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The Easiest Way to Make a Difference

Do you really want to make a difference?  It’s easy!  You don’t have to start a non-profit, give up your day job and travel to Africa to live among the poor or sell all your worldly possessions and donate the proceeds to a charity.  All you have to do is tell someone he is good at something.

One simple thing that you can do every day to transform a life is notice that someone is good at something and tell that person what you noticed.

I read a great article by author Brad Meltzer. Brad told the story that the teacher who changed his life did it by telling him he was good at writing. His 9th grade English teacher, Ms. Sheila Spicer noticed that he wrote well.  She said “You can write.”  A decade later he published his first novel and returned to give her a copy. Ms. Spicer began to cry. She shared that she had been considering early retirement because she felt she was not having enough impact on her students.

I too had a teacher who acknowledged me. My beloved spiritual mentor, Elias DeMohan, told me I could sense and perceive qualities in others deeply. I had been afraid that I was not sensitive to others.  But his acknowledgement set me on a path of developing extremely successful training programs that are focused on seeing and saying what people are doing right and well.

Because of Elias, I have learned to facilitate transformation in people through acknowledging their natural abilities. All of my programs are built on the principle of seeing the good in others. Had Elias not mirrored the good for me, I might never have come to this simple but brilliant key to training.

When people are acknowledged for who they are and what they do well, it sets them free.  Really it is amazing! Saying a person is good at something causes him to accept his own ability and frees him up to use, develop and share his talent.

One of my own students from the 1990’s sent me a letter a few weeks ago to share that he had just spoken at Harvard Law School on the power of storytelling in the courtroom. Tyrone Moncriffe wrote, “Dear Sandra, on July 27 2012, I gave a presentation at Harvard law school.  I spoke about the power of storytelling in trials. As I was being introduced, my mind went on a brief journey.  I remembered you seeing things in me that I could not see.  I remembered the exercises, the grounding , the acting, the colors, and the breathing. But most importantly, I remembered the faith you had in all of us. You believed we could be authentic in our presentations. You have affected our lives in ways that you can never imagine ; because you had the guts to chase your dreams , you have helped us realize our own.” 

 When I read his letter, I too cried! It reminded me that I do make a difference.  I also realized that we don’t usually know how much impact we have, unless someone tells us.

Seems like the easiest thing in the world to tell someone they are good at something, yet we don’t often do so.  Instead we envy that person.  I have learned that if I acknowledge someone rather than envy them, then I start to own the quality I admire.  It is a kind of spiritual law that we can tap.  Acknowledge   another and own the quality.

So, amazingly, the second gift of telling someone he is good at something is that it comes back to you! Then it makes a difference for you as well.

So, how about committing to tell one person he is good at something every day? All you have to do is pay attention to people, notice what they are good at and say, “Hey, you are really good at __!”

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