The Case of the Despondent Young Man

The Case of the Despondent Young Man

When my friend narrated his woes about his son Swami, it ranged from not making his bed in the morning to a lackadaisical attitude to his inability to get through his exams. He was having difficulty in clearing just one paper in his final year of Engineering and had spent a couple of years at it without success. While I understood what a father goes through when the son plods along without much success, I understood equally well what this does to the son’s self-esteem.

Can you talk to him?” my friend asked, hoping I could perhaps bring about a change.

Three days later, I found Swami waiting in my office, head down, eyes downcast, shoulders stooped and a blank look on his face, all signs of despondency. I shook hands with him and got a firm handshake, which was a good sign. From his build, I thought he might be a regular at the gym.

So, what’s going on?” I opened.

I don’t know”, he said, shrugging his shoulders, his voice weak, betraying a lack of confidence. “I don’t know what to do and I don’t know what to think. My father must have told you about my inability to get through the one paper in my course. I just don’t seem to be doing things right and to top it, my father picks on me every time I do something to his dislike”. He looked defeated and was feeling so low, he could have walked under a snake’s belly wearing a top hat. I had to interrupt the pattern.

I asked him what he was passionate about and his eyes lighted up. For the next twenty minutes, he held forth on his favorite subject and from the way he spoke, I thought he was pretty knowledgeable. Convinced that he had sufficiently warmed up to me, I asked him to talk about his early days, right from his schooling, his friends and his goals in life. After listening to him, I discovered there were certain incidents in his early childhood that laid the foundation to a low self-esteem. I asked him to meet me two days later.

At our next meeting, I did some change work with him to erase the bad memories of his childhood and to replace the picture that triggered his failure with one showing him as a successful person doing what he liked to do. He was very clear about what he wanted to do in life. After this, his state changed. An hour after our meeting began, he walked out with his chin up.

Two weeks later, I happened to meet Swami at the airport where he had come to drop his father who was travelling with me. He looked totally changed and appeared very positive, a far cry from the young man I first saw in my office with his head down.

Four months later, my friend, seemingly relieved, called to tell me that Swami had passed his exams and was now confronted with a new predicament – whether he should first gain some experience working in a company or start his own venture. I smiled to myself.

When I reflect upon this incident now, I think I was able to help Swami because while I was coaching him, I genuinely believed that he had the potential and that he would succeed. This, I think is the essence of every conversation you have to encourage, motivate or inspire someone. Our beliefs about the capability of others have a direct impact on how they perform.

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