A few weeks ago, I was struggling to get myself in the right mindset for my upcoming ankle surgery. The surgery was unexpected, a little daunting, and it came with hours of prep tasks, from interviewing surgeons to arranging school pick-ups. I was in the weeds, as the saying goes. I like that turn of phrase, which means ‘immersed or entangled in details or complexities’ (for those of you who haven’t heard that expression). I like the visual of it, too. Imagine being on the ground surrounded by tall weeds—from that place, you can see a lot of details and what is right in front of you, but you can’t see the big picture, the horizon, or what lies just on the other side.
At this time, I received a call from a girl whom I’ve known since she was a baby. Like me, she was facing surgery (her’s was for her foot), and she was feeling a little down and anxious about it. I put on my mentor and spiritual teacher hat, and we talked.
When I hung up, she felt great and very confident about her upcoming surgery, and I wondered, why can’t I do that for myself? Everything that I said to her was true, and it all applied to me, too! But, why couldn’t I feel it?
And then I ran into an acquaintance from my workout group, and upon hearing my news, she responded with unbridled enthusiasm bordering on childlike wonder.
“WOW! They can fix it!” she said. “There’s a SOLUTION! That is incredible. I’m so happy for you.”
She said it with such simplicity and sincerity. And I heard it. They can fix it! How incredible is that?
Really incredible, actually. There IS a solution.
Then I felt it, and everything shifted.
It struck me that each one of us can be that voice of support, that person out of nowhere who cares enough to say the right thing at the right time. She might not remember that short conversation in a year, but I guarantee I will. It makes me wonder how many times I’ve been in her place and how many conversations I’ve had now lost entirely from my memory that impacted another person in a powerful way. It’s a good reminder that even our seemingly insignificant interactions can be critically important to someone else.
I’m not the only one to recognize the power in those moments. In 2010 Drew Dudley gave his famous “Everyday Leadership” TED Talk, in which he challenged his audience to consider how simple yet profound our ability to impact one another is. Drew tells a story of how on his last day of college, a woman approached him and told him a story he did not remember; the story of how he completely changed her life for the better.
Four years earlier, on the first day of school, this young woman felt out of place, overwhelmed, incapable, and resolute on leaving before classes had even begun. Just as she decided she would not register for classes and instead go back home with her parents, Drew appeared. He came out of one of the student buildings dressed ridiculously, holding a sign for a charity she had previously been involved in supporting.
Drew, carrying a bunch of lollipops, headed towards this woman, turned to the young man standing next to her and urged him to offer her a lollipop, causing him embarrassment. Drew then proceeded to make a joke to this woman’s parents, “Look at your daughter, the first day away from home, already taking candy from strangers!”
Years later, she caught up with Drew and shared that it was at this moment everything shifted for her—the laughter eased her nerves, she felt like she belonged, and she knew she shouldn’t quit school. And the icing on the cake? She was still dating the shy man who Drew cajoled into handing her a lollipop. A few years after that day, Drew received an invitation to their wedding. That is the impact Drew had on this woman’s life, all from a moment he had forgotten entirely.
This inspired a new realization for him and led to the coining of the phrase – lollipop moments.
Lollipop Moment: a moment when someone said or did something that you feel made your life fundamentally better
Wow, right? We influence the people around us every single day and yet, have little awareness of our influence. We have all had experiences like this—sometimes we are Drew, and other times, we are the timid freshman. One kind word could be all it takes to encourage a person to take the plunge, be courageous, and pursue a dream that terrifies them. The thing is, we never know when we’re tipping the scales in a person’s life, sending them in one direction or another.
And because we never know, we have to treat every conversation like it’s a lollipop moment. Like it matters. Like it has the power to shift the course of someone’s life. Because it might be just that important to someone else. It’s a little frightening to accept just how much our words can affect the course of another person’s life. There’s a real responsibility there. Yet, we consistently underestimate our own power.
Remember, ONE person started the coronavirus epidemic.
We think our most significant impact and the most powerful way to impact the world is through our work, the things that we do, the talents that we cultivate. Drew Dudley puts it like this, “We’ve spent so much time celebrating amazing things hardly anybody can do that we’ve convinced ourselves those are the only things worth celebrating.”
We devalue the powerful transformative ways in which we can be a force for good every day. We don’t let ourselves take credit for these moments or feel good about them. Or, we simply don’t know about these moments because no one has told us how impactful we’ve been.
Who in YOUR life has profoundly impacted you?
Have you let them know? If you haven’t, and you can find them, tell them today!
The more we let other people know how powerful they are, the more they begin to recognize that power and embrace it.