Paul Butler | Are you a grumbler or are you grateful?

Paul Butler: Going the Extra Mile
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Last Saturday we drove up to our favorite beach in Santa Barbara. The journey from the 126 to the 101 was spectacular. The weather was perfect. We immediately found a great parking spot. The wait time for a table at our favorite restaurant right on the beach was not long, so we decided to kick off the flipflops and take a stroll on the sand. It was picture perfect.  

A few minutes later, though, we walked past a rather miserable-looking woman wearing a T-shirt that read: “Everything is terrible.” Not only had her demeanor likely driven her wardrobe decision that morning but over the years, it must have rubbed off on her mutt. Her little dog was a nasty, yappy kind of breed that no one dares to pet. She marched off down the beach in solitude, leaving big holes where her boots trod. 

This set me thinking about the workplace — why is it some people choose the “I am miserable” approach to life and some don’t? Why do some colleagues see the glass as half-empty and others see it as half-full? Why are some employees always suspicious and second-guessing management while others exhibit a peace that passes all understanding? 

I don’t know what was going on with the woman on the beach — everything may have been terrible but I’m not sure of the benefit of proclaiming this personal perception to everyone she came into contact with that Saturday morning. I’m no psychologist but by telling yourself everything is terrible — I wonder if it makes you feel better. I don’t think it does. I actually believe such a mindset becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. “As a person thinks in their heart, so are they” a wiser person than me once wrote. 

I generally notice two types of people in the workplace regardless of rank or role —the Grumbler and the Grateful. The former is never satisfied. The latter is always good with what they’ve got. The Grumbler has a scarcity mindset whereas the Grateful think abundantly. The former will grudgingly comply with the bare minimum of the job description whereas the latter is always looking for ways to go the extra mile. 

Like a pebble in a pond, I’ve often pondered which of these make the best spouse, partner, friend, family member or neighbor. I’d much rather be married to; be in business with; be a friend of; a family member of; or live next door to a Grateful than a Grumbler.  

From my experience the Grateful lead better, serve better and collaborate better. Conversely, the Grumbler needs to be cajoled, appeased and comforted. Whereas the Grateful come up with ideas and solutions, the Grumbler sees issues and problems.  

Thinking back to the lady on the beach — how can everything be terrible? We’re both living in the United States — the largest economy in the world and one of the most prosperous per capita. We’re both living in California, which if it was its own country, would be the ninth largest economy in the world. We’re both on a beach in Santa Barbara’s sunshine in the month of January. Hello?  

As we head into 2022, I am sure there are challenges ahead for us as a country, a state, a county and of course individually. But as the late Dr. Stephen Covey, the author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” wrote, “It’s not what happens to us, it’s our chosen response to what happens to us that makes all the difference.” I concur with Covey. 

We each have so much to be grateful for — let’s not be grumblers: be it on the beach or in the workplace. We all have down days. There is indeed a season to mourn but we have to be careful to ensure our temporal sadness doesn’t become our life’s soundtrack.  

Just as our loved ones deserve our best, so do our customers and our colleagues. 

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]. 

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