I just finished reading Keith Cameron Smith’s book, The Top 10 Distinctions Between Winners and Whiners (Wiley, 2010). It’s an amusing list with some profound underlying truths. Some of my favorites:

Winners can have what they want. Whiners want what they cannot have. Winners work hard in pursuit of their passions. Exceptional performance takes hard work. Don’t expect success just by showing up—you have to work for it. Invest in lifelong learning.

Winners brighten a room by entering. Whiners brighten a room by leaving. Positive attitudes energize people. Doom and gloom sucks the life out of everyone around. Winners brighten a room by encouraging others, congratulating others and refusing to speak poorly of others.

Winners find a way. Whiners find an excuse. Vision empowers you to find a way, no matter what. Lack of vision causes you to find an excuse. Create solutions to overcome obstacles and be innovative.

Winners build friendships. Whiners destroy friendships. Understanding the perspectives and opinions of others builds trust. Maintain an open attitude and welcome diversity—it leads to stronger teams with multiple viewpoints and experiences.

I found myself really resonating with these observations and thinking about the challenging events of the past few years—watching businesses close, friends get laid off, the stock market plummet. I’ve noticed two distinct reactions. One is positive, looking at these times as an opportunity to invest in yourself, reinvent and re-energize. Another is a negative response of playing the victim, thinking it’s not my fault and life isn’t fair, and not taking any productive action. I’ve also noticed that many of the people who maintain a positive outlook create the means for continuous learning and see challenges where others see obstacles. They are the ones who come out on top.

So many of the lessons and distinctions between winners and whiners are nicely aligned with RoseRyan’s values. I have the great fortune to be championing our corporate values program, and I’ve been surprised by the number of people who are supportive and actively working for change. I’ve been amazed at what can happen when a group of people decide to make positive changes.

Smith’s book is a quick read, but worth the time to slow down a little and reflect, Can I be more like that? Or conversely, Do I get stuck on whining? I think we can all see a little of ourselves in the examples, and as we start out the new year, perhaps it’s a good time to take some of this to heart.