Attitude Adjustments: Turning ‘Tragedy’ into Triumph

Life is full of what seems like setbacks. People lose jobs, relationships change, challenges both professional and personal come at us. While change is the one constant, what happens next becomes the defining moment for people.

For example, consider the story of Melissa Stockwell, who will be the opening keynote speaker for the 46th LTEN Annual Conference, taking place June 5-8 in Nashville, TN. Stockwell’s story starts where so many others have: A typical Midwestern girl joining the U.S. Army to serve her country. Unfortunately, that first chapter ended where too many other stories have, with Stockwell wounded badly enough to lose her leg.

For some, that moment could have been a tragic ending to a life of service and accomplishment. For Stockwell, it was just the beginning. Despite the grievous injury, she rallied her strength and grew from war hero to world champion athlete, speaker and source of inspiration. Stockwell’s conference speech will share your journey in more detail, but it comes down to one thing: Attitude.

“It’s really about overcoming obstacles,” Stockwell said. “Fortunately not everyone will lose a leg in their lifetime, but it’s really about overcoming obstacles and keeping a positive attitude.”

When adversity or challenges strike, she said, a lot of the times people who keep the right attitude come out better or stronger on the other side.

“We all have a choice in our lives and we have the ability to improve that story,” Stockwell said.

Optimism, of course, isn’t always a natural response for some people – Stockwell describes herself as fortunate to have that viewpoint. But trainers know, perhaps better than anyone, that skills can be developed with the right level of effort.

At her conference speech, Stockwell will share with LTEN conference attendees her central message about developing and maintaining positive attitudes. Surrounding yourself with positive people and avoiding negative thinking are two tools to help build that attitude.

“I do think if it’s not innate, it can be learned,” Stockwell said. “Learn to focus on the good instead of the bad and that positive attitude comes around.”

And as trainers know well, something that can be learned can also be taught. Stockwell advises trainers and leaders to teach by example. If leaders display positive attitudes and focus on the positives, outlooks change.

“I think it can be taught,” Stockwell said. “That’s leading by example and really comes from the top down.”
Tim Sosbe is editorial director for LTEN. Email Tim at

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Melissa Stockwell will be the opening keynote speaker on the first full day of the 46th LTEN Annual Conference, with presentations beginning at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, June 6, in the Tennessee Ballroom at the Gaylord Opryland. For more information or to register for the conference, visit

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