing every day at work, no matter how small, and learning is never a bad thing. Even in bad interactions with others, you should be learning how NOT to talk to other people as much as how you want to treat, and be treated, by other people.

Even in the worst jobs, you shouldn't allow yourself to be brought down by the actions of others. Use it as an impetus to learn as much as you can, become as skilled as possible, then be ready to leave, either for another company or another position within that same company.

Do you hate your life. Why? Let's face a fact; right now, it's better than the alternative.

Even on a snowy, cold day such as the ones we have here in central New York during the winter, one can look outside and realize just how valuable life is. Every waking day is another opportunity to make positive changes in your life, no matter how big or small. Every new day is another opportunity to make new relationships or improve upon existing ones. Every day is another opportunity to change what you're all about if you're unhappy about it, or improve and maintain what you like about your life.

We're all in control of our destinies. Sure, every once in awhile it seems like someone's blocking your way to success.

If you work for a martinet, it may seem like this person has power over you; people only have as much power as you allow them to have.

If you feel like you're a slave to your clients and customers, remember that you teach people how to treat you, so work to change their perceptions of you.

If you feel like a slave to your job, remember that there are always other opportunities if you only keep your eyes open.

Be positive no matter what your issues are. There's always another chance tomorrow for a new start if you start looking at things differently today.