- Michael Thompson
“I’m terrified of taking time off! I’m scared I’ll lose my traction!”
A writer friend needed a break. She’d been hitting it hard. In our Slack group, the typical messages came flooding in: “Take care of yourself!” people said. “We all need to take time off from time to time!”
Though well-meaning, the words didn’t really help my friend. That is, until the group’s voice of reason Niklas Göke chimed in. “Sometimes the best way to see if something is working is by stepping away,” he said, and in an instant, our friend’s shoulders dropped. In one well-crafted sentence, Nik gave our friend the permission she was looking for.
Years ago, like a lot of people, I liked the rah-rah of self-help “gurus” like Tony Robbins. Today, however, I much prefer people who choose their words carefully, whose messages serve as soup for our souls.
If you’re like me in this regard, below are a few ways to be a quiet yet calming influence and an inspiration for others.
Ask yourself this question
When Covid hit the United States, author Elizabeth Gilbert was in Australia. At first, she flipped out and sent a panicked message to her friends and family expressing her need to get out of there. “I gotta get out of Australia before they close down the borders!” she wrote. “I gotta get out of here before America closes!”
Moments later, however, after realizing she didn’t want to stress her family and friends out even more than she imagined they already were, she decided to erase the message and sent the following one instead, “Hey, I got a flight and I’m coming home early.”
The best way to not add to the stress and panic of others is to simply choose not to add to the panic and stress of others.
Elizabeth’s question of “Am I adding to the panic or stress of others, or am I being a calming influence?” serves as a strong reminder of that. It also reminds us of the importance of thinking before you speak. Words really do matter.
Ask yourself this other question
“How can I serve my community without creating noise or a distraction?”
When Jay Clouse, host of the hit podcast Creative Elements, shared this question on Twitter, I immediately reached out to ask if I could use it in the book I’m writing about how quiet people can draw attention to themselves without drawing attention to themselves.
My favorite creators and people don’t rely on gimmicks or noise to get attention. Instead, they play the long game by leaning into consistent generosity, thoughtfulness, and by prioritizing time to think about how to continually support their community.
What can I do behind the scenes so the people I care about get an opportunity to step into the spotlight?
Think about Jay’s question.
Write down a few ideas for the other one.
Our lives aren’t measured by who inspires us but rather by who we inspire.
Move slowly when faced with adversity
When I was 23, I took a job in mortgage sales. Things were hectic. Markets can change fast and they did change fast.
Whenever problems arose, however, instead of adding to the hysterics, my manager would take a step back, ask if everyone was okay, and see if there was anything he could do to support them before thinking about the next right step the team could take together.
If you want to stand out without having to feel like you’re showing off, steal a line from my old manager and choose to stay calm when things go wrong. It’s a seriously attractive quality.
Remind people of how far they’ve already come
If I was asked for a calming yet inspiring resource, I’d point to Charlie Mackesy’s book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse. It’s a masterpiece. I particularly like the underlying message that we’re already enough.
“We have such a long way to go”, sighed the boy
“Yes, but look how far we’ve come”, said the horse”
When faced with a problem, the uncertainty of the future can be paralyzing. Don’t just tell people how strong they are, remind them of how strong they already are.
Sometimes the best way to get people to move forward is to help them look backward.
Lean into “little-big” messages
When I started my writing career, it wasn’t my closest friends or family who inspired me to keep at it but rather the messages of the people a step or two ahead of me.
“This is good,” they’d say, “Keep at it!”
The same goes for when I started in sales. A few of the leaders in the office pulled me aside from time to time and gave me quick little words of encouragement.
Lift up young writers you see potential in. Pull people who are doing good work aside and let them know you see them.
These people taking the time to do this impacted me in a big way. It’s hard to put into words the feeling when someone does something they don’t have to do.
But you feel it a lot.
Thank you for reading