With a challenging year behind us, and a promising new year on the doorstep, I thought it would be a good time to share one of my favorite stories. I hope that we can all adopt some of the lessons of “Jerry”.
Happy 2009 to you!
Jerry is the manager of a restaurant in South Philly. He is always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him “how he was doing”, he would always reply,
“If I were any better, I would be twins!”
Many of the waiters at his restaurant quit their jobs when he changed jobs, so they could follow him around from restaurant to restaurant. The reason the waiters followed Jerry was because of his attitude. He was a natural motivator. If an employee was having a bad day, Jerry was always there, telling the employee how to look on the positive side of the situation.
Seeing this style really made me curious. So, one day, I went up to Jerry and asked him, “I don’t get it! No one can be a positive person all the time. How do you do it?” Jerry replied, “Each morning I wake up and say to myself, I have two choices today, I can choose to be in a good mood or I can choose to be in a bad mood.
I always choose to be in a good mood.
Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it.
I always choose to learn from it.
Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out the positive side of life. I always choose the positive side of life.”
“But it’s not always that easy,” I protested. “Yes, it is,” Jerry said, Life is all about choices. When you cut away all the junk, every situation is a choice.
You choose how you react to situations.
You choose how people will affect your mood.
You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood.
It’s your choice how you live your life.”
Several years later, I heard that Jerry accidentally did something you are never supposed to do in the restaurant business: he left the back door of his restaurant open one morning and was robbed by three armed men. While trying to open the safe, his hand, shaking from nervousness slipped off the combination. The robbers panicked and shot him. Luckily, Jerry was found quickly and rushed to the hospital. After 18 hours of surgery and weeks of intensive care, Jerry was released from the hospital with fragments of the bullets still in his body.
I saw Jerry about six months after the accident. When I asked him how he was, he replied, “If I were any better, I’d be twins. Want to see my scars?” I declined to see his wounds, but did ask him what had gone through his mind as the robbery took place. “The first thing that went through my mind was that I should have locked the back door,” Jerry replied. “Then, after they shot me, as I lay on the floor, I remembered that I had two choices: I could choose to live or choose to die. I chose to live.”
“Weren’t you scared?” I asked. Jerry continued, “The paramedics were great. They kept telling me I was going to be fine. But when they wheeled me into the Emergency Room and I saw the expressions on the faces of the doctors and nurses, I got really scared. In their eyes, I read ‘He’s a dead man.’ I knew I needed to take action.”
“What did you do?” I asked. “Well, there was a big nurse shouting questions at me,” said Jerry. She asked if I was allergic to anything.” ‘Yes,’ I replied. The doctors and nurses stopped working as they waited for my reply. I took a deep breath and yelled, ‘Bullets!’ Over their laughter, I told them, ‘I am choosing to live. Please operate on me as if I am alive, not dead’.”
Jerry lived thanks to the skill of his doctors, but also because of his amazing attitude. I learned from him that every day you have the choice to either enjoy your life or to hate it. The only thing that is truly yours –that no one can control or take from you — is your attitude, so if you can take care of that, everything else in life becomes much easier.