How important is encouragement?

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better. “ – Samuel Beckett

My daughter is 2 years and nine months old. She is very active and mischievous. She would often fall down while running around the house and hurt herself a little.  My wife and I made it a point not to rush to her and pick her up at such times. Instead, we try to make fun of the situation and encourage her to get up and walk again. On many occasions we could see that she wanted to cry out, but because of our response, she would stop and laugh out as well and then get back up on her feet. In a few moments, she would happily become her mischievous self, once again. The only lesson we want her to learn is that – it is ok to fall, when you do, see the funny side of it and then rise and start all over. No fuss.

As adults we also need encouragement. In fact there is not a soul on this planet who doesn’t. Some of us are able to express the need for encouragement but a vast majority of us can’t, even though we yearn for it.

Does anyone remember the Hero cup semi-final, played on an eventful evening at the Eden Gardens? In 1993, South Africa was a strong cricket team and they looked all set to win the match against India. South Africa needed 6 runs to win in the last 6 balls and it seemed to be a walk in the park for them. The Indian captain – Mohammed Azharuddin wanted Kapil Dev, who was a legend to bowl the final over. But a young Sachin Tendulkar wanted to do it as well. It had to be an act of faith for Azhar to let Sachin bowl instead of Kapil. And God knows what made Sachin think that he could bowl the final over when someone like Kapil was standing next to him. Guess what! What unfolded was an epic drama and Sachin led India to victory when no one had expected it. What an act of faith! What an act of encouragement!

You may think that I am taking about the great Sachin Tendulkar, who was perhaps one of the greatest cricketers ever. But when the match was played, he was just a young boy. Besides, he was a great batsman, and only a part-time bowler. Yes he had immense talent and self-belief, but don’t make the mistake of thinking that he did not need encouragement.

Leadership calls for acts of faith like these. Cricket is replete with such examples. In life, in classrooms, in our work places or at home we need to practice this act of encouragement every day. It is easier said than done though. Some of us are aware what damages discouraging words can do, but unfortunately many of us don’t even realize it. Even for those who understand the damage dispiriting words can cause, it can be hard for them as well, to encourage others.

So, what does it take to encourage someone? You need two things – courage and inner strength. In order to encourage anyone you need a lot of strength and courage. We may find it easier to summon that strength and courage when we are at home and trying to encourage someone in our family, but the courage or strength often deserts us when we are dealing with others. A common example is our workplace.

Why do we need courage? It is important because our decision to encourage someone may not yield immediate result. People may fail even after we encourage them. It may seem to back fire and make us look foolish. We may even face ridicule. We must be brave enough to take such negative emotions in our stride. We may have doubts in our own mind that the person we are trying to encourage may fail, yet we must continue to encourage. We mustn’t back out at that time. That is when people need our support the most. There is a reason why it is called an act of faith. If you continue to encourage even when the situation seems hopeless – eventually you will see miracles taking place.

Why do we need strength? Before we go about encouraging anyone, we must have a great sense of security for ourselves. That comes to you only when you have a strong will. Behaviors such as ridiculing, rebuking, abusing, shaming are signs of weakness. We belittle others at their times of failure, because our insecurity forces us to do something that will make us look better than those who have failed. Leaders cannot afford to do that. We need to own the failure and encourage our people to try again. That takes a lot of inner strength.

We are also fighting our own demons – we need to overcome the fear that the person we are trying to encourage may overshadow us in the long run. At such times it is better to remember the below mentioned quote.

“In the long run we are all dead” – John Maynard Keynes.

What might be the worst possible thing that could happen when you encourage people?

  • People whom you are encouraging may fail – But failure is only temporary. In the words of Tony Robbins, “There are no failures. There are only results.”
  • You may look bad – Yes, but only for a while.
  • You may face criticism – You will be criticized anyways. No matter what you do. You cannot please everyone. Do anything and everything only for yourself, because you want to and not for anyone else.

What are the possible benefits of encouraging people?

  • By the very act of encouraging others, you can let go of your own disappointments. And feel that the strength you need to carry on is already within you.
  • When you feel strong and secure inside, you can find the courage to pursue your dreams.
  • People may fail in the short run. Many of them will find their true calling and find success at some stage in their lives. They will never forget the person who encouraged them when no one else did. That’s how you build connections, you build network. That is how you become an influencer.
  • A leader’s success is always measured by how many success stories were created by him or her.
  • Leadership is about empowering others and not about authority. There is no better way to empower people than to encourage them.
  • More often than not, you will find amazing results when you encourage people, even in the short run.
  • When your people succeed, you succeed.


Let me conclude with a beautiful Zen quote for you to enjoy:

“Let go of comparing.

Let go of competing.

Let go of judgments.

Let go of anger.

Let go of regrets.

Let go of worrying.

Let go of blame.

Let go of guilt.

Let go of fear.

Have a proper belly laugh at least once a day (especially if you cannot let go of any or all of the above).”

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