“A positive attitude causes a chain reaction of positive thoughts, events, and outcomes. It is a catalyst and it sparks extraordinary results.” Wade Boggs.

This week at work I was reminded of the reality that attitude is everything. In the abatement field, we often work in really dirty, dusty places. It’s usually hot. The personal protective equipment (PPE) we wear is cumbersome and uncomfortable. The suits get covered in a heavy sludge because we are constantly wetting down the containment environment to keep asbestos fibers or lead dust at a minimum. Our respirators make breathing laborsome and unpleasant as they tend to fill with sweat, mucus, and moisture that cannot be removed while you’re in the containment area.

However, this isn’t the totality of our working conditions long before you get to the point of having to suit up in your PPE and begin the process of abating the asbestos or lead-containing materials you spend the majority of your time doing what’s called set-up. Set-up is the process whereby you make the work area safe for abatement. This usually includes creating containments. This means you seal off the areas where the abatement is to be performed with heavy plastics to prevent the lead or asbestos from contaminating none work areas. Building a three-chamber containment, which includes a clean room, a dirty room, and a shower. Not to mention often times before this process begins we may spend hours, if not days removing and/or covering obstructions to our tasks, such as furniture, debris, trash, and the like.

Needless to say, this can all be extremely hard, time-consuming, and tedious work. So much so that it is easy to find one’s self getting caught up in negative thoughts and attitudes during the process. This was my personal experience over the past week. Many of the guys I work with are young and immature. So there’s always a ton of complaining about the work that has to be done. This creates a negative atmosphere and the bad energy tends to pull everyone’s spirits down. Needless to say, this only makes the day feel longer and harder.

This week I was reminded of how I not only survived but thrived during my 25 years of incarceration. Especially during those 17 years I spent held in sensory-deprived isolation. It was attitude. Early on in my incarceration I adopted and internalized a positive attitude. I decided to not let prison break my spirit, that I would make the best of a negative experience and turn it into a positive one. Following the example of historical figures, I read about such as Malcolm X, Nelson Mandela, and a host of political prisoners who continued not only their growth and development while held captive but positively changed the world. I committed to studying and writing. While in solitary confinement I along with the assistance and camaraderie of a group of men who had all made the same commitment studied amongst other subjects law, spiritual cultivation, tai chi, yoga, art, and writing. This non-defeatist attitude and positive spirit allowed me to publish two books and gain wide recognition as a poet and political activist.

More importantly, devoting myself to being positive allowed me to grow and develop into a positive influence on others and thrive in an environment of utter misery. Which is what I did this past week at work. I reminded myself of the freedom I now enjoy and how the worst day out here in the world is a thousand times better than my best day in prison. No matter how negative or bleak things appear the reality is as Zig Ziglar said, “Your attitude, not our aptitude will determine our altitude.” So keep a positive attitude and I’ll see you amongst the stars. by Akili