121. Eight words can change a life.

121. Eight words can change a life.

There are few ways with which we can uplift the spirit of another more easily than by paying them a sincere compliment.

This was most certainly the case with Jonathan.

Jonathan had always dreamed of being a doctor like his mom but, unlike his mom, he really struggled with math.

Year after year he barely made it through each grade by achieving the minimal pass marks on his math scores.

Jonathan was a frustrated young man. He was convinced that his dream was a futile one and, despite constant mentorship from both his parents, he just could not seem to bypass the challenges that math presented.

Until one day a substitute teacher said eight words to him that forever changed his life.

Johnson clearly remembers this momentous day. It was in the third week of his eighth grade school year. He had braced himself for yet another year of frustration and self-deprecation. He had come to convince himself that he was, in his words, “a math moron.”

The substitute teacher had been present for two days and there was something different and special about her. She seemed to go out of her way to interact with each student and offer words of encouragement at will.

On the second day, as Jonathan was struggling with yet another map puzzler she came up to him, gently placed her hand on his shoulder and he heard the electrifying words that would forever change his life.

In a gentle and sincere voice she said, “You know Jonathan, I have been watching you. You are extremely smart. You can do this.”

When Jonathan told me the story he paused and said at that moment something changed inside of him, and for the first time he started to think it possible that he could conquer math rather than continue to be conquered by it.

He redoubled his efforts and began approaching each challenge with a new perspective.

Amazingly, in just a short few months his grades crept up to the point where achieving A’s in math became the norm.

This remarkable teacher had also told him the phrase straight out of a Richard Bach’s famous book, Illusions. “You teach best, what you most need to learn.”

So Jonathan began mentoring other kids who were struggling with math and realized that the more he encourage them the better they did.

While math certainly takes a level of skill it also requires a confidence born out of self-belief.

Jonathan is a cardiologist today. He completed his residency a little over a year ago and speaks of having a blessed life.

He told me he often imagines how differently his life might’ve turned out had he not heard those words that told him he really was smart.

The Habit of Paying Compliments has power beyond our wildest imagination.

We too can transform the lives of others by simply looking for, and finding opportunities to pay compliments.

Jonathan told me an interesting tale. One of the first patients to enter his office shortly after he completed his residency was that very teacher who had changed his life.

She had come in to the hospital where he works complaining of chest pain and even when he introduced himself to her she did not recognize him.

He had recognized her immediately and reacquainted himself with her. He said that the look on her face and excitement in her voice when he reminded her of who he was and pointed out the contribution she had made to him being her attending physician did more to repair her symptoms than anything his medical knowledge and abilities could have offered.

He told me he does not believe in coincidences and the reason they met all these many years later was so she could learn of the enormous value she brought into a young man’s life.

He also told her that she was the best teacher he had ever had.

Jonathan never misses an opportunity to practice the The Habit of Paying Compliments.

Nor should we.

Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.

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