So, I thought, “Well, I’m going to take this a step further. I’m going to see what would happen if I added a sentence.” Not just “Oh, I noticed you Mike” but “Mike, I noticed and here’s what I noticed. Every time I see you, you make me smarter.” Because I know Mike, so I can say this.
“Because you ask the best questions. You are one of the most curious human beings and I prepare myself with a good question, every time I see your face. That is significant, in your life but it makes me smarter.”
If I help them understand that their contribution is what the world needs and what I need at that moment. So I started beginning my lessons with this statement that I borrowed from Seth Godin. This is from his book, “Linchpin” and I wanted to see what effect it would have and I could see how much just the words I noticed meant.
But what if I started the day, every lesson, every audience, every speech that I give this is the first slide. “You are a genius and the world needs your contribution.”
Blank. And I tell them what their contribution is. This is not just a compliment. This is a call to action. Because guess what Mike? I just raised the bar, so if Mike comes to me and he doesn’t have some brilliant question on his mind, he’s going to step it up. It’s a call to action.
So, again, I was blown away at the response of something that I just wanted to see how important is mattering to individuals, to a culture, to a community. And this is what I found out.
This is a student and he is struggling at school that’s been taken over by the state because they didn’t even make it to AYP. They are like hoping to make it to AYP. And the kids in the school spend a lot of their time, like Annie, feeling really insignificant. They just try and try and they just can’t get it. So they need these words. They need these words. You matter. You are a genius.
So this was a seventh grade boy and the teacher took one of my workshops. And so she went into class everyday and she started the day like this. And on day three, she wrote me, she couldn’t believe it. She’s like “You would not believe what my students are doing.”
So now, because they believe they have to work on their world contribution, they put these post-it notes on their heads, like for real, that said, “genius at work.” You know like on the door of the hotel, “quiet, sleeping” — “quiet, genius at work” and they come to work as if it is that important because the teacher’s telling them everyday.
And so I wrote about this on my blog, and about two days later, I got a response on my blog from this student’s mom. And she said, “I don’t know what happened, and I’ve been struggling to watch everyday, the soul of my son disappear.” Those were the words she used: “The soul of my son disappearing. Or I would tell him everyday you were significant but he didn’t know that the world believed that or that his school believed that. And he comes home and everyday he says to me, “Mom, mom do you know I’m a genius? No, seriously I’m not just joking, I’m a genius for real. We’re doing genius work.”
And it wasn’t just seventh graders that were impacted. It was this call to action that got these 5-year-olds to say, “This is my genius and it is my responsibility to contribute it to the world, and this is what I’m going to do: I am cute and the world needs cute people”.
Damn it! And I need the world to be cleaner or radicals to say, you know what? The world is full of hurt, and it needs people to understand, it is their responsibility everyday. If we were building this character at 5, imagine what this doctor or what this nurse or what this humanitarian is going to be like when they are 15 and be like when they are 30 by a simple sentence but you got to mean it.
Mattering is easy, but it is not simple because you have to believe what you are saying, which leads me to the third lesson.
The full depth of your belief comes from your ability to give over your trust to someone else. To depend on another human being is the essence of who we are, as an individual and as a community.
Depending on somebody is hard because you can always do it better yourself. And you have to give up control, and you have to give up trust. And you have to look somebody else in the eye and don’t just say to them, “I think you are important,” “I think you are pretty cool,” “I notice something good about you.”
You have to say, “You are essential.” Being important is really nice, but being essential is a game changer. Knowing somebody needs you to accomplish something significant, because the root of the word — Mike — the root of the word “matter” is substance. So this isn’t like, “Hey can you go to the grocery store for me?” or “Hey can you do this?”