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It's a beautiful spring day in Beverly Hills, California. I'm looking out my window at elm trees in full leaf and roses in full bloom, and thinking about people who helped me get where I am today.
Mark Johnson was kind of guy some people love to hate. He was always in a great mood and always had something positive to say. When he saw you, he enthusiastically boomed, “Hello, my friend!” When you asked him how he was, he nearly shouted, “I'm on top of world!” I was sometimes a little embarrassed by his noisy exuberance, but I was glad he was my friend.
Mark was a unique worker at Phelps Dodge Copper Mine in my home town of Ajo, Arizona. The miners followed him around. Because of his attitude, he was a natural motivator. If one of guys was having a bad day, Mark was there to help him see bright side of any situation. Once I remember him taking one of men to bank with him after work. I later learned that Mark had personally given over half his check to help that man cover his family's medical bills. It wasn't first time Mark had done this. Many could testify to his generosity.
And those were tough times for copper miners in 1970's-with only a decade left before mine would close, and Ajo would turn into a ghost town
Mark Johnson and I worked in Smelter-the OVEN. Hot enough to melt gold. Hot enough to melt your shoes…it was Hell.
Mark's positive approach to life made me curious, so one day I asked him, "I don't get it! Everyone grumbles and complains about hard work, heat, and low wages. Everyone but you. No one can be a positive person all time. How do you do it?"
Mark had a quick answer, and a quicker smile, "Each morning I wake up and say to myself, 'Mark, you have two choices today. You can choose to be in a good mood or you can choose to be in a bad mood.' Don, I choose to be in a good mood. Each time something bad happens, I can choose to be a victim or I can choose to learn from it. Don, I choose to learn from it. Every time someone comes to me complaining, I can choose to accept their complaining or I can point out positive side of life. Don, I choose positive side of life."
"Yeah, right, it's not that easy," I protested.
"Yes, it is," Mark said. "Life is all about choices. Every situation is a choice. You choose how you react to each situation. You choose how people will affect your mood. You choose to be in a good mood or bad mood. The bottom line: it's your choice how you live life."
My job in mines that summer was challenging. I was only 19 years old after all. I was home for summer to try to make enough money for my sophomore year at Arizona State.
Challenging? That is a major understatement. My assignment: to shovel from top of OVEN metallic soot that would build up on roof. It took a shovel and an industrial strength vacuum cleaner to do job. Life threatening? Yep!