Changing Our Minds




by Robin Crow

The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.

—William James


A  few months ago I was ordering lunch at a local restaurant. The waitress was so delightful that my friend and I both commented on how good she made us feel with no more than a smile and a cheerful voice. A few weeks later at that same restaurant I encountered a waiter who had the exact opposite effect. I began cracking a few jokes in the hopes that he might break a smile, but I was unsuccessful. He might have been sleep deprived or just have had a fight with his girlfriend. Maybe he was running a 103-degree fever, or he had just received some devastating news. I’ll never know, so I shouldn’t judge him, but to some degree I still do. It’s human nature.  Within minutes of meeting someone, we often develop strong opinions about them based simply on their attitude. A person’s attitude is their imprint on everyone they meet. Even in the worst of times, people who have cultivated a winning attitude will have a positive influence on those around them. Their attitude becomes the window to their soul.

We associate many traits with successful people: self-discipline, persistence, focus, consistency, optimism. But the most important trait of all is attitude. If you’re interested in getting the most of your life, attitude is the place to start.

A great attitude will take you from apathy to enthusiasm, indifference to passion, sarcasm to optimism.

Your attitude is the launching pad for every success and failure you’ll ever have.

Why does one person have so much passion for life that she gets up early and stays up late to pursue her dreams, while another finds it difficult to even get out of bed without complaining? It boils down to the quality of our attitudes. The only way we will change our world is to change our thoughts.

Of all the beautiful truths pertaining to the soul which have been restored and brought to light in this age, none is more gladdening or fruitful of divine promise and confidence than this — that [we are] the master of thought, the molder of character, and the maker and shaper of condition, environment, and destiny.

—James Allen

It’s Your Choice

Never forget that attitude is a choice. Abraham Lincoln once said, “A person will be just about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” It’s amazing how everything in our lives takes a new direction once we realize we have complete control over our thoughts and attitude. It took a long time for this truth truly to sink in for me. The day I looked in the mirror and made a choice to change my attitude was the day I truly began changing my life.  It’s now clear that this profound distinction marks the most important crossroad for each one of us. Think about it. God gave us the ability to choose how we feel about everything that happens to us. God gave us the ability to choose which direction we wish to go in life. It’s our choice if we wish to do the least we can get away with or to create an extraordinary life for ourselves.

As a business owner, I now have four people on staff and as many as twelve interns at any time. I’ve learned firsthand how important a great attitude is to business success. In fact, I have come to believe that attitude is more important than aptitude. During the last six years we’ve had more than 150 interns work here as their last step before graduating with a degree in studio engineering. Most of our staff was picked from those interns. The ones with the best attitude are the ones who rose right to the top. To me, attitude is more important than technical expertise about equipment. At the end of the day attitude is more important to me than anything else. A great attitude is infectious; it changes the way a business operates, and you can’t put a price on that.

Attitude Matters Even in Show Business

In my early years in Hollywood I thought that a “rock-and-roll” attitude bred success. I thought you had to act like you didn’t care about anyone or anything. Many famous people have in fact built careers on adolescent behavior, with no regard for anyone but themselves. But in the long run those people have almost always paid a high price for their arrogance. It’s fascinating and sobering to hear stories of people who at one time were on top of the world but now are worse off than when they started — taking odd jobs and living in the past. Some of them confess openly how they failed to appreciate what had been handed to them and acknowledge how they hurt those around them. In the long run their bad attitudes gave back to them exactly what they had dished out. Remember the old saying, “You meet the same people on the way up as you do on the way down”?

A perfect example of someone who built success with a great attitude is Dolly Parton. When I was only twenty-one and first living in L.A., I worked for three months in a big rehearsal facility where rock acts such as Led Zeppelin and Fleetwood Mac rehearsed before leaving on tour. Early one morning I arrived to find a tour bus with a butterfly painted on the back parked outside the loading dock. It was Dolly’s.

I was sent over to escort her to the rehearsal stage. The first thing that stood out to me was how incredibly polite she was. It was obvious she had been riding all night and was in need of sleep, a shower, and breakfast, but that didn’t dampen her pleasant demeanor. She didn’t have to smile, be polite, or even acknowledge my existence, but she did all those things, leaving an impression on me I never forgot. Six years later, as a limo driver, I drove her to the Beverly Hills Hotel after her appearance on The Mike Douglas Show. She was promoting her new movie, Nine to Five. By this time she had become a true international superstar. As she headed from the television studio to the limousine, an army of people followed her. She was on top of the world, but she was still gracious and courteous to everyone she came in contact with — including me.

