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When People Think Differently About Themselves

Over the years, I’ve asked leaders to tell me about a tipping point in their lives. They typically give me the same answer. The question goes something like, “Tell me about a time when someone said something to you that caused you to think differently about yourself.”

Yesterday I asked the director of West Point’s Performance Psychology Program, Dr. Nate Zinsser, the tipping-point-question.


Words are rudders. Conversations have trajectory.

Words cause us to think differently about ourselves.

Someone said something to you that sucked the life out of you. You felt devalued. Maybe, on the inside, you waved the white flag.

You’re less than you could be when you allow vampire words to suck the life out of you.

Admiration is better than complaint when it comes to transformation.

Something good:

Life-givers notice our strengths. Vampires notice our weaknesses.

Dr. Zinsser told me that his High School principal said he had more drive than anyone he had ever seen. That conversation is a lifetime away, but Dr. Zinsser still smiles when he remembers it.

Conversations that give life are about your talent.

Admiration lengthens your stride.

Negative magnetism:

It’s normal to notice people’s weaknesses, failures, and frailties. That’s why gossip is pervasive.

In order to energize people, you have to overcome the natural tendency to focus on things they can’t do.

The same answer:

10 years ago, I asked Bob Herbold the tipping point question. He found out he was smart. Bob grew up in a working-class family and became the COO of the largest software company in the world, Microsoft.

Someone believed in him.

Who spoke life into you?

How might you encourage people to think differently about themselves?

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