The Key That Unlocks Everything

Kyle Smith

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Did you know you have a very special key?

It’s not a key you’ll find in a purse or a pocket, and it won’t open a door or start your car's ignition.

You have a key that unlocks the creative potential of others.

Think of someone who has made a difference in your life. It might be a teacher, friend, pastor, or coach. He or she changed your life with their love, encouragement, and correction. They made an unmistakable impression on you that helped unlock your potential.

There are many people who have made a difference in my life. One of the most important was my junior high English teacher, Mrs. Mathis. She saw that I had the potential to be a writer and said, “I want you to dedicate your first book to me.” The Artist’s Suitcase isn’t my first book, but I’ve dedicated this one to her because she inspired me so much I remember it almost thirty years later.

Here are two powerful ways you can do the same thing for others by helping unlock their potential:

1. Give them opportunities. One of the best parts of my job as a college professor is the chance to work with students. I love seeing students face challenges, often struggling at first, but then building confidence and finally succeeding.

There are people all around you waiting for a chance to prove themselves. They just need an opportunity. At one time or another, we have all depended on someone to give us a shot. You can pay it forward by doing the same for someone else. You could invite someone to sit in on a recording session, write a guest post for your blog, or finish a small task that could lead to something bigger.

Steven Spielberg said, “The delicate balance of mentoring someone is not creating them in your own image, but giving them the opportunity to create themselves.” You can help others unlock their potential by giving them opportunities to grow as artists.

2. Give them encouragement. The ancient philosopher Philo said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Don’t underestimate the powerful effect your encouraging words can have on others.

One day in my mid-20’s I was on a train heading back to Illinois, where I lived at the time. The train stopped at a small town, and a young man whom I’d never met before handed me a note right before he stepped off. He must have overheard a phone conversation I had about some discouraging things I was going through. The note said:

Do not be discouraged. Keep running the race that God has set for you. Do the work that God has planned for your life and trust Him to take care of the rest. Don’t get down when things aren’t running smoothly. Just trust God to take care of them. Keep your chin up. :)

Fifteen years later, I still have that note. I look at it now and then to remind me of the power of encouragement.

We all have a key that we use through our words and our actions. It’s a key that can bring hope and healing, or inflict pain and suffering. How will you use your key? Whose potential can you help unlock?

Questions for Reflection

1. Think back on your life. Who helped unlock your potential as an artist? What did he or she specifically do to help you?

2. Look around at the people in your life. Who can you encourage? Who needs an opportunity?

3. Have you ever thought about encouraging a complete stranger, as the young man on the train did for me? What’s stopping you?

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I write about writing, productivity, creativity, and much more.

St. Louis, MO
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