So, let’s do a little exercise here. Take a second and think about the last time you thought something nice about someone else. Gentlemen, thinking “I would totally tap that ass” does not count for this exercise. Now, think about the last time you said something nice to someone else.
There’s probably a gap there, right? When you think a little longer and stretch that window of time further, the ratio of the positive things we’ve thought about people to those thoughts we’ve actually communicated to them is pretty staggering. Given the relative ease of offering a kind word or two, why don’t we choose to?
The reasons are myriad and range in origin from the innocuous (“they seem really busy”) to the devious (“I wouldn’t want to show vulnerability to a co-worker or, God forbid, a subordinate”). On top of that is a certain social timidity we all have to some degree – no one wants to be the one person that does something unexpected and makes the other people in the room take notice. Well, everyone other than Bjork.
Imagine that you took one day – just one day – to make a conscious effort to say every nice thing you thought when you were talking to someone. I mean, don’t be weird about it and ruin the flow of conversation :
“So, what room is that meeting in?”
“I like your tie.”
“Um, thanks… but is it Room A or B?”
“You have nice teeth.”
“Yeeaaah, or the main conference room?”
A few choice positive words though, sprinkled where people normally wouldn’t expect them, have a lot more power than you think to make their day – or even more. Sometimes the smallest of gestures pay the largest of dividends down the road.
It’s been three months since I left my job to take some time off and (hopefully) start a writing career. Several times a month, when I receive these requests for payment called ‘bills’, I can’t help but question the choice I made. Then there are the days when you’re essentially in your pajamas, sitting in a Starbucks farting around on Reddit for half an hour at 3pm when a well-dressed corporate type whisks in and out of the store and climbs into their Cadillac before jetting off somewhere that they urgently need to be.
In the absence of structure and context, with no one paying you and no one waiting for any kind of deliverable from you, this can very quickly start to feel like a fool’s errand. You’re operating entirely on faith and potential; and the level of the former can’t help but rise and fall with your perception of the latter. I might think that I can somehow cobble together some sort of career out of this, but at the present time – and presumably for the months or, gulp, years to come – I have no job or income to speak of, and no promise of such.
During this time, though, I have received dozens of messages with kind words of praise and encouragement from close friends, remote acquaintances, and even a complete stranger or two. I cannot emphasize enough how critical those sentiments were in alleviating doubt. The good thoughts came from people of vastly different ages, places of birth, and life experiences.
Taken all together, it convinced me that if I can connect with such a diverse audience within my current tiny sphere of contact, there is no logical reason I couldn’t make the same kind of connection across a broad swath of the greater public. There is certainly no guarantee that will happen – even if the content is there, wide distribution of that content is just an absolutely monumental uphill battle – but I’m determined to give it a shot anyway, because of the feedback I’ve received.
So, to those of you who have reached out to me, take a second to understand that you have literally and directly changed my life. In the absence of all of these plaudits, I’m probably fishing out my resume as we speak. But because of you, I’m committed for the long haul – and you deserve the credit for it. Oh sure, that aforementioned life change you inspired might end up being me homeless and drunk on the corner screaming “I wrote the great American novel dammit!!,” but hey – at least you did it.
The seconds or minutes you took to throw a few kind words my way meant more than you might ever know. It also got me thinking – maybe I can try a little more to do that same thing for others. Just for shits and giggles, maybe throw out a few verbal bouquets to some people tomorrow; you never know how far it will go.