Every weekend, as a 12 year-old, my brother and I would get up early to go clean my uncle’s bar. My grandfather would pick us up in his red Chevy pickup and we would spend the next 4-5 hours working our tails off.

One day, my grandfather and I were walking in the parking lot and a private jet flew by. My grandfather pointed to the sky and said “Chad, wouldn’t it be great if you could fly a jet like that one day?” I thought about that for a minute and replied, “Grandpa, I’m going to own that jet one day and I’ll have somebody fly it for me.”

Looking back, I have no idea why I said that. What strikes me about the comment is my attitude. Here I am, a 12-year old boy who knows nothing about the world. And in that moment, something inside me said, “Aim higher. You can do it.” Little did I know, how important attitude is in life.

Fast forward 6 years. I’m now a freshman in the Engineering School at Vanderbilt. Being completely broke and needing spending cash, I worked 2-3 jobs that semester. One of them was as a webmaster for an Antitrust professor. Here is a snapshot of the site from back then.

My attitude led me to Antitrust.org

This was the early days of the web and there weren’t many people developing websites. That job not only taught me a valuable skill, it also opened my eyes to opportunity.

By the time I came home for the summer I knew I needed a job. This was a fork in the road. Pick up a part-time gig at a golf course or restaurant, or aim higher. I chose the second option and started a web development company, Innovative Solutions.

Before going any further, let’s take an inventory of everything I DID NOT know.
– How you start a business.
– How you find prospects.
– How you price your services.
– How you sell a deal.
– How you code something more complex than a bunch of static web pages.
– How you hire people to work for you.

You get the idea. I had no idea what I was doing. But I knew one thing. I needed the money for college and I could earn more with my own business than working a minimum-wage job.

Lucky for me, my attitude outweighed my ability. In my mind failure wasn’t an option. This was something I was going to do.

In these situations you need to look past the challenges. Beyond that long list, there is opportunity. Seeing that opportunity instead of the roadblocks is so important in life. If you can do it, you will find success where others see disaster.

How did it go? Pretty well. I closed deals with Microsoft, Saturn and many others. I ran the business throughout college and learned more than I could have imagined. It also ignited a passion for tech, something I still work in today.

Charles Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens and 90% of how you react to it.” You will have challenges. You will have disappointments. You will have failures. The thing that matters most, is how you respond.

Always be on guard for negative thoughts, whether they are your own or someone else’s. A lot of times people project their fears on you. It can wear down. Remember, you are always in control of YOUR attitude. Regardless of what is happening around you, no one controls your attitude. This is 100% up to you.

For those times when you can’t shake the negative thoughts. When you can’t see the opportunity. Here is a trick. Smile. Smiling changes your attitude, whether you realize it or not. You can’t help but have a better attitude when you smile. With that better attitude you will begin to see the opportunity and regain control.

A bad attitude is like a flat tire, you won’t get anywhere until you change it. – Unknown

This post is part of a series of letters to my kids. My goal is to reflect on and capture as many life lessons as possible. Here is the current list I am working from.