“Did you know . . ?”
“Has anyone ever told you . . ?”

I don’t know your story, but if I had to guess you can remember a time when someone said something to you that started something like that. The funny thing is that so often these life-changing phrases are followed by something that seems more ordinary than extraordinary—at least to the one who speaks them.

About ten years ago, I started my career as a High School English teacher. And I’ll never forget this one student from my third period class. He was quiet, unsocial, and on a number of medications. He usually wore a Volcom sweatshirt, kept his head down and never participated. Then one day, he turned in a story I was sure he had plagiarized. This story was so good, so well-written, I just knew it couldn’t be his work.

After hours of investigating, I discovered that it was his writing. So I did what any teacher would have done: I told him he was a good writer.

A year into college, he wrote me this letter:


Prior to my sophomore year, I really had no idea as to where I would be going in life. My depression, among other things, was a factor in that, but I really didn’t see what sort of skill I had that would be beneficial to society, I felt as if I had nothing to offer.

Well, I finally discovered that skill (which ultimately lead to others) when you gave me a few words of encouragement after reading that convoluted little story I turned in as a creative writing assignment. Everything and Nothing was its name, and it was the worst thing that I have ever written. But, this terrible little story contained something unseen to myself, but not to you. You said I had “potential”.


He went on to talk about his newfound confidence because when he started writing… he discovered something about his potential.

It changed the way he saw himself.
It moved him in a better direction.

That’s what words do. They move us in a direction.

Most of the time kids don’t just discover they are gifted musicians, talented artists, great writers, smart programmers, skilled athletes, articulate communicators…

Someone tells them. Someone comes along and says:

“Hey, did you know…?”
“I’ve noticed this about you …”
“Has anyone ever told you…?”

Every kid needs to discover their unique potential. A generation of twenty-somethings are growing up with a lack of direction because they aren’t sure what they are gifted to do. As parents, our words probably won’t guarantee our children’s admission to an ivy league college or first draft pick in the NBA, BUT we do have an unbelievable opportunity to speak words into our children’s lives that will set them up to win. Our words can help them discover who they were created to be and how they can offer something meaningful to the world. Our words can help them begin to define who they are and discover new things about their gifts and talents.

So – This week – give your kid the gift of WORDS. Tell them something that will move them in a direction.

Follow the rest of the conversation on Playing For Keeps as Reggie, Kristen, and others talk about the 6 things every kid needs over time. You can start with the first part of the series about how Time Matters.  Over the next couple of weeks, we will continue to talk about how kids need Love, Words, Stories, Tribes, and Fun OVER TIME!