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How To Bring Out The Best In Someone By Challenging Them

Updated on August 7, 2017
Dan W Miller profile image

"The Vanilla Godzilla" was raised and lived in Ventura County California. USN veteran, divorced, grandkids. Living in Phoenix since 2000.

The author at 45 before I realized I could write something that other people would actually read and enjoy. Didn't have a published article until after the age of 50!
The author at 45 before I realized I could write something that other people would actually read and enjoy. Didn't have a published article until after the age of 50!

Two stories of two people who wanted me to realize my full potential. Both found ways to motivate me in the most unusual way by tapping into my ego and pride


A LESSON LEARNED

My professor's tactics he used for my own good.

My Advanced Creative Writing college professor always appeared quite unimpressed with my weekly assignments to write a short story while praising my classmates' rather elementarily written articles.

I thought this guy was an idiot. He didn't seem to even know his job! Obviously he must have resented me for some reason or another because I may not be an expert but my assignments I had handed in were far more literate than my classmates. To me, their stories were barely mediocre, at best. I felt like I was NOT getting credit where credit was obviously due.

Each week I tried to write a better story than the last one only to have him mercilessly critique it to shreds. So I tried even harder to write a Nobel Prize winning-like piece of literary history every week. All the while I'm thinking, "I'll show HIM!"

Why do I know more than my instructor?

About mid-term I angrily confronted him after class one day. Smiling with his hands clasped behind his head, his large round thick tortoise shell glasses sat perched upon the bump on top of the bridge of his hook nose.

Well worn brown loafers propped up on his desk, he said (in affect,) "I could tell after the first week the other students really NEEDED the encouragement, Dan" he explained.

"You just needed the motivation to excel even further beyond what you thought you were capable of doing. I knew you had a lot more potential inside you than what you were showing me" he said with a wry smile and a knowing look. He then told me not to worry about a thing and expect an A as my final grade.

Why that little conniving genius! Wait a minute. Didn't I just think he was an idiot five minutes prior to our meeting?

Here's J. R. Caviness, my manager, presenting the MVP Award of the National Adult Baseball Association Ventura County All-Star game in '96. I was winning pitcher. You could see my 6' 6" height as opposed to J. R. at 5' 6"
Here's J. R. Caviness, my manager, presenting the MVP Award of the National Adult Baseball Association Ventura County All-Star game in '96. I was winning pitcher. You could see my 6' 6" height as opposed to J. R. at 5' 6"
This was the author while on the Simi Valley Indians who traded me to J. R. 's team the Tri-Valley Indians the following year.
This was the author while on the Simi Valley Indians who traded me to J. R. 's team the Tri-Valley Indians the following year.

OH, WHAT A RELIEF

My physical limits and temper are tested

At a semi-pro baseball tournament in San Diego, my entire body was stiff and sore like metal grating against metal without any grease between the moving parts from pitching most of yesterday's game. After all, I WAS 37 and the oldest, by far on this Open League baseball team.

Now, to my utter amazement, in the middle of THIS game, my manager, J. R., calls me over from first base and tells me to pitch. Bases are loaded, no outs and it's 1-1. Gee, thanks a lot, Skipper!

My arm feels like a train had run over it! But I sure as hell am not going to whine about. Three straight pitches bounce in the dirt. One more ball and I walk in a run. I'm struggling just to throw the ball the required 60 feet 6 inches. I'm aiming but coming up about a foot short of my intended target.

The wheels are turning inside my manager's head

J. R. calls time out to the home plate umpire as he trudges back out from the dugout to the pitching mound. He's literally an entire foot shorter than me. When he reaches the mound he "gets in my space" nearly putting his chin on my chest.

I'm shocked as he screams and cusses at me saying things I'd never heard from him (nor many other people that didn't preclude a bar fight.)

He ends his tirade by stating he even doubts my own manhood. (Note: His verbiage was not in that particular proper English, either.) When he finishes, I feel like slugging him in the mouth as he turns around and I watch him walk back to the dugout, hating every bone in his wiry 5' 6" frame. Now I'm thinking, "I'll show HIM!"

Furious, I reach way down inside of me, to throw as hard as I can three straight strikes and then get the next two batters to ground out and hit a long fly out.

Walking back to the dugout, a couple of my teammates meet me at the foul line and enthusiastically slap me on the back. I can see J.R. ignoring me and acting as though he fully expected me to easily get out of that jam.

