I believe that people on our periphery hold an extraordinary potential for having a positive influence that those closest to us don’t. We (rightly so) should expect a certain level of encouragement from friends, colleagues, and family members, but when someone we don’t know well, someone with no motive other than kindness, expresses even a small bit of interest in our lives, it can have a powerful, even profound effect.
One example of my point is how two men influenced my decision to become a graphic designer. My high school English teacher, Mr. Kryston, was an innovator. He was the kind of teacher who seemed almost like a friend. He was on fire about being creative and anxious to go the extra mile, in my case, to hook a kid who needed some direction up to someone who could provide it.
It was Victor Kryston who put me in touch with his friend Dill Cole, an illustrator and a principle of The Eucalyptus Tree Studio in Baltimore, Maryland. At the time, though a design studio was a new and foreign concept to me, it quickly became the most exciting place any human being could ever hope to be (in many ways it still is). Long story short, I traded letters with Mr. Cole and he replied with patient, simple words of encouragement.
Today, looking back, those little expressions of encouragement were pivotal in my decision to pursue a career in design. I wonder where I would be today had that teacher not taken those few minutes to connect me to his friend. And what I would be doing now had that illustrator not taken the time to encourage me.
Why make such a big deal of it? Because it is a big deal. Small things can end up being huge. Especially the things we do for people outside our inner circle.
I understand I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. My motive is to prompt you to recall the small acts of encouragement that directed your success.
Who offered it? What was it they did or said? Where did it lead you? How did it change you? Whose life you are on the periphery of today?
Do you have you’re willing to share?
More stories of encouragement
Yep, you gave a good word, my friend. I have a Dill Cole story, too…
When I was an undergraduate at Rice University in Houston I thought I was pretty smart since I’d coasted through high school. Trouble was, I found out that there were a lot of REALLY smart kids at Rice. I floundered around for a while and realized that engineering and I weren’t going to be friends.
After changing my major multiple times I finally landed in a “Scientific Foundations of Physical Education” class where I saw several classmates who wore “Rice Sports Medicine” shirts and had bandage scissors sticking out of their pockets. That looked pretty interesting to me, and I soon learned that these students were studying for a career in sports medicine (it turned out that they went directly from class to get the players ready for football practice).
Having not yet found a major I liked, between my sophomore and junior years I wrote to the Head Athletic Trainer at Rice, Allen Eggert, to ask if I could join his student staff. It was a total cold call—I didn’t know him, nor did I know any of his students except for seeing them in class. For some crazy reason that I still don’t understand, he wrote me back to say he would let me have a try!
After a year of full immersion in sports medicine and life with Division 1college sports, Allen gave me a sports medicine scholarship for my senior year! If he would not have taken a mixed up kid under his wing, I would never have known about sports medicine and had a career now approaching 27 years.
Allen retired from Rice a couple of years ago and, though I was in England and couldn’t attend his retirement party, I wrote him a letter expressing what he had given to me by letting me have a chance. This, I think, is important, too….all of us recipients of “Dill Cole encouragement” need to let our “Dill Coles” know how much we appreciate them. I vowed early in my career that I would be an encourager of students, and that continues to give me (and my wife, Ruth) great pleasure.
Jeff Russell, UK