Two Bits of Smarts

Want to become rich and famous? For a price, hundreds of thousands of books, videos, lectures, and motivational speakers will tell you how.

The magic, however, may lie in forgotten, ignored, or unknown strategies so plain and simple they come for free, so powerful you may never forget them.

Here’s the first one.

Sometimes, someone who seems to be low in self esteem will ask me for help. They’re unable to see, much less imagine, how much talent they have to offer the world. Rather than me doing the heavy lifting, I challenge them to discover that for themselves.

I tell them that beginning with the first thing they remember, they are to make a written chronological list of their achievements and most important happenings. I encourage them to not rush the process, to take a week or two. That’s because once they begin reviewing their past, their list will become surprisingly long.

Some samples: The first birthday they can remember, graduating from kindergarten and high school, winning a contest, receiving a certificate of achievement, first airplane ride, being baptized, first visit to New York City or overseas trip, their first job, promotions, marriage, children—the list goes on.

I’ve never known anyone finishing such a list who wasn’t astonished at how much they’ve learned and accomplished. That happens even if one insists they’ve lived a plain life.

This technique bolsters self esteem, gives a person a sense of empowerment, and likely for the first time, the ability to see the kind of foundation they’ve unknowingly created for reaching higher and achieving more.

Okay, here’s the second one.

On a Monday morning, a fellow employee I knew fairly well walked into my office, plopped in a chair, took a deep breath, then looked straight at me.

“Okay,” I said as I looked up, “what’s on your mind?“

“I’ve had it. I can’t take any more. I’m going to leave this place.”

I didn’t know enough about him to be able to fully understand that remark of intent.

“Well,” I said, “that’s an interesting development. How long have you been here?”

“It’ll soon be nine years.”

“Look,” I said, “I’m up to my eyeballs in work, so I’m going to give you an assignment. Come up with an answer to this question: Am I running from or am I running to? We can talk about it Thursday or Friday, your call.”

With no comeback, he got up, gave me a slight wave and left.

I paused a few seconds. Maybe something over the weekend had caused him to begin his week on a strong negative note. Or maybe he’d concluded that after nine years he wasn’t getting anywhere. Or he could be feeling the need for a change of scenery or better working conditions. Whatever the reason, I knew enough to be confident he’d complete the assignment.

The following Friday morning, I was relieved to see him walk in the door and sit down.

“Hey, it’s good to see you again.” I said as I leaned back from my desk. “So what did you decide?”

“I’m going to stay. I got to thinking about that question you asked me, and I’m pretty sure I know what you were getting at.”

“Well,” I said, “I’ll explain it this way. If you’re running from whatever is bothering you here, you’re going to be sadly disappointed.That’s because although the people are different, the same things are happening everywhere. Always remember this: The names of the actors may change, but the play never does.

“Let’s suppose, however, you’re running to a new opportunity to grow or a new challenge to tackle and overcome. Your move is taking you closer to what you’ve always wanted to do or be. “

“I’m not sure,” he said, “that I came up with the same words, but I got the point. I don’t want to go anywhere else. I have advantages here that would be hard to find anywhere else. So I guess I need to work them a lot harder before even thinking about a move.”

“You got it,” I said, “and I’m glad you’re staying because you’re doing it for the right reasons.”

“Hey, I can’t thank you enough.” he said. “You just kept me from making a huge mistake.”

Three years later, I couldn’t have been more pleased when he did, indeed, run to a new opportunity.