He's standing at the entryway to the dugout. "Good job." he mutters from under his bushy greying mustache that hung over his bottom lip. Without looking up he pencils something into his scorebook when I walk past him to sit down. I just stare and don't say a word.


My manager, my friend reveals his intentions

I'm trying to calm down alone at the end of our bench between innings before I go out to pitch some more. I can't even feel my sore shoulder. That's the thing, it didn't get sore when I was warmed up. But this one is going to be an all day using my off hand arm ("off hand arm?") In other words a left handed only all day tomorrow.

We both avoid each other's eye contact as J. R. saunters over puffin' on a non-filtered Pall Mall and sits down next to me. Without moving his gaze off the action taking place on the field, he quietly says, "You always pitch better when you're pissed off, Dano. Brewskies and steaks are on me later." He then slaps me on the thigh, gets up and walks away.

Why that sly little devil! Now I know his angle. We eventually won 2-1. Motivation can come in mysterious ways.


Dan W. Miller "The Vanilla Godzilla"

What it's like carrying around my monster sized ego

The author has two sides to him that friends, colleagues and people that know me well enough are about me. One is just me and the other is "The Vanilla Godzilla" who comes out when upset, mad or insulted.
The author has two sides to him that friends, colleagues and people that know me well enough are about me. One is just me and the other is "The Vanilla Godzilla" who comes out when upset, mad or insulted. | Source

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Definitions of two words in these two stories

From the first story: What is (a) Tortoise Shell?

TORTOISE SHELL tor·toise·shell [ˈtôrtə(s)ˌSHel]

NOUN - The semitransparent mottled yellow and brown shell of certain turtles, typically used to make jewelry or ornaments.

  1. a synthetic substance made in imitation of this.
  2. short for tortoiseshell cat.
  3. short for tortoiseshell butterfly Powered by Oxford Dictionaries


From the second story: Manager J. T. had called me a rude slang term used to describe the female sexual organ. I chose not to use it in the context of this story but in doing so, nervously used another interesting word.

VERBIAGE ver·bi·age [ˈvərbē-ij]

  1. NOUN - Of speech or writing that uses too many words or excessively technical expressions. synonyms: verbosity · wordiness · prolixity · loquacity · rigmarole ·

Origin: Early 18th century from French. Obsolete verbeier or ‘to chatter.’ (see verb also) Powered by Oxford Dictionaries © Oxford University Press.

Who was your motivating influence in life?

Submit a Comment

  • Dan W Miller profile imageAUTHOR

    Dan W Miller 

    17 months ago from the beaches of Southern California now living in Phoenix since 2000

    John

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    2 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Oh, Dan, join the club. I didn't have a published article until after 50 either.

  • Dan W Miller profile imageAUTHOR

    Dan W Miller 

    2 years ago from the beaches of Southern California now living in Phoenix since 2000

    YOU GUYS are always so supportive. You don't know how important the two (Jonah) of you are to me, DocBeej!

    I just get right back on that horse (although my horse, I suspect, may be a donkey) and try to write something that'll be appealing to the female dominated HubPages Starchamber again.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    2 years ago from south Florida

    Those two extraordinary mentors you mentioned, Dan, were also experienced practitioners of motivational psychology. Which worked! Thanks for the most interesting re-telling.

  • Dan W Miller profile imageAUTHOR

    Dan W Miller 

    2 years ago from the beaches of Southern California now living in Phoenix since 2000

    As always, YOUR motivational tactics for me are nothing but high praise. IT WORKS, Jodah!

    Motivating reasons I had when I was younger was just to show my parents they underestimated me. They had very tough standards and gave NO help financially and psychologically.

    On my own by 17, living with an alcoholic uncle before I just drifted away from them by joining the Navy because they had moved 8 hrs away as soon as I graduated (early) from high school.

    So my other motivation was, at times, just to stay afloat financially.

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    2 years ago from Queensland Australia

    My 8th and 9th grade Maths/science teacher and football coach. Even though I was only very average at maths and only a little better at science, he said he had to mark my assignments high due to my incredible artwork even though the written text was below par. He also said I was the most promising footballer he had ever seen (even though I had only just been playing for a year and didn't really know the rules) which kind of boosted my confidence. Interesting hub, Dan, thanks for making me sit and recollect.

working

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