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Real Life 101: The Infectious Power Of A Positive Attitude

by on June 26, 2018 5:00 AM


Over the next few weeks my columns will be featuring excerpts from my upcoming book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion: 7 Common Sense Principles For Achieving Personal and Professional Success,” which should be out in early August. It is my first book and I am thrilled that the manuscript has been turned in and the front cover has been designed. My publisher and I still have to design the back cover and the layout of the pages, but overall things are finally coming together quickly and very well.

If you have ever considered writing a book, contact me first! No, I won’t try to dissuade you from writing your book. But I will definitely have some pearls of wisdom to hopefully assist you in making the experience a smooth and achievable one, with fewer bumps in the road. I should have listened more to my publisher Weston Lyon who has been so patient and a pleasure to work with from the start. I am glad I spoke to six-time New York Times best-selling author John U. Bacon, who wrote the forward for my book, and gained some great insights from him.

There are several studies out on the Internet that claim as many as 80-90 percent of Americans talk about someday writing a book. Well as long as I don’t cause too many more delays trying to write “the” book instead of “a” book, I should be able to hold an actual copy in my hand in four to five weeks. So without further delay here is a sneak peak.

In this “Real Life 101” excerpt from the book’s second chapter on attitude, the topic is: “The Infectious Power Of A Positive Attitude.”

A former colleague of mine with the Buffalo Sabres, security officer James McDuffie, was one of the happiest and most gregarious employees who worked at the Sabres Arena.  Every day he said “hello” with energy, enthusiasm and an infectious smile, and made everyone who came into the security area feel genuinely welcome. You would have never suspected the violent and dreadful past James was able to escape from, to become a beloved employee and colleague because of his positive attitude, grit and perseverance.  

James overcame various personal and family setbacks in his life but succeeded in getting out of the “Little Vietnam” section of the east side of Buffalo, where gangs, drugs, death and despair reigned. Like many inner-city kids, he found a temporary respite in sports as a football player. But after being told he could not play because of a heart condition, he began to act out and was kicked out of school. His father told him, “I’m not going to let a bum live in my house. Go get a job!”

James enrolled in a work program and earned his GED. He did find various jobs but he also got in with the wrong crowd of friends. Excessive drinking and fighting ensued and ultimately cost him his first marriage to a woman he now realizes was just trying to help him become a better person.  Six of his childhood friends died from unhealthy lifestyles consumed by drugs, alcoholism, smoking and violence.

James knew he had to change his attitude in order to change his life.  He told me that on November 13, 1993 he reached his tipping point. “I knew it was time to take charge of my life and make a commitment to become a better man.” He gave up drinking and smoking (he hasn’t had either one since) and he got a job as a security guard at a bank.  He started working security for the Sabres in 1996 and has been there ever since.

He credits his change in attitude and his faith for transforming his life. “My mom planted the seed for my faith as a kid.” With a big smile he said, “It just took awhile to sprout!” He added, “I honor my mom’s memory with my passion for studying the Bible.

“I’ve met a president, senators, singers, comedians and star athletes. I even played ping-pong with Phil Collins. I saw the Stanley Cup be awarded. That was all great, but it is my personal relationships with the people in my life and with God that have given me strength and endurance.

“I am who I am. I don’t try to impress people. I try to treat everyone with respect. I just try to be myself.”

His enthusiasm is so infectious. He is the self-professed “Vice President of Hugs” and his philosophy is to “Get to know everyone who comes into the building and treat each one well.”

By applying a daily positive attitude, practicing “The Attitude of Gratitude,” by taking charge of his life, and by having a strong passion for his faith, James found a way out of a hellacious environment and violent past. He not only persevered, he has found his passion and his purpose in serving others. “Despite all my defects and imperfections, I have found happiness.  I am happy and at peace.”

That sounds like personal and professional success to me.

How have you taken charge of your life lately and what positive, new daily habits are you adding? Think of an example of when you were persistent and it paid off. Give an example where you were stubborn beyond a practical level and you reached a point of futility before “pivoting” for a better result?

“Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” ― Mahatma Gandhi


Joe Battista has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities since 1978. He is best known for his effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley and in the building of Pegula Ice Arena. “JoeBa” is the owner of PRAGMATIC Passion, LLC consulting, a professional speaker, success coach, and the vice president of the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA). He is the author of a new book, “The Power of Pragmatic Passion.” Joe lives in State College with his wife Heidi (PSU ’81 & ’83), daughter Brianna (PSU ’15), and son’s Jon (PSU ’16), and Ryan (State High Class of 2019).
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