Thumbs Up Attitude

How to be Positive in an often Negative World

(photo: -Fearless-)

Do whatever it takes to change your situation, but be certain you are moving toward something and not running away.

Hold the thumb in a thumbs-up position; this represents attitude.  The kind of attitude you need to have, is the attitude of achievement.

It is an attitude of excellence.  I call this the “Thumbs-Up” attitude.  If you see a jet pilot through the window of his cockpit getting ready to take off, he gives the thumbs-up signal when he is ready to go.  This is the universal positive signal of “ready.”  With a thumbs-up attitude, you’re ready for takeoff.

ACE – Book 1 of Winjitsu, is full of principles that you need to learn in order to be ready for takeoff.   After all, no one (no one sane anyway) would just jump into the cockpit of a jet and declare themselves ready for takeoff.  It takes preparation.

Before we get into the many applications of a thumbs-up attitude, I want to discuss the difference between a reaction and a response. Although they are very similar, there are some subtle differences that are important to distinguish.

A reaction is something that you do almost immediately and very often without thinking.  You quickly react to a stimuli; it is automatic.

A response is something you do when you have been able to intelligently review the issues at hand.  You respond to an event; it is learned.

So although you might initially or quickly react with a negative attitude toward an unexpected external situation, you can change that attitude into a thumbs-up response through learning/training.

Naturally your goal will be to react with a thumbs-up each and every time something in life doesn’t go exactly as planned, but until you have developed an understanding (awareness), let’s take the concept and run it through the four steps (explained in lesson three, page 47) of  turning a negative event into a natural reaction and a instinctive positive response.  We can do this by continuously shortening (through training and practice) the time it takes to turn a thumbs-down attitude into a thumbs-up attitude.

Garbage in – Garbage out

That’s a phrase often heard around computer techs and accountants; the results are not going to be any better than the information that went into obtaining those results.  If you enter faulty data into the computer, you will not get accurate information.  If you enter incorrect numbers into your accounting ledger, you will not get accurate results.  Either way, if you proceed to make decisions based upon that inaccurate information, you are headed for trouble with a capital T!

What we do and how we respond to events or people in our life does make a difference.  Think about how often you respond with a thumbs-up as opposed a thumbs-down.  Just as we can follow the 80/20 rule (20% of something being responsible for 80% of the results), in time management, we can also work on cutting out negative behaviors and  limiting beliefs in order to focus on the vital few areas that really matter.

The garbage is meant to be taken out, not brought in.

NOTE: This is with the realization that your goal is a 100% thumbs-up all the time attitude.  But being realistic, we know there will be times when we are not in the most positive state of mind.  That too is a part of life, but our goal must remain 100%, even if occasionally we fall short.

When dealing with our fears and the things that intimidate us, it is very important to maintain a thumbs-up attitude.  If you ask those who have survived life-threatening situations, it is almost always the will to survive that has helped them to prevail.  This is often hard for people to understand.  If I had one day to teach people how to survive, I would make every attempt to convince them that if they give up, or adopt an “I can’t win” posture, it doesn’t matter how much they know about collecting water or setting traps; they will not prevail.

There’s only one survival tool that matters

If you were to be sent into the wild with only one thing – a pocket knife or an attitude of “never give up” – which one do you think would keep you alive the longest?  Naturally, to have both tools plus a satellite phone would be optimal, but we are not always prepared nor do we remember to keep a survival kit close at hand.  However, your thumbs-up attitude is a powerful tool and it travels with you all the time.  It never gets rusty or dull, and the battery never dies.

What thumbs-down people fail to realize, is that what you focus on is what you get.  If your focus is on the pain of being held down by some outside force, then that will become your reality.  Have you ever been in a situation where you had no control?  Like sitting in the coach section of an aircraft?

“It’s not my fault!  If this didn’t happen, my life wouldn’t be this way.” “I’m just a passenger.”  “I’m just a victim.”


Usually, it is just a lack of taking responsibility.  (I know, you can’t break into the cockpit and fly the plane.)  But regardless of the situation, if you have a thumbs-down attitude, you’re stuck.  For optimal self-defense and self-preservation, you need a thumbs-up attitude if you are going to take control of a seemingly painful reality.

