Planting, Growing, and Flourishing

I heard a great interview with motivational speaker/author Jon Gordon recently where he was asked: What should you do if you find yourself unmotivated to face a day’s work?
He responded by saying: You should plant yourself right where you are and focus on serving those around you instead of on yourself.

A few days ago I was reminded of Jon’s words when a senior student came by to see me.

She started the conversation by saying, “Neither of the counselors was free, so I thought you’d be the next best thing.” I laughed and asked her how I could help her.

She was a student I had known since she was a freshman. When we had discovered how much she had struggled through middle school, we had placed her on a mentor team.

That first year we also took her on a trip to our technology school partner, Tulsa Technology, to tour their campuses. She fell in love with idea of going to Tech, and as a senior, she is enrolled in their dental tech program.

Now she looked worried.

“I am struggling in math and wonder if I can have a schedule change,” she said.

“Oh, what math are you in this year?” I asked.

“Trig,” she said, “And I am having a hard time understanding.”

Now I was worried. Trigonometry is a tough class, and I didn’t know if she had the skill set for such an advanced class. But I tried not to look worried.

“Well, Trig is hard. But I believe if you can see your teacher for some tutoring, that may help,” I explained.

“Oh, I am already seeing her for tutoring in the mornings, but I am still struggling.”

Now I was even more worried.

“Well,” I explained, “We are already weeks in the semester, so we have stopped making schedule changes. How low is your grade in that class?”

“I’m making a B, but I want to make all A’s.”

Now I was stunned.

“You’re making a B in Trig?!” I said with eyes wide open. “That’s amazing! Trig is a rigorous class with high expectations. If you’re making a B, you are…a rock star!!”

Suddenly, her expression completely changed to one of relief. “Really?” she said with a smile. “But I wanted to make all A’s this year, though, and now I don’t think I will. Do you think that’s okay?”

So I started reminding her of the big picture: The obstacles she had overcome to get here…how great her grades had been once she had committed to a plan…how more impressed colleges would be with a B in Trig rather than an A in an easier math choice.

Suddenly, she was getting excited about Trig. We had a great conversation and ended our talk with a high-five.

I treasured the talk because it was evidence she had grown into exactly the kind of student I had wanted to see her become. She was no longer the “at-risk” student; she had become the high-achieving student.

If you find yourself running low on motivation, look around. Someone needs you to plant a seed of encouragement, vision, or direction for them. Our planting started with this student years before. Her teachers sowed the seeds of hope that she could have a brighter future. Her mentor team, including a teacher an older student, met with her weekly to check on her grades, to congratulate and challenge her. Her counselor coached her to set high expectations on her schedule each semester. We planted. She grew. She’s flourishing.

And now we are reaping the benefits.

Jon Gordon is right. Help others flourish. And in the process, you may find yourself flourishing too.

Questions: What are ways you have found more joy and motivation in what you are doing? What are some books or resources you would share if someone wanted inspiration to stay motivated?

My Jon Gordon Interview: Want to hear more from author Jon Gordon? Check out the interview I did with Jon last April.

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William D. Parker
William D. Parker