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Attitudes are contagious: is yours worth catching?

By Joshua A. Swanson

There’s a reason we all have favorite quotes. Quotes are powerful messages carrying an important meaning for us, whether personally, professionally or both. This is one of my favorites. “Attitudes are contagious: is yours worth catching?


It’s incredibly true. Attitudes really are contagious. Back in the day, at the nine-man football powerhouse of Maddock, N.D., we had a sign in our locker room with this quote. It’s been a guiding principle of mine ever since. It meshed well with a message Pa Swany preached to my brother and me growing up – two things you can control are your attitude and your effort. So many things are out of our control, but nobody except the person in the mirror can decide your attitude or effort.

Think of the positive people you know, folks who bring a smile to your face. How do you feel when you’re around them? These are people you want to be around. You enjoy being in their company because it feels like the clouds have literally parted. No challenge is too great, no obstacle too large. These “glass half-full” types have decided they’re the masters of their attitude and effort and, by God, every day is blessed and worth living with a smile. This attitude is positively infectious.

Now consider the reverse. Think of the negative people you know, folks who thrive on taking the best news and finding the most remote sliver of something to complain about. You know who I’m talking about – people who aren’t happy unless they’re miserable. How do you feel around them? I bet you constantly look at your watch or flip through your phone, just waiting for an excuse to leave. Needless to say, nobody is sending text messages and leaving voicemails seeing if these eternal pessimists want to come to the next tailgating party or serve on a company committee.

How does this relate to NDSU? It relates to everything about NDSU, from the crowds in the Fargodome, to the coaches, administrators, and staffers pouring themselves into making us a premier institution with championship-level programs, to Team Makers raising record amounts of scholarship dollars for our student athletes, and through the fans who follow our team from Fargo to Frisco and everywhere in between. We’ve succeeded in turning NDSU into a flagship institution by believing in our mission, believing in what we stand for and believing in our ability to accomplish anything we set our minds to. Make no mistake; we can move mountains with this belief!

In his book, “Good to Great,” a main point emphasized by author Jim Collins is “First Who … Then What.” That is, before you can become a great organization or team, you absolutely need to get the right people on the bus before deciding exactly where you want to drive it. The people are the difference. The corollary is that you need to get the wrong people off the bus. There is no room for naysayers and doubters. This principle is on full display in our student section at the Fargodome. It’s something exemplified by our entire student body.

Their energy, passion and pride for NDSU is to be admired. They don’t sit the entire game! The spirit, pep and motivation behind their unwavering belief in NDSU was, and will remain, the cornerstone of our university. NDSU has made leaps and bounds in recent years, because our students push the envelope everyday. That attitude and effort has made all the difference. This is the sort of culture that sustains any great organization, from Apple to Google, and from General Motors to General Electric. Leaders come and go, but these companies keep performing above their peers. Why? The culture stays the same, it perpetuates itself.

The transition to Division I and our successes are a prime example. While there were overtures from many corners telling us we were foolish to think NDSU could become something so large, that didn’t stop us from trying. I was a student at the time and recall the power of that belief. The students, along with a core group of supporters, faculty, staff and administration believed. Fast-forward nearly a decade later. The excitement and Bison Pride in North Dakota and the Fargo-Moorhead community is electric! You can’t go anywhere without seeing all kinds of Bison apparel or other forms of Bison Pride on display. This attitude has proven itself contagious and resistant to even the most virulent pessimism and negativity.

This is Bison Country. The Strength of the Herd is the Bison, and the Strength of the Bison is the Herd. Think of that when you look over at the student section the next time you’re in the FargoDome. What if the entire crowd had that passion and energy? What if the entire crowd, and everyone wearing a Bison shirt, had that belief. How could we ever lose? We wouldn’t. Because attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?

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Published eight times a year, Bison Illustrated provides a behind-the-scenes look at the Bison community in order to help promote the university’s players, coaches, alumni, supporters, staff and fans.


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