Long ago, when I first shared my dream of becoming a professional musician with my friend Shelly, she knitted her brows and said, “Huh?”
The dire warnings she fired off didn’t surprise me. Hey, most of us have had a lifetime filled with this kind of “practical advice.” And I was used to giving up in the face of it.
During this fumbling stumbling time, I met a man who became an unlikely best friend and mentor. He was a brilliant jazz musician as well as a self-employed computer programmer.
One night, I told him my dream. Without even blinking, he said, “Honey (he always called me Honey), you’d be fabulous. That’s perfect!” And he meant it.
At that moment, I was flying. I had never experienced such direct and truthful support without a single “practical” warning attached. This friend set me free by offering one simple thing:
That moment was not only the launch point of a successful entrepreneurial path for me – but also for me choosing to be an encouraging voice to others.
Encouragement is more than just a fleeting moment of motivation. It’s a genuine jolt of “can-do” and glimpse of possibility. Yes, there might be work to be done. But encouragement reminds us that it CAN be done.
Think about the last great idea you had, or the last big decision you needed to make.
Who did you most want to call for support and solutions?
Be THAT person.
You can call it a coach, an advisor, or go ahead and call it an Extreme Encourager. Those of us who choose this role would love it if you’d join us.
Here are the club rules:
• Be a Leader
Whether you’re a business owner, an artist, an entrepreneur or a CEO – you must own your role as a leader. What this means is that you recognize and take seriously the enormous influence you have on the people around you. You may not even know it yet, but you’re impacting the people around you every day.
The friend I mentioned? The one who encouraged me? He went on to a leadership role at Apple in Cupertino. No surprise. He didn’t take lightly his impact and influence. You shouldn’t either.
• Model a Courageous Life
The best encouragers are the ones who live it. Whether they’re just getting started, or they’re veteran risk-taking pioneers – the encouragers are the ones who want a bigger life for themselves and are willing to “go there.” This is why my jazz musician friend could simply offer encouragement when my other friend could not.
• Be an Active Listener
Encouragers know that encouragement doesn’t mean you just tell people to “buck up” or “get over it.” They know how to listen. This means looking at the speaker, listening to her, setting your agendas and judgments aside, and honoring the wise soul who is sharing her heart with you.
• Avoid Clichés
Avoiding clichés is a natural result of actively listening to someone. Being an extreme encourager doesn’t mean that you blindly tell people “You can do it!” or “Let go of fear!” It’s deeper than that. It’s seeing the truth of the other person, especially when they cannot.
• Acknowledge Your Fear (But Don’t Give it Power)
Face it. We all get visits from the hooglie-booglies. These are the voices that tell us we can’t, or we shouldn’t, or we’ll fail, or we’ll look stupid. An encourager doesn’t focus on those voices because she knows they they’re trying to hook her. An encourager simply acknowledges that the voices are there and that you can’t make them go away by arguing with them. An encourager knows that those voices aren’t the truth. They only SEEM like the truth.
• Believe in Miracles As Well as Work
Extreme encouragers are mystics of sorts. They know that the so-called “woo-woo” stuff is more real than the so-called “logical” stuff. They celebrate the divine as a simple fact of everyday existence and don’t get caught up in the “prove it” mindset.
• Know that the Goal Shapes the Goal-Setter
She knows you’ll develop the needed character traits as you go. In other words, you’re ready now, even if you’re not perfect yet! I shudder when I read advice that discourages people from trying something because of character traits “required” in advance. “You shouldn’t _________ if you’re not disciplined.” “If you don’t have focus, you can’t be a ___________.” Most of the successful people I know developed these traits as they went. I certainly did. Encouragers understand the huge potential for growth in the human spirit, especially when someone takes the biggest risk of all and begins to follow her heart.
So, whatdya think? Has encouragement helped or hindered you in your dreams? Do you want to be encouraged, or would you rather be warned? Share in the comments! I’m really curious here…