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Jul-19-2009 11:29printcomments

Leveling the Playing Field with an Attitude

The Management Moments series by Doug Dickerson is a weekly column designed to bring inspiration to those in the workplace and beyond.
Golfing in the dim of night makes a level playing field for some.

(CHARLESTON, S.C.) - John Kanary shares a story in A Cup of Chicken Soup for the Soul, about Charlie Boswell. Charlie was blinded during World War II while rescuing his friend from a tank that was under fire. He was a great athlete before his accident and in a testimony to his talent and determination, he decided to try a brand new sport, a sport he never imagined with his eyesight – golf.

Through determination and a deep love for the game he became the National Blind Golf Champion. He was that honor 13 times. One of his heroes was the great golfer Ben Hogan, so it was truly an honor for Charlie to win the Ben Hogan Award in 1958.

Upon meeting Ben Hogan, Charlie was awestruck and stated that he had one wish and it was to have one round of golf with the great Ben Hogan. Mr. Hogan agreed that playing a round of golf together would be an honor for him as well, as he had heard about all of Charlie’s accomplishments and truly admired his skills.

“Would you like to play for money, Mr. Hogan?” blurted out Charlie. “I can’t play you for money, it wouldn’t be fair,” said Mr. Hogan. “Aw come on, Mr. Hogan…$1,000 per hole!”

“I can’t, what would people think of me, taking advantage of you and your circumstance,” replied the sighted golfer. “Chicken, Mr. Hogan?” “Okay,” blurted a frustrated Hogan, “but I am going to play my best.”

“I wouldn’t expect anything else,” said the confident Boswell. “You’re on Mr. Boswell; you name the time and place.” A very self-assured Boswell responded, “10 o’clock…tonight!”

Having the right attitude can level the playing field not only for you personally, but in your organization. How many times have you picked up the paper in the morning only to see another headline proclaiming doom and gloom on the economy? The headlines are disturbing; quarterly reports are dismal, another company files bankruptcy, jobless numbers are worrisome, and the list goes on.

Leadership expert John Maxwell said, “A leader’s attitude is caught by his followers more quickly than his or her actions.” While the economic woes affect all of us, one thing remains constant- we choose our attitude. And the choice we make determines our future and our success. Leveling the playing field in these uncertain times is an attitude choice.

We level the playing field when we refuse to allow circumstances to defeat us. In these economic times, it’s a struggle for many. Yet, when we face the challenge with resolve and determination, we level the playing field.

C.S. Lewis said, “Everytime you make a choice you are turning the control part of you, the part that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, you are slowly turning this control thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish one.” We level the playing field with wise choices and right attitudes.

We level the playing field when we inspire our team by example. Your attitude should be the thermostat your team is set at. Simply put, your action as a leader multiplies the reaction of the team. When your attitude is strong then the attitude of the team will follow. Sure, there will be some slackers, but by and large, you set the tone of your organization by your example. What type of example are you setting?

We level the playing field through high expectations. High expectations create an environment ripe for success. And while you can’t control everyone else’s future you do play a role in how yours will turn out. Simply put, attitude is the lens through which you look at your world. Through that lens you can either have a negative view or a positive one.

Both the hummingbird and the vulture fly over our nation's deserts. All vultures see is rotting meat, because that is what they look for. They thrive on that diet. But hummingbirds ignore the smelly flesh of dead animals. Instead, they look for the colorful blossoms of desert plants. The vultures live on what was. They live on the past. They fill themselves with what is dead and gone. But hummingbirds live on what is. They seek new life. They fill themselves with freshness and life. Each bird finds what it is looking for. We all do. 

Writing in The Fred Factor, Mark Sanborn says, “Freds know that one of the most exciting things about life is that we awake each day with the ability to reinvent ourselves. No matter what happened yesterday, today is a new day. While we can’t deny the struggles and setbacks, neither should we be restrained by them.”

Don’t be restrained by negative circumstances, level the playing field with a right attitude.

Doug Dickerson is the former editor of the Berkeley Independent newspaper in South Carolina and is currently the director of university relations at Charleston Southern University. Doug’s writing has been recognized by the South Carolina Press Association, having won awards for enterprise reporting, series of articles, and for humor column writing. Doug’s passion for communicating leadership principles and personal development is crystallized through his Management Moment column and leadership columns he writes. Read more of Doug’s columns on his blog at

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.

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