Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 38 seconds
I was doing a free plumbing repair for a friend who happened to be a Tennis Pro. I had always been impressed with his athletic prowess and chiseled body. Not having grown up in a competitive sport, I was never coached or had to develop a killer instinct to always win. I had little understanding or respect for what he did for a living.
He had a clogged sink in a small bathroom of his 100 year old house. I had removed the P Trap made some progress with the drain cleaning tool when it got stopped by a T fitting deep within the wall. I had tried every trick I could think of. I was sweating and frustrated. I was cramped and uncomfortable and I decided that I wasn’t going to be successful. In fact I had other things to do.
I began to clean up and pack out when I told him that I had given it my best shot and that he was just going to have to call a plumbing company that specializes in this sort of thing.
He immediately told me “Thanks, I see that you have given it your all, no problem” He kept heaping on the praise and thanks. He repeatedly assured me that he would take care of it. I was so relieved he let me off the hook for fixing his clog. Then he said something that I will never forget.
He slipped in a word that stopped me in my tracks and motivated me like nothing external had ever motivated me in my life.
He was helping me pack out my tools and said thanks one more time. Joe, he said, have a great afternoon “looser”. I was shocked! He had slipped in that word barely audible that instantly boiled my blood. How dare you I thought, It really pissed me off. “what did you say” I barked? He calmly said, no big deal man, we will get it taken care of Monday, you gave it your all. That Asshole! How dare he, I heard what he said and it got my goat…..” I thought you had game,” he said as he shrugged.
I promptly turned around and unpacked my stuff. I fixed the problem by using my head and approaching the clogged drain from the other direction (toilet side) going backwards up the pipe. I felt damn good doing it. I was fiercely determined and ultra focused. When I finally got it, I felt fantastic and proud that I had won. All the while he had this Cheshire Cat air about him. What a prick I thought. Then it hit me.
Holy cow, Pete Peterson had just gotten under my skin and had gotten results out of me that I didn’t think I could accomplish. He had just coached me.
A coach and a motivator of people all his life. He had figured out the magic word and deftly delivered it at the perfect moment to get me to accomplish a task he knew I could accomplish despite the fact that I had nearly given up. He used it to get what he wanted out of me. It took less than a second to say, he muttered softly and never repeated it. The power of that word said at that moment in time was all it took.
Who knows if it would ever work again, (I keep the experience with me in my mental toolbox should I ever need it again). It was a special moment that I will never forget. I thanked him and have a new respect for coaches and leaders who have the ability to motivate others throughout the world.
I often reflect upon that incident. I wonder if we all have a word and a moment that would get us to accomplish something amazing that we had within us but didn’t believe we could do.
What is your word? Can you find the word that works for others?