There are some things in our life that are so important, so simple, and so obvious, yet we ignore them, miss them, or disregard them on a day to day, even moment to moment basis. I am grateful that I choose, on a regular basis, to put myself into an environment where I can be reminded of these important, simple, and obvious things. I was at a weekend conference recently and was listening to an amazing speaker, Andy Stanley, and when he made the statement, every conversation is a construction zone, I immediately felt chills running down my spine.
What did he mean by that? Let’s think about what happens in a construction zone. There are many things that happen, but we can really distil it down to two very basic things. On a construction site, something is either being built up or torn down. Right? See what I mean? Chilling! Andy says that every conversation is a construction zone, in fact, I would like to suggest that every word, every look, every posture, and every sound you make in an interaction with another human (or yourself) is a construction zone.
The reason why I had chills as i was listening to this was because, as Andy was talking, I was reflecting on the many conversations and interactions i have had in my life that have left a destruction of rubble and debris in their wake. I also thought about the many times my heart, my will, or my hope had been torn down by the words of other people. I was just a child, and this was well over 50 years ago, when my life started down a destructive path after thoughtless comments by teachers who didn’t understand this concept.
I have mentioned before in previous blogs, books, and podcasts that as the younger brother of a very smart and well-behaved boy, I lived in his shadow during my primary school years. I was always a year behind, and always went into the class with the same teacher he had the year before. I think, almost without exception, for the next 4 or 5 years I would hear comments like, ‘why aren’t you more like your brother’, ‘your brother would never behave that way’, and ‘I wish you could be a little more like your brother.’ What the teachers were trying to do, in their clueless way, was motivate me to be better. What I heard was, ‘Andrew, you are not good enough as you are’.
Oh my gosh, talk about a demolition! That one belief, deposited in the mind of a young boy, has played out time and time again over my life, and it has left even more destruction in its wake. This feeling of insecurity and always trying to prove myself, and gain approval and acceptance, has led me to situations and circumstances I regret to this day. Three marriages and divorces, failed businesses, lost income, getting sacked as a professional athlete, and many more things I will not get into right now.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not blaming my teachers for my life. I am responsible for my behaviours and actions, I spoke to myself in destructive ways, and I chose to focus on thoughts that led me down a destructive path. I just want you to get the point that, whilst we are all responsible for our own outcomes in life, words and conversations can start a process that will build or demolish. My feelings of not being good enough have affected my own internal chatter, not to mention my conversations with others. I know in my past I had interactions with others that demolished rather than built up, and for that I am very sorry.
Whilst I cannot change the past, neither can you by-the-way, I am in total control of my conversations moving forward. I am now very deliberate about my own self-talk and building myself up. When I catch any negative self-talk, I remind myself how worthy, capable, resilient, creative, courageous, and fabulous, I really am. In addition, it is my mission to leave every conversation and interaction, with other people, knowing in my heart I have built up a person, or many people, and that they feel better about themselves, their life, and their future. I hope you will do the same moving forward.
In my podcast this week called Ask and then act, I speak with the queen of conversation that builds, Justine Martin. How else could this incredible lady deal with MS, Cancer, a range of other medical challenges, domestic violence, and other traumas to go on to build seven businesses and have an incredible impact on many lives? Simple, she understands the ‘construction zone’ power of her words and conversations, with herself and others.
As you get on with your day, can I encourage you to be aware of every thought you have and every word that comes out of your mouth? Whether you know it, understand it, believe it or not, every interaction you have, with yourself and others, will have one of two possible outcomes. Just remember that every conversation is a construction zone and will either build up or tear down the person you are communicating with. Spend the rest of your life being a builder, then watch and enjoy what will grow from it.