The Ripple Effect

Every parent wonders if the instruction and advice we gave our children when they were growing up will actually stick or be eventually discarded or ignored completely. I always did a silent, internal fist pump when I would see one of my sons put a napkin in their lap, hold the door for someone, or pull up in a car wearing their seat belt all on their own.

Once, as a speaker on a cruise where I had clients and industry leaders in attendance, I remember being ridiculously nervous about the behavior and formal manners of my two boys who were traveling with me. At the formal dinner, I felt like doing a happy dance when they used the correct glassware and silverware, said the appropriate “please” and “thank you’s,” asked to be excused between dessert and after-dinner drinks and then went around the table and said goodnight to each person at our table. I secretly giggled inside when everyone commented on what well-mannered boys I had raised… especially knowing that my husband and I were the only two people at the table who had any idea how many nights we had practiced all this at our dinner table prior to the cruise.

But the best moment was when I unexpectedly caught one of them teaching their cousin about formal table manners before a celebratory dinner or heard from a teacher that the entire class, following the example and instruction from my son, had won the prize for the most well-mannered class that month at school.

Good lessons and examples can not only positively affect the person you’re instructing but they also have the potential to “roll downhill” to others you may never know or meet. It’s the “butterfly effect” where the movement of the tiniest wings can stir the air and ripple across the atmosphere, gaining momentum and ultimately causing a great wind.

This butterfly effect happened at LionSpeak last month when I received the email below. It was one of those moments when you are paid in more than dollars, when you know that the work you do is sometimes leaving a positive, permanent footprint on the world and rippling outward in a way that will matter long after you’ve moved on.

In your work this week, consider how the things you say, the small little kindnesses you show, and the leadership you demonstrate will not only positively impact your teammates and clients but will likely cause a ripple effect to happen out there in the world. And that’s enough. Do the good work you were called to do with all the generosity and passion you can muster and rest in the knowledge that, on occasion, someone will pick up the baton and continue the race of that good work. Someone has to start the first ripple. Be the change you want to see and know those tiny wings of good works will cause an eventual gust of goodness down the road.

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