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  • Writer's pictureShannon Lantzy

Add fuel to their flames

My daughter is a logician and a masterful debater. She rails against rules that don't make sense. She rejects boundaries that fail to serve her purpose. She vociferously enforces rules on others. She lives justice out loud and fights for what she feels is right. It is one of her superpowers. I am deeply proud and very lucky to be around her.


(She is eight. And sometimes I am told she is very similar to certain people in her family...*ahem*...like her mother.)


Sometimes her fiery nature and sense of justice turns into criticism of others, and criticism puts her in a pickle with her friends and family. When she correct perceived errors, identifies rule violations, or identifies an unjust rule, she will tell the offender on no uncertain terms. She means well...but her good intentions show up in a way that irritates her friends.


My daughter and I floating a leaf boat decorated and lit with blessings in Thailand

Our individual superpowers are also usually our personal kryptonite. This happens to leaders. A lot. They know what is needed or what is right, but they convey the meaning in a way that rubs people the wrong way and extinguishes others' personal motivation. It is so common for leaders to demotivate their teams or alienate friends that most executive coaching is centered around how to use positive language, refrain from destructive comments, and making people feel good (while still getting the job done).


Our individual superpowers are also usually our personal kryptonite.

I have experienced positive and negative leaders and this kind of motivation swing personally, in many contexts. For example, I had multiple dissertation advisors. One gave pleasant critical feedback, one gave negative critical feedback. All the feedback was useful, correct, and needed. The content of their feedback was often quite similar. But their phrasing had completely opposing effects on my motivation. I was annoyed and wanted to argue with the negative phrasing. I was motivated and excited by the positive phrasing.


In trying to find a way to communicate this concept to my daughter, I came across the idea of lighting someone else's candle and flame. One of my dissertation advisors blew out the flame of my personal candle while the other fueled my ferocious fire.


I am teaching my daughter to fuel her friends' candles, shield them from the wind, and light them again when they blow out.


When interacting with people personally or professionally, I seek to use language that fuels the flames, rather than extinguishes, of those around me. Fueling the flames of my team at work is the most gratifying part of my job and career. Fueling the flames of my loved ones is the source of life's happiness.


~Shannon, the Optimistic Optimizer










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