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Championing the Hell

For many years, I’ve made it a practice to send out two meaningful compliments a day. I’ve developed longtime close friendships, coached young professionals, and mentored leaders from around the globe. I’ve written encouraging notes and cheered loudly.

But lately, I’ve been wondering if that’s enough. I had a moment of clarity while cycling through a Peloton workout. One of the trainers, Robin Arzon, was encouraging the class. Your job is to climb this hill and give it all you’ve got, she said. My job is to champion you.

I could not get that out of my head. It prompted me to think: Is there something I could be doing beyond offering support? What would it mean to champion the people in my life — or, even better, to champion the hell out of them?

The difference might seem like a fine line. But when I look back at the people who have affected me deeply, I realize they did more than just support me. They offered the best of themselves without ego or expectation so I could succeed. They were willing to share hard truths gently so I could hear them willingly.

I must admit that I have not always been able to do the same, especially when I have been close to the person involved. Recently, I chastised my grandson for talking back to his mother. My intentions were certainly good: I wanted him to be a better young man. I wanted him to be more caring and empathetic. I wanted him to put his feelings aside for a moment and think about the affect his words had on the people around him.

Was he in the wrong? Yes. Was I in the right? I thought so. But I didn’t use the moment as an opportunity to champion the hell out of him, to empower him to think beyond himself and come to a greater understanding of his role in the family. I used the moment to discipline him, and it left me feeling hollow.

After reflecting, I realized I could have done things differently. I could have been calmer and more kind. I could have given him the time to reflect himself. What were the steps I could have taken to truly support him?

Consider your motivation. Are you trying to assist out of pure love or out of a need for control? Understanding yourself in the moment is key.

Check your emotions. Do you need to bring this topic up now, or would you be better served by waiting? Could a little distance help you approach the subject out of love? Remember: Research shows that emotions last for only 90 seconds, but hurtful words can linger for years…… sometimes decades.

Give your suggestions … After reflecting and choosing your words carefully, share what you have to say. Choose a setting that isn’t charged and a time when you’re both calm.

… Then let the chips fall where they may. Letting go of expectations and outcomes is the hardest part of the process, but it is the difference between championing someone and championing the hell out of them. When you allow people to make their own decisions, you allow them to grow.

I would have done my grandson a great service if I had calmly shared my perspective. He would have learned by taking in knowledge and reflecting — and he would have made a decision of his own volition.

That’s real growth. That’s what we want, in the end, when we champion the hell out of people. Whether you’re supporting someone who is 7 or 70, you can do the same. When times are dark for someone you are mentoring, raising, or assisting, they don’t always need a torch to light the way. They need a spark to light their own flame. With a little practice, you can be that spark.

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