A Friendly Nudge

Over the years I have learned a few things. Yes, I am 46 years old, but the school of motherhood has taught me a few tricks of the trade. This is stuff that no one teaches you in high school or even college. It is not in baby books or in the Lamaze Class you took while you were pregnant. This is just the special knowledge you get by being in the trenches so to speak.

I am talking about the power of words and the power of friendship. I don’t know why, but most of us are fairly similar in that we can see the potential in others that they somehow cannot see in themselves. I am the same way. I can see all the wonderful things that my children, husband, friends etc. could be, but often can’t see my own possibilities. In that way, I am very blessed because my husband is often the catalyst for me. He gives me what I fondly refer to as the “friendly nudge” or a lovingly delivered “kick in the butt”. It usually makes me mad at first, then I go into disbelief and offer up a bunch of lame excuses, but if he is persistent enough and I am able to be open to hearing his words, sometimes it really clicks. Let me share with you a couple of examples.

Years and years ago, I won’t tell you exactly how many, our family had just moved into a new community and I was looking for a job. The town we lived in was a very small community with only 5,000 people and it was located in a rural area compounding my problem of limited employment options, but I am stubborn so I kept trying.

One day, an add for a job teaching at the local community college branch appeared. “Wow! This was what I was hoping for; this was too good to be true!”  I thought.  I quickly applied and waited.

A week later I received a call to come for an interview! I was so excited I could hardly stand it. All dressed in my best “faculty” clothes I eagerly arrived for my interview.

My excitement turned to fear the instant the interviewer told me that the only position she had available was teaching the Introduction to Computer Applications course.

“You have got to be kidding,” I thought to myself.  “You might as well as me to teach a course in Mandarin Chinese or Advanced Physics, maybe even Hebrew” I thought to myself.  “I can’t teach Computers! I can barely turn mine on at home.”

Defeated, I returned home and shared this sad tale with my husband. His reply came without thought, “So what, you can teach that class”.

I stared at him. “Really. Come on now. Really.” was all I could think of. I decided he was definitely nuts at that moment.

Now I was mad. I launched into a ten minute tirade why there was no way in hell I could teach a class on computers when I was so poorly prepared to turn my own one on! Then I got defensive and gave him fifty-one excuses why this could not work. He listened and then said to me. “Stop this. You would be great at this. You are a great teacher, you can learn whatever you don’t know ahead of class time and it would be good for you. This is an opportunity you can’t pass up. I will help you if you need it.”

I sat there. I thought about it. This seemed insane. Finally I decided that if he really thought I could do it than maybe I could give it a try. I picked up the phone and accepted the job before I had a chance to think it over too much.

This was single-handedly the best career move I ever made. I am not kidding. His belief in me gave me the courage that day. This job turned into another better job, which turned into a business of my own, which turned into another job. I learned I really was a good teacher, especially in computers. The reason is simple. I was not a natural. It came kind of hard to me. I made mistakes. I talked like a real person, not above my student’s heads making them feel incompetent before they ever turned on their computers.

Another Example:
My daughter would not sing in church. I kept telling her she had a pretty voice, stand up and sing. Participate. She was a 7th grader and at that awkward teenager stage where she just wanted to blend in and I was her mother. What on earth did I know?

One day while we were standing singing at church, I elbowed her to sing and she actually did it –for a split second. This was long enough.

After mass the young teenager in front of us turned around and said, “you have an amazing voice, I sing in the youth choir and we are looking for singers. You should come join us”.

That was it, that was  all it took! My daughter looked at this young girl like she had just solved the mystery of life. My daughter joined the choir, went on to build an extremely successful music career in high school and even got to sing the National Anthem solo at a Rockies baseball game her senior year, and I could not get her to open her mouth but a stranger could.

Another Example:
I have a friend who has had to deal with some real tragedy in her life, the kind of heartbreak no one should ever have to endure. She made her way through this really horrible time in her life with grace and dignity. She quietly did what she had to do to survive and take care of her young family. She exhibited a strength and grace that few in this world could replicate and yet I found myself one day on a walk talking with her about things she might like to do “next” in life. She hesitatingly replied that she might like a certain job.

When I asked how you go about getting that job she let it out that one of the reasons she liked this job is because you did not need a college education. She had a few college credits earned years ago but no formal degree.

After listening to her awhile I agreed that job might be interesting but if she was interested in that field how about considering going to school and then she could look into any number of careers, ones that would pay a better salary.

She looked at me strangely and then started in with all the reasons this could never work. Finally, it came out that she did not think she could handle school because she wasn’t 18 anymore and she couldn’t compete with the kids coming right out of high school in subjects like math and English.

I stopped her right there and told her that this was one area where I really knew what I was talking about. I had spent years teaching in community college and junior colleges and I could say for a fact that that thinking was flawed. I simply explained to her that adult learners were by far the most delightful, hardworking, intelligent and motivated students I had ever worked with. This was usually out of necessity. They were paying their own bills, they were often working full time jobs and juggling family responsibilities and they were hungry for knowledge. They worked hard and smart. They were the students who lacked the self-confidence at first but usually totally out performed the younger students in the end.

I told her I had no doubt that she would be one of those students and I thought she should really think about it. All I did was encourage her, but something clicked that day.

The next time we went for a walk she proudly told me she had done it. She had enrolled and was starting classes the next week.

It has now been a year and my friend is now only 18 credit hours away from her Associates Degree! She has blossomed like a flower and her confidence has soared. She is outperforming most of her classmates and is a delight to have in the classroom. She has also stepped into a leadership role with a nonprofit organization she believes 100 percent in and has led this organization in fundraising efforts and is breaking new ground.

I think that all I did was believe in her, but it was just the friendly nudge she needed.

Think about it.

Don’t be afraid to encourage people in your world when you see their potential. It is not being bossy or snoopy. You never know when you just might encourage a friend to do something they might not have ever done.

So my friend, I ask you “what’s next on your list”.

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