One of the qualities I’ve always sought to embody is the positivity that uplifts and empowers others. I’ve found that doing so makes life much more fulfilling. “You can do it” is a phrase that’s just four words, takes almost a second to say, costs you absolutely nothing, but it could mean a world of a difference for a person that needs to hear it. Over time I’ve developed a methodology for myself when it comes to how to instill confidence in others.
Empowering others through positivity is a tricky matter. You have to walk carefully on the tightrope that separates validating the wrong thing but also stifling potential simply because of ignorance. The most immediate filter before giving a vote of confidence is, “is this person doing something that goes against my faith and values?” If it does, I speak out firmly against it and then keep stepping. Next, I think to myself, “has anybody that I know done this before?” If yes, then I connect the person I’m speaking to with the person that has been on the path. Then I’ll ask, “do I understand the intent of what they’re trying to accomplish? If so can it be reframed?” Sometimes folks have the drive but they don’t know how to work the stick shift (shout out Chance for this), and that’s because they’re actively trying to figure out how to put into words what they’re trying to do. If that’s the case, I try my best to first listen to what they’re saying, understand and then see if I can provide a reframing of their problem or goal that makes sense for what they want. This is actually the hard part about supporting people because you don’t want to suggest something that just causes further confusion. Lastly, when I don’t understand what they’re doing, I just sit back and say “Good luck!” I’ll keep the memory of our conversation in the back of my head, and I hope to one day be pleasantly surprised.
I remember reading something by Patrick Collison that read along the lines of: if in the situation I don’t understand something, I wait to be shown how or be proven wrong on one of my assumptions. As a curious person, it’s important to not stunt the creativity and the curiosity of others. Just because I can’t immediately think of how something makes sense doesn’t mean the person in front of me can’t.
The process isn’t always rosy, however. There are always times where I’ve had to suppress my thoughts and feelings about a particular path because it challenges everything I hold to be true about that process. It’s doubly difficult when I care about the person. For example, when I have a friend that wants to start a business — depending on who it is — I’m generally a “Good luck! You can do it!” kind of guy. Every now and then I encounter a friend who’s in it, for what I feel, to be for the wrong reasons. For example, I have a friend who often spew, what I consider to be, the naive and grandiose vision of financial freedom that’s peddled by modern-day snake oil salesmen. They tell me about “tried and true” methods that I consider to be crapshoots, and ultimately I think they're deluded by escapist fantasy. It’s really hard for me to just pause, and respect that this person is approaching life in a completely different way than myself — and that it’s their choice. In situations like this, I opt to say as little as possible (given my advice isn’t being considered), encourage them with some general platitudes about mental and physical health, and move forward with my life.
At the end of the day, I truly believe society would be a much better place if we were encouraging one another to take risks and try things. Heck, that’s how we’re able to create innovative communities like in Silicon Valley. Encouraging others to be their best has the most bang for your buck when it comes to beautifying the world around you because you’ll be walking amongst people that are fully alive.