Are You an Encouraging Inspiration or a Discouraging Dumbass?
Have you ever had someone tell you that you weren’t good enough to do something you wanted to do or have something you wanted to have? If so, first, visualize kicking them in the groin. Second, keep reading…
With the World Cup in full swing, it people have soccer (or football. Or futball. Or fútbol.) on the brain. It seems natural then that I would flash back to an old childhood memory…
Like most of my friends, I played town league soccer growing up, and I really enjoyed it. The town league was one of those, “everyone signs up, everyone gets to play” deals, which was great. I was good, but not great. (i.e. I got to start, but never made an “All-Star” team. Oh well)
In addition to the town league, there was something called the “Travel Team.” Unlike the town league where all you had to do was sign up, to join the Travel Team you had to try out. I didn’t know much about the Travel Team other than:
- Evidently they travelled. To where, I have no idea. But if they didn’t travel, that would be a case of gross misnaming.
- They got cool jackets. This was before high school and varsity clothing, so the jackets were really cool.
- You had to be good to be on that team.
One year I decided to tryout for the team. Why not? I was pretty good (in my own estimation), and I wanted to travel (to wherever, even if it was to glorious Goshen, New York, a mere 45 minutes away), and I wanted to wear a cool jacket. Most importantly, I liked to play soccer.
Well, suffice it to say I did not make the Travel Team. I am not bitter at all; I wasn’t that good. But what I remember from that tryout, still to do this day, 25+ years later, is what they guy running the tryout said at the end:
“To be honest with you, some of you guys really shouldn’t be out here.”
Wow. What an awful thing to say, especially to a large group of 10-12 year olds.
I really don’t know if he was lumping me into that group. I do know that my little insecure 11 year old brain assumed he was.
Nice sentiment dumbass: tell a group of youngsters in their formative years that they should not even have tried. No wonder so many people give up on (or never even start pursuing) their dreams. Nice job! I dub you as, “Coachastopheles: Destroyer of Dreams, Discourager of Hope!”
Coachastopheles: Destroyer of Dreams, Discourager of Hope...
Maybe this was an old miserable man who was so beaten down by life that he was frustrated by a few kids going for it, even though they weren’t good enough. Or maybe he was a really happy positive dude who thought he was doing the kids a favor by teaching them a lesson: “‘Tis better to never have tried than to have tried and failed.” Hmm, Shakespeare would be proud. Or rolling over in his grave.
Either way, what an awful message. Are those the messages you want your kids to buy into?
Sure, some kids at that tryout were not even remotely good enough to make the team (maybe I was one of them. For the sake of my story, let’s assume I was. For the sake of my ego, I’m going to assume I wasn’t). Fine. Why not just say, “Thanks to everyone for coming out, we really appreciate it,” and mean it. ?
Or if you want to give the untalented some good advice, how about, “Thanks to everyone for trying out. If you don’t make the team this year, I suggest you play a lot of soccer in other leagues and keep working on your skills and give it another try next year.” Now that’s a message I want my kid to hear (and I don’t even have kids!)
I ran an improv comedy group for a long time and we held auditions every year. I saw some horrifically bad improvisers. People who were not remotely qualified to perform improv. Some who didn’t even know what improv was. At the end of every single person’s audition I said, “thank you very much for coming out.” And I meant it. You know why? Because at the end of the day, good or bad, these were people wanting to be a part of my group. I would be a giant dumbass to be pissed, annoyed, or frustrated at them for that, no matter how bad they were. Frankly, I would be a dumbass to be anything but grateful for that.
There are three lessons in this story. They can apply to many things, but if you are a parent or a team leader (at work, in a volunteer association, or for some kind of activity) then pay close attention, because these simple ideas can really help…
Hey, someone likes what you do. Appreciate that!
If someone wants to be a part of something you do, whether they are applying for a job, trying out for your group or team, asking you to be their mentor, or simply seeing if you would be willing to chat with them over coffee, be appreciative of that. You don’t have to say “yes,” and if they are rude or a jerk, then sure, feel free to hate on them, but don’t get angry at and demean people just for reaching out to you.
When someone reaches out to you, be flattered not annoyed. They thought highly enough of you to take a shot and want to be a part of what you are doing. If that doesn’t fill you with pride and gratitude, then you may need to step back and smell the roses…
A little encouragement goes a long way. Even from a mime
It’s one thing to discourage someone from quitting their job to start pursuing a career in stand-up comedy when a) they’ve never done it before and b) they’re not very funny. That’s just helping a person not destroy their financial future. It’s another to discourage a friend, no matter how unfunny, from taking a stand-up comedy class or signing up for an open mic night.
While studying music in college, my buddy Mike had not one but two people tell him he would never be successful as a composer. One was his (now ex) girlfriend and one was one of his music professors. Mike now has two Masters in music, had a song appear in Rush Hour 3, wrote music for several video games, and has an Emmy. So you tell me, who’s the dumbass in this situation?
We should all be attempting things. We should all be stretching ourselves, trying new things, and doing our best, even if we fail. That’s how we ultimately succeed
This lesson is even more important to teach children. Do you want your kids growing up with the message, “only attempt what you are sure you will succeed at,” or, “try for whatever you want. If you fail, get up, brush yourself off, and keep going”? The answer is obvious to me…
As long as your safe and not taking stupid risks, go for it!
Don’t just encourage others to try; be a living example of this yourself. Make a big list of things you have wanted to do but were afraid to because it was hard, or you weren’t good enough, or whatever reason you have in your head. Then throw away the excuses and give it a go!
Be smart about it, of course. Don’t throw away all your money on a crazy venture. Assess your risks. Set up a safe environment. But once you have cleared out the excuses, give it a shot. You’ll be happy that you did, and your example will inspire others to do the same.
The lessons here seem so simple: encourage don’t discourage. Appreciate people who like and want to be a part of what you do. Go try stuff yourself and be willing to fail. So simple, yet missed by so many. Do those few things and you will be miles ahead of the rest.
Are you planning an event and looking for a great speaker to add humor and energy? Then visit Avish’s Motivational Humorist page now!
By Avish Parashar. As the world's only Motivational Improviser, Avish uses techniques from the world of improv comedy to engage, entertain, and educate audiences on ideas around change, creativity, and motivation.
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