I tend to select clients who want to make a difference in this world. They range in age, culture, race, gender, country-of-origin, and profession. Some are looking to grow their skills in their current job or find a new one; others are looking for direction; and a few are just plain lost. But they all share a desire to leave a mark and help people. Asking for help and guidance is their first step of many – a sign of strength through vulnerability. But to achieve their goal and to grow, they need to think differently!
As long as we think the same way we will continue to experience the world in the same light. We rarely venture on that less traveled road of learning what we do not know. We let past experiences haunt us and affect our decision-making, rationalizing limitations and silently carrying our fears and roadblocks. We want to make a difference yet we doubt that we can, question our ability, and find ourselves in the same, broken thought processes that keep us from achieving our goals.
In addition to listening to my clients, a crucial responsibility as a mentor is to believe in them more than they may believe in themselves. In case they fall, I will be there to catch them. In his new book, “Give and Take,” Adam Grant gives examples of how many of the world’s greatest pianists didn’t start as child prodigies or with great expert teachers. Instead they started learning piano from teachers who lived nearby and believed in their skills and motivated them. The teacher was able to communicate belief in their skills, and that made the difference.
[pullquote align=”right”] “I built a story around this and convinced myself that I couldn’t make a difference” [/pullquote]
When I was eight years old, I stuttered. Some speculated that the reason was because I was born left-handed and my parents changed me to right. Others assumed that I was nervous or that I was thinking too fast for my words. All I knew is that people were always correcting me and telling me to slow down and think about what I was saying; I interpreted their help to mean that I was stupid and slow. I built a story around this and convinced myself that I couldn’t make a difference because I couldn’t talk in front of large groups. Then in sixth grade, a teacher named Ms. Libby believed in me more than I did. She encouraged me to act in plays and was there to tell me that I didn’t need to be fixed and a mistake was not a failure, only a lesson to learn.
I was encouraged to learn what I didn’t know and then practice what I did know. It worked and today I love speaking publicly to groups and making a difference. I also learned to listen to others. Most interesting is that later I learned what I didn’t know I didn’t know. Because I was always up front with my stuttering, I made myself vulnerable. Grant writes in “Give and Take” about powerless communication that if a speaker knows their topic well but is in some way awkward in giving the speech, the audience finds him human and approachable. Because I wasn’t afraid of being authentic, I was building trust and influence. George Addair said, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.”
At the start of our meetings, my clients want help fixing their weaknesses and want me to teach them skills to grow and make a difference. By the end, many of them realize their talents and emerge with strong skills all because they moved beyond their fears, created a greater possibility of learning, and most importantly, think differently.