Finding the Button

Jessica was a floater. Everything about her said high performer, but she seemed indifferent to everything. Except her fingernails. She took great pride in them. She was very creative in how she colored her nails.

During an academic advisory appointment, Jessica’s advisor complemented her on her nails. That led to a 30-minute discussion on nail art. Her advisor knew a local Japanese woman who did beautiful works of art on nails and helped Jessica meet her.

From that moment on, Jessica made it a point to show her advisor her nails when there was new coloring or art. Jessica’s nails gave her advisor an opportunity to work with Jessica on her overall performance. What a turnaround!! Jessica went from being a marginal student to one of the best.

Her outstanding performance continued throughout her career. Her advisor would periodically get emails that begin with pictures of nails and then an update on her career.  As Jessica rose in leadership, she always retained an appreciation for her advisor helping her through a tough time in her life.

As a “Paying It Forward” gift, Jessica sent her advisor a photo of a group of girls, each with distinctive nails. The message that accompanied the photo said simply: “I’m funding each of these girls’ college educations. None of them have the resources to pay for college, but they have the desire and the potential to be very successful. I’ve also set them up with internships with the company I own. None of this would have been possible if you hadn’t taken an interest in me.”

For Jessica her nails were the button that her advisor was able to push to motivate her. All of have us have a button that drives us. For some of us, we are able to push our own button. For others, like Jessica, we need someone to find our button and then use it to help us see our potential.

Think about those who need someone to push their button. How often does the button never get pushed? What’s the loss to society from not finding and pushing the button for those who need help? There is a real skill in finding and using the button to motivate someone. How do we develop that skill?

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“Success isn’t about what you accomplish in your life.  It’s about what you inspire others to do.”  (Unknown)

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