“The first and best victory is to conquer self.” – Plato
I hate Attitude is Everything. This was my first reaction when I picked up the book a few weeks ago. Despite the small size and lucid writing, I struggled to complete the book. Every page felt like a burden, every chapter like a battle. But in the end, I realised that the problem was not with Jeff Keller or the book. It was within myself.
Attitude is Everything by Jeff Keller is a phenomenal book. The reason I hated it at the onset was that the author addressed issues that I had over the years. Negativity, hopelessness, low confidence, and toxic influences, are just a few problems the book addresses. And that made me feel uneasy. Every time I read something I could relate to unwillingly, I cursed Jeff Keller.
In reality, I felt uneasy dealing with my inner demons. While I have moved ahead a long way, I never really addressed these issues, and I am really thankful for it. Not because addressing such issues is bad or weak. I could never have found better help than reading Attitude is Everything. That’s how good a book it is. That’s how reading books can help – you find solutions to problems you never knew existed.
After struggling for weeks for reasons stated above, I’ve finally completed the book (thanks to my wife staunchly advocating in the book’s favour). Here’s my review of Attitude is Everything. And if this sounds like propaganda, believe me, neither Jeff Keller nor the publishers have paid me.
Summary of Attitude Is Everything
Attitude is Everything begins with the author, Jeff Keller narrating how he came to be from a lawyer to one of the most famous motivational speakers in the world. That’s how he sets the tone for the entire book. That’s what sets Keller distinguishes the book – the author leading by example. The book is divided in three parts, through which the author discusses the most troubling aspects of human life.
Part 1: Success Begins in the Mind
The first part of Attitude is Everything contains five lessons dealing with the mindset. Here’s what they’re about:
Lesson 1: Attitude = Window for the World
The first part has five lessons. In the first one, Jeff Keller states that the world around us is as good or as bad as our attitude is. Thus, the book argues that our attitude is the window to the world. Every person has a clean attitude, which gets polluted by the daily struggles and failures. Keller asks you to clean your slate and start afresh, affirming that we can and should control our attitudes, instead of our attitude controlling us.
Lesson 2: Think and Conquer
Keller discusses the importance of thoughts in achieving success in the second lesson. He professes that a person can become what or she thinks about. If we constantly think about an objective, we are more likely to take steps to accomplish it. This way, we can become human magnets for success as we’ll continue to strive in the right direction. Likewise, the author states that positive thoughts and attitude should be a dominant force throughout our day, as thinking positively for a few seconds each day won’t take us towards success. Keller says we need to re-engineer our thoughts to think more positively, and reading and listening to positive literature is one way to do it.
Lesson 3: Believe, and it Will Be
The third lesson is one of my favourite ones from Attitude is Everything. Picture yourself as being what you want to be, and you will become what you want to be. If you picture yourself every single day as being successful and happy, you will put in the efforts needed to become successful and happy. Keller takes the example of world famous singer Celine Dion. During her childhood, the singer always pictured herself travelling around the world for concerts and earning hundreds of millions of dollars. The rest is (melodiously) history. The author asks the readers to carefully create reels in their minds, and presents a few practical techniques to do that.
Lesson 4: Commit, and it Will Happen
The fourth lesson deals with the power of commitment. Keller establishes that being committed requires great attitude, especially in the times of failure. He says that one must be willing to go to every length legal and ethical to accomplish their goals. The book gives examples of how consistent efforts backed by a strong commitment and a positive attitude helped an author sell millions of copies, a 73-year-old to become a lawyer, and an animated art trader sell millions of dollars of Disney art.
Lesson 5: Quest for the Silver Lining
The fifth lesson seems a difficult one to put into practice. Simply put, Keller reiterates the ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ proverb, but with much more vigour and emphasis. He mentions examples as extreme as someone being diagnosed with a brain tumour and still finding something positive out of it. Another example shows a man being crippled in a hospital bed following a terrible accident, where he is inspired to start the business of his dreams. While such examples sound too optimistic, Keller’s arguments are convincing and make a lot of sense.
Part 2: Watch Your Words
The second part of Attitude is Everything deals with how we perceive ourselves and how it affects our success and failure. It consists three lessons:
Lesson 1: Words Manifest into Reality
According to Keller, there’s a process of thoughts manifesting into reality: THOUGHTS – WORDS – BELIEFS – ACTIONS – RESULTS. In other words, we speak what we think, we believe what we say, we do what we believe in, and get results accordingly. If a salesman thinks he cannot reach his target, he would speak more negatively, and start believing his likelihood of failure. The salesman won’t take extra efforts to achieve his targets as he already believes he cannot make it, and ultimately, he fails. Thus, Keller says, what we perceive ourselves is imperative to what we eventually achieve.