Imagine a simple defense against a wrist grab.  With both palms down, grab your right wrist with your left hand.  We want to mimic the type of grab we would get from an opponent, so we are grabbing our own hand as if the left were from someone else.

Okay, this left hand represents all the limiting and negative beliefs as well as external circumstances that seem to have control of the way you think—anything that is making you feel trapped and not in control. They are your ball and chain.  Hold your hands up in front of you and wiggle your right hand without letting go with your left.  The wiggling and trying to get loose is the equivalent of complaining about the situation, but doing very little to change anything.  In fact, at this moment you are not even sure how to change the circumstance or how to escape this painful gripping reality.

However, if you turn your right palm facing you while still being grabbed by the left, it will expose the thumb and fingers of the left hand.  This is called the gate and it is your way to freedom.  To break through this gate, simply make a thumbs-up with your right hand and push the elbow down, while lifting the thumb up and through the gate.  You will break free.

What you believe, you perceive

The problem is, unless you turn that thumb up, it isn’t likely you will ever see the gate.  You will feel trapped, and with a thumbs-down attitude it is very hard to escape.  So not only are you stuck, but you are also getting pulled around and controlled by the events in your life (illustrated by the grip of left hand).

There will be times when you react with a thumbs-down attitude.  Even so, do your best to always end with a thumbs-up follow-up.  This is to say that you follow these out-of-control bursts with a positive thumbs-up attitude.  This is similar to saying, “sorry” when you have gone overboard, but is also a type of forgiveness that will free you up from holding a grudge.  It helps everyone.

If life throws you a few body blows, you have to respond with a Thumbs-Up attitude, because life is going to do just that.  Remember, this is your Mental Martial Art, and at times you will need to defend yourself against what life throws at you.  At first, you’ll put your thumb up and life will grab your silly little thumb and twist it upside down.  You will need to have the strength and mental stamina to get up, smile, and get that thumb pointing up again.

Next time an external circumstance makes you angry (twists your thumb down), respond with a Thumbs-Up.  Even if you have to do it in a sarcastic manner, get that thumb up.

Life says, “I have some challenges (some Mental Demons to defeat) for you,” and you smile with a thumbs-up and say, “Let me at them.”

This isn’t always easy, especially since we usually don’t have time to respond in situations that raise our blood pressure.  We usually react. And reactions come from a place of prior conditioning and learning.  It is ingrained.   Our goal here is to change that conditioning and learning, and re-learn how to respond in a way that yields positive results.

If you simply react, that is okay, just make sure you end with a thumbs-up attitude.  A bad attitude will only increase your dilemma.  Outside of communicating that you are not happy with something, it may add gasoline to the fire.  However, screaming “fire” to let others know that it is now time to exit the building, is probably your most likely reaction.  Then you can offer a thumbs-up response as a way of dealing with the crisis and avoiding further chaos.

If increasing your pain is your goal, then by all means scream and make rude remarks at life, and you will soon realize life will only reflect what you put out.  This is often referred to as Karma, or “What goes around, comes around.” Start today by making the decision to have a thumbs-up attitude as consistently as possibly.

How to Respond (In-Kind x 2)

First, respond in-kind (you are not a punching bag) by making it clear you are not happy about a situation or event.  Imagine that you are a judge and have specific rules for your life and when something enters your life in the negative, you can give your thumbs-down ruling.  And then, do your absolute best to respond in-kind (be nice) by ending with a positive attitude.  This is a way of pacing and leading.  Having a Thumbs-Up attitude is a way of life as much as it is a positive way of responding to negative circumstances.  So in these mini sparring matches, here is your 1-2 punch strategy – responding in kind:

1. In-kind negative feeling expressed to the environment

2. In-kind negative feeling changed to a positive response

I’ve been stabbed

I must have been too confident one evening (I have tried numerous times to remove the event from my memory – smiles of course) about 15 years ago when life decided that the only way to deal with my thumbs-up attitude was to try and cut off my thumb.