A few years ago my son, Joseph, asked me during breakfast, “Who’s in the studio today?” “Dolly Parton,” I answered. Things sure have come full circle. Twenty years ago it would have been hard to imagine Dolly Parton coming to our farm to work on one of her albums. Later that day I shared with her how our paths had crossed several times before. Her face lit up with pleasure. Now every time I see her, or even hear her name mentioned, I always walk away thinking about her delightful attitude.

Science may have found a cure for most evils; but it has found no remedy for the worst of them all —the apathy of human beings.

—Helen Keller

Optimism vs. Pessimism

One of the things I enjoy about living in a music city is watching all the newcomers with dreams of hitting it big as recording artists. Ninety-nine percent of them don’t have a clue about how hard it really is or how incredibly slim the odds are, yet they persist, fueled by incredible optimism. If they really sat down and thought about how many tens of thousands of other hopefuls are also trying to become the next Faith Hill or the next Sting, they would likely give up and go home. Instead they stay focused on their dream. Their optimism is so strong that they keep on trying — even in the face of overwhelming odds.

The odds against success in the music industry are so huge that a few years ago I came to the conclusion that Dark Horse Recording is really a kind of country club for lottery winners. The people who make it to my studio to record high-budget records beat the same odds as lottery winners do. But you know what? In this business pessimists would never make it this far. They would not stand a chance. In the music industry, as in life, the rewards go to those who keep on swinging until they hit the ball out of the park — no matter the odds.

The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.

—Winston Churchill

So many people believe that circumstances control their lives. But it’s our thoughts that shape our future. It’s our thoughts that fuel our passion and courage to go out and pursue our dreams. An optimistic attitude can change everything. An optimist will always win out over a pessimist by focusing on the positive. Believing they’ll succeed, optimists try over and over until that’s exactly what happens. So next time, instead of blaming circumstances, lift up your thoughts, and see how they reshape your circumstances.

From Cousin Jed’s Guitar Shed to Michael Jackson’s World Tour

If you’re still not convinced that attitude can redirect your life, check out this story about Dave Graef. Dave was a college student who, through his positive attitude and his habit of always going the extra mile, became an extraordinary success in a very short amount of time.

In the fall of 1985 I was scheduled to perform at Graceland College in Lamoni, Iowa. Back then I was traveling alone in my orange Chevy van. When I would pull onto a campus, ten or so college students would volunteer to help me set things up. On this particular day I arrived late. With only an hour until show time I was somewhat frantic to get things ready. Looking around at my crew of volunteers I asked, “Is there someone who might be able to tune up my thirteen guitars?” In an almost syn-chronized gesture all the students pointed to a young man named David Graef.  So I handed him a piece of paper and asked, “Hey, David can you tune these guitars to the different tunings I’ve written down here?” He just smiled and said, “No problem.” For the next hour I scrambled to hook up my sound equipment and get everything in place so I could change clothes before show time.

In my haste, I’d totally forgotten about the young man I had put in charge of my guitars. But just as I finished my sound check he came up to me and announced that he was done. The audience was already filing into the auditorium, so I didn’t even have time to double-check his work. As the concert began and I walked on stage, I picked up my first guitar and was relieved to discover that it was in perfect tune! As I continued to play one guitar after the other, I realized that each instrument had been polished, the necks and frets had been wiped down, and, of course, they had all been precisely tuned.

David had done three important things:

1.   He had demanded a high level of excellence of himself.

2.   He had gone the extra mile by giving more than was expected.

3.   And he had done it all with a smile on his face, expecting nothing in return.

David’s commitment to excellence, willingness to go the extra mile, and great attitude caused him to stand out from the hundreds of students I met each year who volunteered as stagehands. As we were packing up, I began telling Dave what an outstanding job he’d done, and he told me what a passion he had not only for working with guitars but also for playing them.  He proceeded to invite me to his dorm room, where he proudly showed me an acoustic guitar he was building from scratch. Needless to say, he left me with a powerful impression, so over the next two years I stayed in touch with him. Although David was already outstanding at working with guitars, he had no concept that it was possible to do it professionally. He had grown up on a large farm in West Texas and didn’t know there were people who made a living building and repairing guitars for rock stars. He had no idea there were people who toured with big pop acts maintaining their instruments. But he was about to find out in a big way and, as you will see, his attitude more than made up for his lack of knowledge.

