In the world of sports, coaches and players have often said, “never underestimate your opponent.” Unfortunately, most folks have restricted that advice to the sports arena. My practice has been to never understimate people, in general. Honestly, I have never seen any benefit in expecting people to have limited opportunities or looking forward to below average production from any person.
I took seriously the words of the psalmist, David, who wrote, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” In my opinion, only the prideful, selfish, or low key insecure have restricted God’s ability to disperse talents and gifts to a singular group of people. I embraced the genius of a God wise enough to spread the wealth of gifts and talents, thereby creating a need for a village. The plethora of gifted and talented folks necessitated the creation of villages. The villages created networks of people equipped for seed planting, week pulling, and nurturing friutful crops.
Writing and building social capital were always my strengths. I never claimed to be technologically savvy nor did I possess a green thumb. My skills as an electrician were limited to changing light switch covers and flipping the breaker switch when there was a power overload somewhere in the house. My heating and air cooling resume stopped at setting the thermostat and resetting the hot water heater when it blinked. Each time my family moved I was presented new opportunities to expand my appreciation for the handyman who computed fractions in his head. He impressed with his ability to add and subtract fractions without paper or a calculator. Who ever heard of using a leveler to hang pictures? I always thought the eye test was sufficient until I met our midwestern handyman. My midwestern village was so amazing that they offered advice even when I travelled and they supported me after I moved from the areas until I established a new band of villagers in my new city.
In my professional life, I searched for diversity of personalities and skill sets. My perfect work villages have been comprised of people with demonstrated passion for their particular career fields. The best work villages have been filled with a community of strong personalities who loved their work and who were enthusiastic about performing at a high level every day. Seeing my staff and community partners be great doing things I couldn’t do encouraged me to praise them and to invite them to connect with students who needed to be supported or inspired by them. I knew that my faith in my villagers breeds positivity and promise for the person who may underestimate their own potential for greatness.
Affirming others motivates most people toward service. Additionally, it encourages them to work harder to perfect their skill sets and to invest more in the community. Whether you call it networking or village building, like me, the villages (networks) are stronger when each person respects the strengths of the other members. Respect for the brilliance and potential of others should not be interpreted as a personal indictment on you. Celebrate the members of the village and figure out how to collaborate with other folks to make the community function at a high level. Finally, remember that there is no respect in underestimating those around you. If you do, you weaken the network and suppress the potential of the village as a whole.