I was giving a short lecture on (believe it or not) focus.  In this speech I had a nice-sized audience and one assistant, with a few other friends watching from the sidelines.  I was explaining the difference between realistic focus and unrealistic focus through a demonstration of unrealistic and realistic knife and punch defenses.

My regular assistant was unavailable, so I had to use another assistant for the evening.  Although he was advanced, it had been some time since we had worked together in a lecture-type of environment.

Lesson one: my own confidence and skill is not enough.

I was teaching the audience what to do and what not to do when faced with a knife attack.  The first example was to demonstrate an unrealistic strategy, one you might see in a movie where a defender captures the blade between both hands as if to CLAP onto it.  This is a dangerous and highly unrealistic reaction.

The second knife defense was a more realistic approach that consisted of adopting a stance designed to protect the arteries, and then move the body only when a committed attack is headed your way.  I demonstrated both of these knife defenses to the audience. Perfect!

After I was finished demonstrating the knife defenses, I used the same concept of realistic versus unrealistic to demonstrate techniques for defending against a punch.  As my opponent would punch, one reaction would be to drop into the splits and strike the opponent’s groin – unrealistic.

The other was a fast paced more realistic response that included tips on protecting the arteries, jamming the attack, and controlling the weapon arm. Perfect!

I went on to explain the mental point of view and how we can focus on realistic strategies as opposed to unrealistic ones.  I had my hands up facing the audience (as I often do when I speak) and my assistant was to my left holding a knife.  As I was talking, I glanced to my left at my assistant who took that as a signal to act out his part in this play, which was to place the knife at my face.  Only it was more of a stabbing motion, and I moved back with the action of, “Whoa, not yet.”  But it was too late. Not Perfect!

Lesson two: stop using real knives in demonstrations.

The tip of the blade hit the base of my thumb and sliced open a vein that was eager to pretend to be an artery.  It just wanted to bleed.  At this point you can imagine my audience, friends, and assistant.  Everyone was frozen in horror.  They had not expected to see Penn and Teller!  They lost focus.

I simply took it as what it was, a mistake, now let’s get over it.  I grabbed a scarf from a lady in the front row and wrapped up my hand and thumb and continued my speech.  But no one was listening; all they could focus on was my bloody THUMB.

My assistant snapped back into action realizing I was trying to continue, and he put down the weapon and moved on to the next part where he was to punch and I was to drop into the splits showing the unrealistic thing to do.

Lesson three: no splits when your focus is broken.

In an attempt to proceed with my lecture I dropped into the splits, but without the added support of my left hand.  I came down at an odd angle and tore some muscles, which inevitably made it almost impossible to sit down for close to a week.  I didn’t let on to the audience that I now had two injuries to deal with.  I was keeping my focus and positive attitude in spite of the events.  I stood up and continued to talk.  People were staring at the hand.  I put my wounded hand behind my back so I could continue, but they didn’t snap out of it.  I started to realize they were not going to let me out of this one. I had a great excuse to quit, to give up, and to run (make that limp) off the stage.   No one would have blamed me.  But I tried my best to finish, to stick with it, and to keep a thumbs-up attitude.  But my thumb was bleeding, and although I wasn’t about to let anything get control of my attitude, my external environment was not prepared for such a drastic change.  So I excused myself to deal with the issue at HAND.

It was a three-strikes-you’re-out night, and I certainly can say that trying to have a thumbs-up in that situation would have been a real challenge if I wasn’t already trained in the basics of Winjitsu.  I am proud to say that I was not angry with my assistant, or the audience for losing focus, and I managed to stay calm during the entire process.  I did have an initial raised eyebrow period with my assistant, who apologized profusely; he was only trying to do his best.

I was more frustrated with the crowd, but how could I really blame them?  They were in shock.  This was certainly an embarrassing and ironic evening where the teacher becomes the student.   It also could have been a great excuse to give up, throw in the towel, tuck in the tail, and disappear.   But that is not my nature.

Winjitsu Work Out

Make a list of 3 times in your life that you responded to a situation or an event in a “thumbs down” posture:




Now list how you could have turned those events around by reacting with a “thumbs up” mentality:

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