Having an Attitude of GratitudeThe Legacy of Leadership Series By Paul D. Butler
Paul D. Butler is a highly-sought after motivational speaker, presenter and educator in the public safety community. He has over 27 years of experience in law enforcement as a chief of police and deputy chief. He will be contributing his thoughts, lessons, and experiences on leadership to the InTime blog- this is only a small sampling of what he offers as a keynote speaker!
I was a police officer for over 27 years and I am so grateful that the law enforcement profession chose me and gave me that opportunity to serve. The endless opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others are the things I remember most about my career. In retrospect, it seems funny how little the promotions and positions of rank ever cross my mind; it seemed so important back then. Looking past my retirement from the police force, I love the speaking and training opportunities that I have now – it is my way of still serving and making a difference in the lives of others across the globe. My talks have developed into a central theme of learning from past experiences, being thankful for existing opportunities, and using both categories to prepare for whatever the future brings. This sure seems like a simple formula when things are going well… but what about when they aren’t? They say it is easy to be thankful on Christmas morning when there are lots of presents under the tree. I had a wonderful childhood and that childhood was followed up by an incredible career. (If you haven’t had a chance to read my previous blog in the series on this subject, ‘How Parenting Influenced My Leadership Style’ make sure you check it out!) After retirement, life really took a turn upwards and I am making a living sharing my thoughts and opinions – making a difference by simply being me!
A Lesson from the Audience
Teachers are everywhere around us in this life and, when we are ready to learn, they appear in the most unexpected of places.
I can remember the first time I was enjoying some audience interaction and reminiscing together about the “good old days,” when a young lady stood and announced that her childhood, to the contrary, was far less than perfect. She explained that she had parents who were drug and alcohol addicts and they were both verbally abusive and physically violent toward her and her siblings. Her childhood was a nightmare and she still carries emotional and physical scars from her past. How could she ever be grateful for such an upbringing? There is an old saying that has been attributed to several ancient sources: “It is only when the student is ready that the teacher will appear.” I love this quote – it speaks to me and my life as both a teacher and a student. It reminds me of those times as a young adult, where I would sit in class, but not absorb any of the lessons. I would just ask myself, how is this even relevant? It is now obvious that it was not because I had poor teachers – it was because I was not yet ready to be a good student! Teachers are everywhere around us in this life and, when we are ready to learn, they appear in the most unexpected of places. This young lady became the teacher for me AND that class that day.
She spoke openly of her terrible childhood and she covered every excuse that we would gladly give her for being an underachiever in life or a poor performer at work. After all, she had a bad start in life, so it is certainly understandable if she doesn’t “run a good race” like the rest of us. I thought as her story unfolded that she was going to teach me a lesson about how easy it is to see the world with my ‘attitude of gratitude,’ when I have so much to be grateful for… I was slightly embarrassed that I had not taken into account lives like hers and I began to wonder if I may have to go “back to the drawing board” on my entire presentation. However, she saved me that trouble and ended up teaching that class (and me) the best lesson we could have hoped to learn that day. She was not happy as a child and she is not glad that she endured those painful years – no child deserves such torment. But the pain of her past and the life that she had does NOT keep her from being happy today and grateful for the life that she now enjoys. She is a respected professional in public safety and she serves others in need. She pays special attention to children who may be living in abusive homes and she works to bring awareness and assistance to those who feel helpless in such situations. She is a loving mother who is dedicated to her children and their mental, physical, and emotional well-being. She is using the failed blueprint of her parents as a guide for what to do (and what not to do) to make her home AND her community a better place. She is a good person – and that helps her be great at a lot of other things.
You Can’t Choose Your Circumstance, You Can Choose Your Attitude
I heard a preacher once say, “In this life you can choose to be pitiful or choose to be powerful, but you cannot be both.” I have now seen that wisdom reveal itself in my training. Most of us know someone who seems to be blessed beyond measure and living that fairy tale life or has that perfect career; they are certainly someone to be admired. They have money and status and all the things that many of us believe should make us happy; however, their attitude does not reflect it. They see only negatives in life and they give up on projects before they ever get started – they are in positions of power, but they render themselves powerless. They have all the authority to make decisions, but their fear and negativity hold them hostage and they are considered by most to be ineffective. No matter what position they hold (supervisor or parent) they will never be viewed leaders.
They rise from the ashes of past tragedy or difficulty and they become the inspiration in our lives to appreciate what we have and (often) who that past has helped us become today.
Then there are those wonderful and special people in our lives who don’t just see the glass as half full – they try to fill that glass so that everyone has a chance to see it the same constructive way. They rise from the ashes of their past tragedy and they become the inspiration in our lives; fueled by that appreciation for how the past has shaped them to become who they are today. Too often we assume that the happy and positive people are the ones who have had the best in life. The young teacher in my class that day taught me otherwise. The happiest and most positive people in this life are the ones who choose to make something special out of the time and opportunity that they are given – whatever time they have and whatever that opportunity may be. They do not burden their futures with their pasts and they do not seek to punish others to balance out the suffering they have felt in their personal lives. They are thankful for what they have in life and their gratitude is seen through their acts of kindness towards others. No matter the title they are given, they are our teachers and our leaders in this life.
Learning to Be A Teacher by Being a Student
I say that the best training sessions I have ever attended or delivered are the ones where everyone takes a turn being the teacher. Maybe all the answers are not available in these groups, but all the vision and possibilities are. We must turn our teaching moments into talking opportunities for the teachers around us who are just waiting to appear. My goal as an instructor is to teach but my passion as a person is to learn. To be a great teacher I must first learn how to be a good student. I am so grateful for all of those teachers who have attended my training sessions in the past – sharing your insight and wisdom helps me turn more students into teachers for the future.
So who do you choose to be in life? Are you holding on to some past imperfection that keeps you (or others around you) from living a life that feels near perfect? The choice is often yours – choose to be powerful and use that power to empower others! Be the parent, the partner, and the leader you wish you had in life and people like that will often gravitate toward you. Be bold in your faith and believe that you have a purpose – make the future an improvement on your past, not an extension of it and spend some time today being thankful and grateful… Let gratitude become the foundation of your attitude – for it is that Attitude of Gratitude that will help you become the student and the teacher, the parent and the partner, the follower and the leader that you choose to be!
About the Author
Paul D. Butler
Keynote Speaker, Presenter, Motivator
Paul Butler is a speaker, presenter, instructor, and entertainer. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication with a concentration in Culture and Communication, as well as an Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice. He excels in the areas of motivation, leadership, customer service, and attitude empowerment. During his 27 years of law enforcement, he has been a public servant, training officer, sergeant, crisis negotiator, chief of police, and chief deputy. These opportunities have given him a unique perspective on a vast array of situations and circumstances that many people find themselves in every day. These experiences have helped him to develop the answers to questions and cures to problems most people are facing at work and in life on a continual basis.
Follow Paul on Twitter or LinkedIn- his profiles are linked below!
If you're interested in seeing Paul present live or having him present at your event visit his website here!