Is Attitude Really Everything?

“Most overnight successes are just plain lucky. Just ask any failure.”

“If the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems begin to look like nails.”

Here’s a sure-fire prescription for how to fail in the game of life:

Develop an attitude, personality and spirit that are critical, complaining, cynical and comparative.

Demonstrate these characteristics on a regular basis, and I can just about guarantee you failure in life.

How to Be Critical

You’ve heard it said that some people see the world through rose-colored glasses. The person who has mastered the fine art of criticism sees the world through glasses colored by something I’d rather not mention.

These folks seem to live to find fault in everything with which they come in contact. Because we live in an imperfect world, something or someone can always serve.

In order to be truly successful at criticizing, these people must never offer solutions for what they don’t like. This is because these folks believe people and things will be motivated to change if they are just criticized enough. It’s a full-time job.

Instead: There are times in life when we all need to give and receive criticism. The wisest people know that you can truly benefit from useful criticism.

Criticism is a tool that is used sparingly at best and needs to be coupled with some positive comments as well.

How to Be Complaining

A close cousin to criticism, complaining is a way of life for some. Others have raised it to an art form. Nothing is ever good enough, not even close. If the adults who usually do this were children, they’d be accused of whining.

Again, it’s crucial to refrain from offering any suggestions as to what could be improved upon, much less what is appreciated. These folks would complain in heaven, if they ever got there.

Instead: Define the problem, state how it affects you and then offer suggestions for what you would like to be different.

How to Be Cynical

We live in an age where cynicism is thought to be sophisticated. At the same time, remember when smoking was thought to be sophisticated?

In order to be truly cynical, you have to be totally convinced that the world, the people in it, and even yourself are only out for themselves and can never be trusted. Cynicism in its purest form totally rules out the possibility of hope, solutions and joy in life. David Letterman without the humor.

Instead: In no way am I suggesting that we should all approach the world like naive children. Any negative taken to the opposite extreme is still a negative. Instead, keeping a healthy skepticism about you protects you and allows for the possibility of hope, solutions and true passion in life.

How to Be Comparitive

Anyone who has ever been compared to a sibling, teammate or co-worker knows just how fun it is to be around this kind of person. “If only you were more like … ”

Other good comparative things to say are: “This time is not as fun as last time,” and “the way you do it here is not nearly as good as we did it back there.”

Remember to say these and all comparative statements with a certain air of superiority, nose slightly turned upward for full effect.

Instead: Start with what is working or is good about the situation, and then ask the powerful and rarely asked question:

“How could we make this even better?”

About The Author

Jeff Herring

Discover 5 simple steps for 6 figure success online with content marketing.


  • Jeff Herring

    Reply Reply

    It’s so easy to read an article like this and think of those folks in your life that demonstrate these negatives…you might even be tempted to send it to someone to read under the guise of being helpful…

    The real challenge is to read an article like this, recognize some attitudes in ourselves and then get about correcting them so we can do the “insteads” – good luck!

    ~ Jeff

    • Great article Jeff. I definitely saw myself in the article. Now it’s time to work on those “insteads” Thank you!!!!

    • Awesome article. And yes, I was tempted to send it to someone special to “help” them but I’ve got enough to work on myself.

      I like my rose-colored glasses. Not naive, just optimistic–love it!

      God bless,


  • Great article, Jeff. A mutual colleague and I were just musing about the occasional petty criticisms we receive about our typos, our photos or other insignificant stuff. Sometimes you’ve got to laugh and just keep on rollin’. To get constructive criticism is always helpful; it’s the petty stuff that I shake my head at.

    • Jeff Herring

      Reply Reply

      Denise – Oh Gosh I KNOW! The extra added twist now is I get email saying I should tell Maritza so and so or Maritza should tell me so and so…

      Keep a thick skin and an open heart my friend!

      ~ Jeff

  • Jonathon

    Reply Reply

    Those who only see the world from the dark side will always be with us. Criticism can be both positive and negative. I often seek constructive criticism or second opinions but usually only from those on whom I have learned that I can rely upon to be objective. Here I think we must draw the distinction between solicited and unsolicited advice. The latter is seldom helpful and usually not favorably received. The giver of criticism or complaint needs to exercise the ‘moderation in all things’ philosophy. The “complainer” critic is usually subjective, seldom objective and more often than not cannot substantiate their argument with any validity.

    • Jeff Herring

      Reply Reply

      Jonathon – thanks for your wise words…

      ~ Jeff

  • Bravo, Jeff! Eloquently written and full of value. Negative people often call themselves “realists” but their world is not the one I choose to live in. Their actions speak volumes about their insecurity. If something they complain about is solved, they can no longer get attention for talking about it and have to come up with something else. If they realized how much attention they receive for being problem solvers, and the improvement in the energy produced by it, they would be much happier and an asset instead of liability to the self-esteem of those around them. Thank you for clarifying, Jeff. This blog post is a great one to share!
    Love you,

  • Jeff,
    When I work with couples, it is amazing how a slight shift in attitude by each person creates a huge improvement in their communication, affection and desire to make the necessary changes. That attitude of superiority, judgement, criticism, self-righteousness can really hinder free and safe sharing. But probably the most insidious attitude is making comparisions. That is a lose-lose situation.

  • Hey Jeff,
    Thanks for the reminder to look inward before passing judgement on those folks that seem to be complaining about anything and everything in sight. All too often I find myself jumping right into negative conversations without realizing the depressing results. Time to step back, take stock and put forth a positive attitude when these situations occur :-)!
    All the best,

  • Nicola

    Reply Reply

    everyone with a pulse needs to read this post, Jeff. I adopted new motto earier this year.
    ‘Never critize, condem or complain’ It works wonders especially when combined with gratitude for everything you have already.

  • vic602

    Reply Reply

    One of our readers posted a negative comment on our blog. That reader was promptly called down by another reader. The first reader then apologized. It’s nice when that happens.
    Folks right now are upset with the economy, jobs, high prices etc. Change is here and we humans stress at change. It’s important to find positive ways to deal with stress and, if possible, help others to do the same.

  • Selma

    Reply Reply

    To critisize or find fault can very easily become a habit!. Thanks for your wise words. Life
    does become more enjoyable when you have a positive attitude!

  • Gail Gillespie

    Reply Reply

    Good article Jeff. Given in a positive way, constructive criticism can be very helpful and is usually solicited. Many these days ask for it as a means of accessing where they can improve. Peer reviews etc are a part of life. Even then it is not always necessarily easy to accept…..somehow facing our faults is hard for most us.

    If we are asked to offer an opinion it is important to be sensitive yet still honest.The first rule is find something nice to say before you proffer the bad news.It is usually how it is said rather than what is said that makes the difference.

    However criticism may have to be given when unasked for…..e.g. anyone overseeing others in a job cannot ignore problems. So again… comes back to how it is handled.

    Seeing the glass as half full rather than half empty ensures a positive attitude.

  • Great post Jeff! I think all of us have someone like that in our lives and it’s so important to recognize it for what it is. Also, there’s a little of that in each one of us and if you’re a parent, I think it’s good to be aware of how often your kids hear you criticize and put down others because we’re teaching them to do exactly the same.

  • Sunny James

    Reply Reply

    right on jeff you got that one right

Leave A Response

* Denotes Required Field