The power of a compliment

Tick tock. Tick tock. The deadline is looming. It’s a Tuesday afternoon and I have a big project due on Wednesday. My mind is completely overwhelmed with the details of writing copy, design layout, and the pressure to deliver this project in a way that exceeds expectations.

I have 9 hours of work ahead to squeeze into 2.

A reminder pops up. Crap, I have a conference call. It’s a call I really want to be my best for but it’s a shame to break my concentration. Looking at my calendar again I realize I’ve promised the kids to take them to the school fair.

Who schedules that for a Tuesday night? Ugh.

Tick tock. Tick tock. Time burns away.

I sigh deeply in the knowledge that it’ll be another late night. On top of it all I don’t just have to finish the project, I also have to prepare for the presentation. I have to really sell this. I can’t afford to mess it up. My reputation is at stake once again.

I dial into the conference call. I do my best to stop thinking about my project and the deadline so I can contribute. But the truth is that throughout the phone call I’ve got this other project in the back of my mind. I say some things the best that I can. The phone meeting ends and I instantly feel guilty wishing I’d participated better.

Back to work. The clock is ticking and I have to leave for the school fair in 45 minutes. Minutes are flying by like seconds and I just can’t go any faster.

Defeated, I pack my bag and head to the trolley. I’m frustrated with myself. I needed to get more done than I was able. Yes, I’ll work late into the night. But I’m not going to cheat my kids on that promise. I need to pack it all away for a few hours so I can enjoy my time with them.

Sitting on the trolley, I lean back hard against the seat. I lean hard into the music pumping into my ears. I feel like a failure. I am second-guessing myself. I am doubting that this is all worth it. But there isn’t anything I can do about that right now. I just need to try to relax on the trolley and change gears. And later tonight I’ll need to find some confidence and energy to muster up a few more hours of productivity.

Chirp. In stereo, a notification pushes through Bono’s voice. It’s a text message. I want to check it but I want to ignore it more. I just need everything to go away for a few more minutes. Please continue, Bono. I’m listening.

Ding. My phone reminds me I haven’t checked that message yet. Again, ding.

OK, I’ll check it.

Thanks for going out last night. I really just needed someone to listen and spend time with me. It was last minute but it really made a difference.

Now I probably look like an idiot. With my bike leaning against my body, a bike helmet dangling from the handlebars, I lean back just as a tear rolled down my cheek.

When was the last time you received too many compliments in a day?


I could have 100 nice things said about me in a day and 1 criticism. Want to know what I’d remember? The 1 critical thought.

Conversely, when I am really discouraged. When I’m super frustrated with myself or a project or a circumstance– a single compliment can change everything.

Which voice will you be today?

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

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