Denny Smith
Leadership and Development Trainer


 When I first heard that phrase, I thought it was kind of humorous, but reflecting on the hidden message, I found it to be profound.  Let me illustrate.

A young couple just moving to a new town spotted an old codger sitting on a park bench, so they inquired about the people in their new place of residence. “What are people like in this town?” they asked. The codger answered their question with a question. “What were people like where you came from?” The couple replied, “They were kind of snooty, not friendly at all. It seemed hard to fit in, so it wasn’t a lot of fun living there.” The codger observed, “I reckon folks are pretty much the same here.”

A second couple just moving into town made the same inquiry, “What are people like in this town?” The codger repeated the question he asked the previous couple. “What were people like where you came from?” “They were great,” the couple replied. “They were warm, friendly, and caring, and a lot of fun to be around.” The codger echoed, “I reckon folks are pretty much the same here.” 

Sometimes change is just what the doctor ordered but be aware of the attitude and behavior you take with you when you make the switch. If you find yourself falling into the same trap over and over, look in the mirror and work on making yourself a better you.

When I was a junior in high school, I got kicked out of the concert band for disruptive behavior. A new teacher came in my senior year, and I was allowed back in the fold. I gave a lot of credit to Mr. Root for providing a fun and rewarding musical experience, but I also know this: I came in with a whole new attitude and a whole new set of behaviors. Had I not changed, had I carried my former self into the new environment, there is a good chance the results may have been duplicated.

I have learned, sometimes the hard way, that if I carry anger, bitterness, worry, or any form of negativity with me, the results reflect that. When I approach any situation with enthusiasm, optimism, non-judgment, and all the good stuff, I elevate my chances for success. Success is wonderful, but the greatest benefit of a more positive approach is that you replace being stressed out and uptight with a relaxed feeling of peace and serenity. That’s a pretty good trade.

You’re Good – But You’re Getting Better

“I never make the same mistake twice. I make it five or six times so I know for sure things aren’t working.”

It’s one of my favorite one-liners that has a lot of meaning. Much of my frustration over the years has come from thinking that I needed to change other people or alter something “out there” to get the results I wanted. I eventually learned that if I changed myself and my approach, improved outcomes would follow. The adage, “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got,” finally sank in.

Here’s an important point. We don’t have to approach personal growth and self-improvement from a standpoint of lack. You are already pretty good, or you wouldn’t be where you are, but don’t stop now. Zig Ziglar used to say, “I’m good—but I’m getting better.” Approaching everything with that frame of mind makes the journey more rewarding and a whole lot more fun.

Each day, prepare to take the most poised, positive, and enthusiastic you with you wherever you go, and always remember, wherever you go, there you are.

Denny Smith is a former teacher and coach, an author, and a motivational speaker committed to making our schools and communities safe and welcoming for all people. Excerpts from “Emotional Intelligence 101: How to Carve a Duck, and his latest book, “Coaches Make the Difference,” can be previewed at

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