Conversation with a stranger (about 14 years old) in the Tulip Gardens, Amsterdam:
Stranger (S): What do you do?
Me: I am a coach; I help people achieve their goals.
What about you? Who do you want to be when you grow up?
S: (Sighs!) They tell me that I will not amount to anything.
Me: Who is ‘they’?
S: Important people in my life.
Me: Why do they say that?
S: I am not good at Math and brilliance at Math is the key to success, right?
Me: May be…if you want to be a mathematician. Do you?
Me: Who do you want to be then?
S: I don’t know. But I am 100% sure that I do not want to be a mathematician or do anything with math.
Me: OK – let me ask you two different questions. What gives you joy? What makes your heart sing?
S: Literature and languages; I want to work with a leading publisher when I grow up.
Me: Tell me how you feel when you study literature and languages.
S goes on to explain what she experiences when she studies her favourite subjects, her eyes lit up and I could almost hear and see her heart sing.
Me (when she finishes): I want you to remember something very important: You not being good at one thing (Math in your case) is not the measure of what you will amount to later in your life.
Me (after a short break to let my words sync in): What do you think will happen if you work hard or very hard at Math?
S: I will probably become average at it because I do not enjoy it.
Me: Would you rather be average at something you do not enjoy or would you rather invest your time, effort and energy to shine at what you love?…literature and languages in your case.
Silence…a long strange silence which seemed to cause an upheaval in the mind of this lovely girl.
S (excited): Aha! Never thought of it this way. Thank you; I will do just enough math to get through my exams as long as I have it as a mandatory subject on my curriculum. As far as building a career is concerned, I will primarily focus on literature and languages.
Can I give you a hug?
Me: Of course, I love hugs.
But can I say one final thing before you go away?
Me: Never let anyone and I mean anyone, including the important people in your life decide for you who you can be. Only you get to decide that.
Remember you are brilliant as you are.
You are enough.
I am enough.
We all are!
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