Positive Attitude: Life Lessons from a Senior Executive

Posted In: Work/Life Balance
Posted On: 10/12/2015

i simply am, mind, spirit, body

Lori Tauber Marcus and I met at the start of her career when we worked together on the Mountain Dew brand.  

She eventually rose to be a senior vice president at PepsiCo (no easy feat!) and has held several other senior positions and board roles.
In addition to juggling the pressure of being a senior executive at one of the world’s largest food companies, Lori was diagnosed with breast cancer while her two daughters were quite young. Work stress! Family stress!

Lori’s advice on how to keep it in perspective is practical, actionable and inspirational!  



I’m sure you’ve all been told your whole lives that it’s helpful to have a positive attitude.  Makes sense – people are drawn to people who smile and radiate good vibes. Question: why doesn’t EVERYONE just decide to have a positive attitude? Are some of us born that way? Others not? 

I’ve spent 30+ years in major corporations as a senior executive, mentoring and leading teams, where I’ve observed that while some people may find it easier to have a positive attitude, I believe it is something for which we can all train…just the same way a professional athlete trains for his/her sport. 

Having a positive attitude doesn’t mean “faking it” and smiling all the time.  It doesn’t mean saying positive things when you are feeling just the opposite.  You have to condition yourself to think positively and find optimism.  It starts with the inside, and I believe you do that by nourishing your mind, body and spirit appropriately.  You can’t have a positive attitude when you are sleep deprived, skipping meals, out of shape, isolated from your friends/family or lacking intellectual stimulation outside of work.  Let’s review the training ritual. 

Mind: It’s hard to have a positive attitude at work if work is the only thing on your brain.  It doesn’t matter what the outside stimulation is, but find intellectual stimulation outside of work – Read books (and not just business books!).  See movies.  Go to lectures.  Give yourself some intellectual separation from work.  If you think you’re too busy, listen to e-books during your commute.  Then find a way to clear your mind all together – Mediate.  Go for a walk/run.  Practice yoga.  Do something that gives you some space in your mind. 

Body:  Do you really think you’ll have a positive attitude if you skip breakfast, eat a bagel for lunch, snack on candy in the afternoon, and then have a huge bowl of pasta and 3 glasses of wine for dinner?  I don’t think so.  Let’s just agree that the following are some pretty essential ingredients to nourishing your body to enable a more positive attitude in your work and home life?

  • Get some sleep.  Pick a medically sensible number, but it’s not four hours per night.  Let’s estimate it’s about seven hours per night. 
  • Eat real meals, especially breakfast.  Eat real food including protein, vegetables and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.  Plan ahead and have some healthy snacks every four hours.  Don’t let your body go into starvation mode. 
  • Exercise.  Get your heart rate up and sweat out the negative energy.  Do weight training in addition to cardio 2 times a week.  Do something fun – cross country ski, snowshoe, hike.  Even better – do it with a friend. 

Spirit:  Nourish your soul.  Connect with friends and family.  Get involved in a charitable endeavor in your community.  Join the choir at your religious institution.  Give selflessly of yourself.  Volunteer.  Do something that connects you to something bigger than yourself. 

In my experience, it is very hard to do the day in and day out, year in and year out training to live life with a positive attitude if you don’t follow these practices.

This training will serve you well in your business life and your personal life.  Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and I went through a tough year with six surgeries and five months of chemotherapy. (Don’t worry; I’m fine now!). People told me that I’d be too tired to exercise during the chemo and that the only thing that would make my nausea less severe would be milkshakes and ice cream. Thankfully, I ignored those people. No matter how tired I was, I got on the exercise bicycle for at least 20 minutes every day. When the weather was nice, I went for walks. When the thought of eating vegetables made me queasy, I ate oatmeal. To this day, I will tell you that I’m sure that beyond the great medical care and the love & support of my family/friends, the thing that kept me upbeat and positive during my 14 month ordeal was daily exercise and a commitment to eating right. 

Go do it!  Start simply.  Make it happen.  Train to be the positive force you know you can be. 

Lori Tauber Marcus is founder and CEO of Courtyard Connections.  Lori is a board director/board advisor who uses her 30+ years of experience as a senior executive in corporate America to help women reach their full potential.  She is a keynote speaker and often speaks on the topic “Train for the Career AND Life You Deserve.”   

Follow on Twitter @LoriTMarcus

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