Lesson 2: I’m Fine is Not Good Enough
The second lesson of this section deals with how our depiction of ourselves attracts or repels others. As a quintessential example, Keller asks us to analyse the ‘how are you?’ question. If you answer negatively to this question (dragging along/just alright/not that bad) whenever someone asks you, you’re portraying a negative image of yourself. And that’s something people generally want to run away from. But what if you say something like ‘fantastic’ or ‘phenomenal’? When some asks you how you were and they see you smiling and beaming positivity, they’d want to stay and spend time with you. Cruel? Maybe, but it’s how the world works.
Lesson 3: Nagging ≠ Pleasing
The third lesson deals with the habit of complaining. Nobody wants to be around a person who complains a lot. Being around a person constantly nagging about one thing or the other wears people down and drains them emotionally. A great example Keller gives is of those who complain about a rainy day being lousy. Such people engineer themselves and those around them to expect their day to be gloomy and lousy and ruin it. Instead, as Keller says, one should think of the rainy day as a wet day which is otherwise great.
Part 3: Heaven Helps Those Who Act
The fourth and final part of Attitude is Everything is related to taking actions with a positive mindset. Keller gives a practical roadmap in four lessons to make the most out of the book:
Lesson 1: Ditch the Negative
In the first lesson of this part, Keller classifies people in our lives into two categories – nourishing people and toxic people. Nourishing people have a positive attitude and keep you motivated to achieve greatness. Associating with more and more nourishing people will help you accomplish your goals and realise success. Toxic people have a negative attitude, and are, in the words of Les Brown, ‘Dream Killers’. Hanging around with negative people kills creativity, imagination, and the will to succeed, dragging you down enormously. Keller asks the readers to associate with positive people and discard negative people from their lives.
Lesson 2: Face Fear Head On
The second lesson of the final section deals with confronting fears. Keller states that engaging in activities that you fear (bungee jumping and skydiving aside!) pulls you out of your comfort zone and helps you achieve the unthinkable. He lists most common fears, like public speaking, rejection, switching careers, etc., and argues that avoiding these fears makes us pay a heavy price. Keller also makes an important point that taking the first step in confronting your fears is itself a victory. Read our analysis of The Power of Habit to understand how you can develop habits to conquer your fears.
Lesson 3: Fail to Succeed
The third lesson explores the importance of failure in becoming truly successful. Keller takes the example of a toddler, who falls hundreds of times before taking the first step, fumbles a thousand times before uttering the first word. But as we grow older, we develop a fear of failure, which prevents us from trying new things. Thus, most of us never realise our true potential and lead a mediocre life at best. Once you’ve trained your mind to embrace failure and turn it into a learning experience, you can unlock your potential and attain greatness, like J.K. Rowling, who’s Harry Potter was apparently rejected several times before getting published.
Lesson 4: Positivity Propels Influence
The final lesson is about the art of networking, and how having a positive attitude can help you ace it. Keller says that effective networking demands a winning attitude, active participation, helping others, and being a great communicator. All of these attributes are directly linked to having a positive attitude. If you apply Keller’s techniques and build a positive attitude, nothing can stop you from creating a potent network. Otherwise, a person with a negative attitude, who complains often, and doesn’t try new stuff will never succeed in networking.
Five Key Takeaways from Attitude IS Everything
Attitude is Everything is full of eye-openers, the book does a great job at giving motivating insights to ponder. Of all, here are five key takeaways from the book that I feel have a universal relevance.
Don’t Be Negative or Nagging
In a very broader sense, the world has two kinds of people. The first kind starts complaining whenever facing any adversary. The second kind finds ways, stays strong, and survives a punch or two without any fuss. Individuals belonging to the second kind change the world. Humanity loves them, money and fame loves them. The only ones who hate them are the first kind of nagging people.
Think of former world heavyweight champion, Muhammad Ali. Apart from being the greatest boxer of all time, he was a beacon of light and hope for millions across the globe. People loved him, regardless of colour and nationalities. He is inarguably the most influential athlete ever. And what took him there? His unreal optimism, his sheer belief and will to win and conquer.
That’s the same case with the likes of Joe Rogan, Elon Musk, Michael Phelps, and J.K. Rowling. They are positive individuals who took adversity head on, without being negative and complaining. When Rowling faced rejection, or when Phelps trained for five years without a single holiday, they endured the pain that would’ve broken most people. The negative mindset individuals would’ve complained of how miserable their lives were. So, to become a champion, stop being negative, stop complaining, and face adversity with a positive attitude.
Don’t Drag Yourself Down
Don’t ever say that you cannot do something, even if that thing is breaking a bloody mountain. Don’t ever say that you are boring. Don’t ever say you’re mediocre at what you do. Never, never drag yourself down by saying things that degrade yourself. At best, saying negative things about yourself will kill your confidence, and at worst, it would suck life out of you.
The greatest eyeopener for me in Attitude is Everything was the effect of saying negative stuff about ourselves on our life. We often have the habit of saying “I’m always sick,” or “I don’t deserve her,” or “I can never move to another country for a better life.” Such horrible statements program our minds for consistent failures, because dragging ourselves down never allows us to try sincerely. And when something bad happens, it doesn’t feel as bad because we subconsciously believe that we deserved it.
