Be at it dude


Many years ago, when satellite television was being introduced, there was a memorable and catchy advertising slogan in South Africa which announced, “You haven’t got it till you get it!” As a slogan for the brand, it was obviously saying that no-one could consider themselves anyone if they did not have that particular brand, but at a broader higher level it perhaps was an appropriate slogan for us all – we haven’t ‘cracked’ life until we have grasped one particular truth, the all-important ‘it’. Get it?

The big question, though, is this: what is the “it” to which the slogan is referring? Some might be inclined to think that ‘it’ stands for IT, in other words for Information Technology.

IT nowadays plays such a huge part in our lives and indeed in the curriculum of our schools – though, if truth be told, many of the children in our schools tend to know more about IT than many of the teachers.

Information Technology, we are told, “means the use of hardware, software, services, and supporting infrastructure to manage and deliver information using voice, data, and video”.

Information is the key to life and the key to information is technology – so we are told.

Not everyone would agree though. The disciples of such thinking would aver that the gathering of information provides knowledge which will bring about qualifications and skills, thus leading to employment.

 Simon Sinek, the highly rated motivational speaker and organisational consultant, would disagree as he has declared that “You don't hire for skills; you hire for attitude. You can always teach skills.”

When it comes to employment suitability, you either have it or you do not have it. And the “it” that he would identify is attitude; that is the key ingredient.

His additional comment that “you can always teach skills” is interesting in that it implies that you cannot teach attitude. Is that the case?

Many will indeed say that you cannot teach attitude; they may even quote the well-known adage that “you can take a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink”.

The horse must want to drink; the horse must have the right attitude.

Having the right attitude is essential and we must at least teach our children the importance of it while enabling them to develop the right attitude.

After all, as someone has added to the above-mentioned adage about not being able to make a horse drink — “you can make it thirsty”! There is the answer; we must change the horse’s attitude to the point where he wants and sees the value in drinking.

Attitude is not taught, therefore, but caught. It comes through seeing it in others, liking what is seen and then copying what is seen.

It has been said that “Two things define you: your patience when you have nothing and your attitude when you have everything”.

However, we may well suggest that our attitude when we have nothing can equally define us. And the fact is that we all have attitude; it is more importantly a question of whether our attitude is good or bad.

Indeed, when we refer to someone as having “attitude” we are generally suggesting the person has a bad, negative attitude. Consider now the good attitude.

Attitude is the “it” that children will need if they want “it”, that is, a job. And just as in the middle of the word “attitude” is the word “it”, so what will determine the correct, desirable, noble attitude are qualities that (like the word “qualities”) have that all-important word “it” in them.

The “it” in “attitude” will thus comprise of the “it” in humility, dignity, responsibility, accountability, integrity and indeed gratitude.

However, they must not be deceived into thinking that the “it” in entitlement, invulnerability, negativity, impulsivity will help them; those are purely examples of bad attitude.

Children may already know about IT and how it is so important not just in their social personal life but also in the workplace; that is good.

However, it is up to us as educators to ensure they know the importance of attitude.

 If they haven’t got it, they will not get it, so they must get it.

They must, in their own language, be-at-it-dude – after all, as we may also know, “beatitude” means “blessed”.

We, and our children, will be blessed with being employed if we get “it”. As the successful American Football coach Lou Holtz opined, “Ability [and by that he would no doubt be meaning in Sinek’s words “skills”] is what you’re capable of doing, motivation determines what you do.

Attitude determines how well you do it.” Sinek is right: it is not about skill, but will. Get it?

Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS. 

email: [email protected] website: www.atschisz

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