One of my clients recently told me an amazing story and I want to share it with you because it contains an important lesson of how you can help to change the world.
My client is a very successful artist by which I mean he earns a respectable living from his art. He creates mostly public art sculptures, the type that you might see in public squares, outside office buildings, in parks, and other civic venues. He also does private commissions and other, smaller studio work.
About 20 years ago, he was awarded his first commission by a major corporation to create a piece for one of their office buildings. Back then, he was, of course, inexperienced, and he produced the metal sculpture using an inadequate form of welding. To put it bluntly, the piece couldn’t support itself with the welding technique he used. Rather than cancelling the commission which the client organization was well within its contractual rights to do, they demonstrated incredible grace, helped to connect him to a structural engineer to remediate the problems, and accepted the completed work. That project launched my client to what has been a notably successful career.
The lesson my client took from that experience—besides using the correct welding techniques for such a project—was one of learned hopefulness. You may have heard the term, “learned helplessness,” when multiple failures result in a person giving up. They no longer even try because they have learned over and over again that everything inevitably goes wrong and fails. Why even bother?
Learned hopefulness is the opposite. It’s the lesson that no matter how bad something may seem at the moment, it will ultimately end well, and often through the graciousness, the leeway, the accommodation granted by someone in authority. This is where you come in to help change the world.
You will inevitably find yourself in a circumstance that offers you a choice: You can adhere strictly to the letter of the law, the terms of the contract, or the official policy. Alternatively, you could choose to offer grace, consideration, or accommodation. When you find yourself with the opportunity to make such a decision, consider choosing the latter—grace and accommodation. Ultimately, you may find that you will have created learned hopefulness in a person who goes on to create a stellar future for themselves and possibly for others. And you? You have changed the world.