In 1987 he graduated from Graceland and began working in a music store called — get this — Cousin Jed’s Guitar Shed in Independence, Missouri.  That’s when I offered him a job to travel with me as my guitar tech and stage manager. For six months we traveled and worked together, and he ensured that my concerts ran smoothly. David had such a positive attitude that sometimes I teased him about it. Everywhere we went he made friends. As my ambassador, he not only made me sound good, but he made me look good too.  Imagine the impact that kind of attitude would have on your boss, your spouse, your child, or a stranger. There is a tremendous source of strength in understanding the power of attitude. It is a distinction that empowers us to experience all that life has to offer, to take charge of our destiny, to make a difference. Remember, our life is a reflection of our attitudes. With a positive attitude you will create positive results.

Once our tour was over, Dave wanted to establish himself in Nashville as both a guitar tech and a guitar player. So I introduced David to my friend Greg Krochman at Nashville’s best guitar repair shop, the Classic Ax. After David showed Greg how serious and dedicated he was about working on guitars he was hired. His quality workmanship and winning attitude quickly built his reputation with many of the country stars who brought their guitars there.

Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life.

—John Homer Miller

By the next year Dave began taking leaves of absence to tour with the Oak Ridge Boys as their guitar tech. At that time there was nobody bigger in country music. By 1991 he began traveling full-time with Wynonna. But just as David’s career was looking unstoppable, he suffered a devastating setback. One night he pulled over to help someone who was stranded on the side of the road. As he was facing downhill digging into his truck for a tire jack, a parked car about fifty feet uphill from him began silently rolling toward David, and it ran into him, crushing his legs. The damage was so extensive the doctors didn’t know if he would be able to walk again. I remember visiting him just after his accident, and even in his uncertainty about whether he would walk again, he kept a smile on his face. He never said a negative word. He didn’t allow himself to be controlled by his debilitating circumstances.

A few weeks later, even though he still couldn’t walk, Dave helped out on a local showcase involving Gary Chapman. David had to sit the entire time with his feet propped up in enormous leg braces. All he could do was tune and restring the guitars that were brought to him. Nonetheless, everyone was so impressed with him that night that he was offered a tour with Michael W.  Smith, starting almost immediately. David reminded them, “Now, you realize that I can’t walk?” “We know that,” they replied.  “But the job’s yours if you want it.” Well, David took the job and as the seventy-five-city tour progressed, his legs slowly started to improve until he was finally walking again. As that tour came to an end, he was offered a job as guitar tech traveling with Amy Grant’s band for the next year. I remember thinking to myself, “Boy, everyone sure loves David!”

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.

—W. W. Ziege

By the end of Amy’s tour David was not only fully recovered, but he was getting offers from the biggest touring acts to take care of their guitars.  By 1994, just six years after he moved to Nashville, David could pick and choose almost any artist or band in the world he wanted to tour with. So the next year he signed up to go on Michael Jackson’s worldwide Dangerous Tour, participating in one of the biggest events in pop music history. An army of musicians, dancers, and crew flew from country to country in five private jumbo jets, and David was a part of it.

But David’s story keeps getting better. All this time as a guitar tech, he was constantly practicing and preparing as a guitarist. Eventually opportunity knocked. You see, Michael Jackson’s guitar player looked great on stage, but he couldn’t always play the difficult solos and concentrate on showmanship at the same time. So David was asked to perform those parts from behind the amplifiers to complete the band’s sound. He sat backstage playing some of the most difficult guitar solos, allowing others to look and sound good. For David it wasn’t about the glory but about achieving excellence.  Listen, when those stadiums erupted with applause, although it wasn’t directed at David, Michael Jackson knew who was playing those solos.

Who would have guessed just a few years earlier that this mild-mannered college student would end up working with the biggest stars in the world and earning a salary to match. When the Dangerous Tour finally wrapped up, David received offers from the Stones, Yes, Pink Floyd, and Phil Collins, but he turned them all down. He was ready to come out from behind the amplifiers and take his place on stage. Now David is touring with some of the same major acts as he was before — no longer as a guitar tech but as a featured guitar player. In fact, I called him on his cell phone the other day and asked him where he was. “I’m backstage at Madison Square Garden,” he said, “preparing for sound check!”

“Great show business story, Robin,” you might be saying, “but I live in the real world. What does this have to do with me?” Listen, David achieved success not just because he could tune and repair guitars better than anyone else, but because he practiced the same principles of success that apply to anyone in any field: setting high standards, demanding excellence of himself, going the extra mile, and, most important, having an outstanding attitude. Remember, when you maintain a winning attitude, sooner or later just like Dave, you’ll get the chance to shine.

The quality of our thoughts equals the quality of our lives.

It’s worth saying again: It’s not what happens to us that shapes our destiny, it’s how we react to those events.


From Jump and the net Will Appear by Robin Crow. Copyright © 2002 by Robin Crow. Excerpted by arrangement by New World Library. $20. Available in local bookstores or call 800-972-6657 Ext 52 or click here.