From Alan Weiss’ Balancing Act®

It’s slightly after 8 am, and I’m coasting down to New York on the Acela, hugging Long Island sound for most of the trip. This is a 60-degree day in early January, so the fog encroaches like a silent strangler bent on mayhem.

The first class car is filled. Two attendants work the car, effortlessly serving breakfast to people who boarded at both Boston and Providence. Meals are served and cleared efficiently amidst passenger conversations, cell phone calls, computers, PDAs, newspapers, and the usual detritus of a three-hour commute.

I’ve taken this train all the way to Washington and back, since I stay off airplanes if I possibly can. The service has ranged from surly in an empty car, to this morning’s wonderful service in a full car. The difference isn’t in the passengers, the nature of the service, or the time of day.

It’s in the pride of the crew.

I bought my newspapers this morning in the Providence station, something I often dread because of the horrible personality of the woman who works there in the morning. Thus, I was shocked this morning by a hearty “Good morning!” and an offer to help me from a new woman, who evidently believed that you make the best of any job.

My newspaper experience was suddenly wonderful. (I told her this. “Oh, thank you!” she blushed.)

Part of victimhood is believing (or merely claiming) that the job, the boss, the environment, the government, the regulations, and/or “they” are preventing you from doing well. The antithesis of victimhood is the belief that you can improve your own job and lot despite interference and influence of others. We control more than we think.

I think this individual pride, and its ability to transform work and relationships, is a crucial consideration in terms of who we hire, who we become friendly with, and with whom we decide to surround ourselves. If we hang out with people who hate the work, hate the customers, hate life, and feel constantly oppressed, we’ll find ourselves subsumed in that quagmire.

But if we surround ourselves with people who merely believe that they have the power and responsibility to do the best they can, so will we.

It’s customary to tip the first class attendants, though not all people do. When I proffered a generous gratuity upon disembarking, one of the attendants said, “Why thank you, sir!” I said, “No, thank you!”

© 2008 Alan Weiss. Balancing Act® is a monthly electronic newsletter discussing the blending of life, work, and relationships, based on the popular Balancing Act workshops and writing of Alan Weiss, Ph.D. For further information: balancingact@summitconsulting.com.

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