On the other hand, those who believe they can do it succeed more often. Take the example of Dashrath Manjhi. Take a minute and search this name on Google. If you don’t know him already, you’ll be blown away. The man literally broke a mountain, a damn mountain! And that’s because he believed he could. Imagine if Mr. Manjhi said, “oh, this mountain is so damn huge, I can never break it,” would he be successful in doing something that no individual had ever done? Most probably, not.
Don’t Spend Time With Negative People
Often the case is that even if you fight your inner demons and decide to do something good, the people around you mess your mind. I’ve seen people at the age of 30+ wanting to take a big step like switching their career or moving abroad from studies. But not many move forward because the people around them, friends and family, scare them with negative statements.
Comments like “Switching at this stage is a bad decision,” or “spending such money on a master’s degree at thirty is a dumb idea” kill hope. The courage it took to see a dream vanishes quickly when people you spend time scare or ridicule you. And by ridicule, I don’t mean criticism. There are people who will be honest and give you feedback that you may not like. But that’s to help you improve and proceed, and not to discourage you from trying.
The best solution to this problem of epidemic proportions is to cut ties with negative people. Stop seeing them, or at least cut down on the time you spend with them. Don’t share your ideas or dreams with them. Allocate more time to people who truly care for you and motivate you to prosper and progress. If you find people keep you up on your heels intolerable, that’s because you haven’t seen true support yet in life. Get used to these positive influencers in your life, and eliminate whoever kills your confidence.
Don’t Fear Your Fears
The West Indian bowlers of the 70s and the 80s were quick, mean, and scary, terrorising batsmen all over the world. The fearsome foursome – Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Andy Roberts, and Colin Croft – averaging 6ft+ in height, and 145+ km/h in speed. Ask John Edrich and the poor Brian Close what the West Indians were capable of. Later, they had Malcolm Marshall, too.
The world was falling to the West Indian fire-breathing pacers, but India had Sunil Gavaskar. The legendary Indian batsmen smashed a record 13 centuries against the Caribbean army, scoring more than 2700 runs against the most feared team ever. When looking at the man, all one could see was a 5’5ft man walking onto the battlefield, in an era when helmets or any other protective gear was non-existent. All that the short man from Mumbai had was strong technique and a stronger will to face his fears. When a brutal ball at lightning pace from Marshall hit him on Gavaskar’s forehead, he didn’t flinch, and hit the very next ball to the cleaners down the ground, and of course, scoring a century in the same innings.
That’s true courage, standing in the face of your worst fears, and still having the determination to fight. That’s what Attitude is Everything preaches. To be able to face your fears and ultimately conquer them is imperative to success in whatever avenue you choose. If you fear the stage, jump on it the very next time you get the chance. If you fear addressing a crowd, do it so many times that your fear is compelled to walk away. And believe me (and Jeff Keller), it will.
Don’t Despise Failure
The best thing that could happen to you is success. The second best thing is failure. Yes, failing sucks and is quite demotivating. But they are the best learning experience too. In other words, failure is a milestone in your journey towards success. Unfortunately, failure gets all the bad rep, turning it into a monster, the boogeyman that no one wants to face.
Attitude is Everything urges the readers to look at the boogeyman not with fear but with intent. Look at failure with the intent of learning from it, turning it into a tutorial, and making necessary adjustments. The moment you start despising failure, you start looking for excuses to avoid trying. And when you stop trying, your chances of failure are 100 percent.
Never failing is almost a synonym to not succeeding. In fact, success is a result of a series of failures. Ronaldo Nazario, Diego Maradona, Zidane, all missed penalties. But each of them is as successful as any athlete has ever been. What if they stopped trying the first time they missed a penalty? What if Messi had quit after losing the world cup final in 2014? Keep the child alive in you, the child that you once were, who tried to run when he couldn’t walk.
Attitude is Everything is the Perfect Book for Beginners
The best stories, the dishes, the best clothes are those that are simple. Simple to tell, simple to enjoy, simple to wear. Attitude is Everything is a simple book in that sense. The concepts it preaches, the examples it presents, the techniques it promotes, are all very simple. That’s what makes it the perfect book for beginners. You can give it to a 15-year-old just about to enter college, and it could easily be the best gift for him/her.
But it doesn’t end there. It being simple means you could give it to a person who’s never read anything out of academia, regardless of age or culture. A young executive from small town India will enjoy and benefit from the book as much as a CEO in Silicon Valley. That’s how good Jeff Keller is. That’s the power of Attitude is Everything.
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Noman Shaikh is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Bombay Reads. He grew up in Mumbai, a city he loves more than any other, and currently works as a content consultant. His expertise lies in creating high-quality academic and marketing content in the form of blogs, articles, op-eds, etc. Noman has worked with reputed brands, including Economic Times (through Spiral Media), Coinbase (through MattsenKumar), AdEngage, Della Group, GBIM Technologies, VAP Group, etc. For his published portfolio, click here. Contact Noman on noman@bombayreads for engagement.