The impact of feedback on achievement

Years ago working in Slovenia, I met an art teacher, Andrej Grošelj, who over the years, stayed in touch and became a friend until his recent and sudden death. With the help of Google’s Language Tools, I was able to translate email messages he occasionally sent in his native tongue.

One morning, as I was working on a revision of some material about the destructive power of criticism, this little fable appeared in my Inbox. I have kept as much of the character of the message as possible, taking a few liberties with the translation, as Google’s approximation was a bit choppy. Nonetheless, the meaning is powerful and clear.

Determined frogOnce there was a group of frogs who organized a competition. Their goal was to reach the top of a tall tower. A large audience gathered to see the game, cheering— and the race is on.

Now to be honest, none of the spectators believed that it was possible for the frogs to climb to the top of the tower. All you  could hear were shouts like, “Oh, how exhausting! They’ll never succeed!” or “They’ll certainly fail! The tower is way too high!”

The frogs started to despair, though some continued climbing, on and on. The frogs in the crowd continued calling out, “This is preposterous. Nobody can do this!”

More and more, the frogs responded to this discouragement and started giving up. But one frog climbed on, refusing to quit. With great effort, this one frog reached the top.

The other frogs naturally wanted to know how she made it. One of them went to the tower to ask her what she did.

It turns out the winner was deaf!

And the lesson of this story:

Never listen to pessimistic people who still can only see difficulties and impossibilities. They will steal your best wishes and destroy the hope in your heart! Everything you hear and read can have an impact on your behavior! Therefore, always tune into the positive. Become “deaf” if someone says to you that you will not be able to realize your dreams!

I can personally attest to how anxious people can be to dump on a dream. I think this is probably true for anyone who attempted to reach a significant goal or make a significant change in his or her life. Even though it may be justified as trying to protect the dreamer, I think that big ambitions can reflect people’s fears and self-limitations back to them. This is where I learned the value of “magic sentences” like “Thank you for sharing,” and of disengaging from anyone whose energy was likely to pull me down.

Hvala lepa, Andrej. Rest in peace, my friend.

Photo credit: © 2011 Neloy.

Related links:

Picking up the Pieces: Reclaiming our essence

Article reprint: “Dream Big” Ways to respect and encourage childrens’ hopes, goals and dreams, and how to avoid adult behaviors that can get in the way.

Also: I’ve been writing a good bit about the impact of discouragement and the relationship between negative messages we receive and things like achievement, engagement, intention, and self-concept. Click here for a great article (and video) to show what happens when kids get a healthy dose of encouragement and recognition, along with a little space and a few resources to explore and learn. I know few teachers who wouldn’t love to see this level of engagement, creativity, self-motivation, and dedication from our students. Thank you to Tyll Hertsens for a great blog post.

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One thought on “The Power of Discouragement

  1. This was a greacomt message,Janie, and so true! Thank You for sharing, Jiny

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