The Mouse Catcher

Curium | 24 Jul 2015 | News | General

Since joining the Curium team, the 7:07 train from Manchester Piccadilly has been a journey that I’ve got to know and love. And today, as always, I’m facing my daily morning dilemmas:

Do I get a coffee? Do I charm the conductor in the vain hope that I can get a free journey?

Now I’ve usually got the will power to resist them both – especially the latter (or should I say latte?) but, today, the topic for this blog has added another dilemma to the equation.

I’m passionate about numerous things in life and when it comes to my experiences over the last 6 months or so, I could bore everyone with my stories.

Those that know me well will know that I’m an avid reader, so instead, I will take this opportunity to share with you a story which I first heard while I was away in Australia. A story that will inspire far more than any of my tales from the outback ever will….

On a rainy day in Detroit, Michigan 1959, a whole school classroom erupted when a child pupil yelled “there’s a mouse in the classroom!”

All of the children tried their utmost; you can only imagine the bragging rights associated with the accolade of being ‘that kid’ who caught the mouse.

The winner would earn folklore status and the stakes were all too high for the majority whose countless attempts went in vain. Not even cheese from the children’s pre-packed sandwiches could coerce this mouse into surrendering his freedom.

The winner was a young child called Steven Morris. A child who, on paper, would have been the least likely candidate.

Mrs Beneduci, the schoolteacher that afternoon, inspired Steven by telling him that for what god didn’t give him in sight, he more than made up for by giving him brilliant ears.

It was through this encouragement that Steven was able to listen out for the mouse’s movements and catch it in front of his gasping classmates. The gasps of his achievements were made all the wider given the fact that Steven had been blind since birth….

The story underlines the power of encouragement and the value that a bit of praise can have in inspiring performance – even in the face of adversity. It’s something that all of us can learn from.

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to have a family pet – a black Labrador. He was a great dog and as a child, I felt compelled to show my friends and family just how great he was. So, soon after getting him, it quickly became my mission to teach him tricks.

By doing this, I discovered early on that giving him treats when he did something right (rewarding his good behaviour) was far more effective than criticising him for not doing it right.

“But we’re not dogs!” – I hear you cry. And you’re absolutely right. But I think there are some universal truths here.

Research and studies conducted over many generations show that if you are looking for a behaviour change in someone, an individual will respond more favourably (especially in the long term) to encouragement rather than criticism.

Simple right? Yet so many of us fail to do this. It’s default; almost like we’re programmed, conditioned perhaps to criticise bad behaviour. How about we stop and try a different approach?

The American philosopher, John Dewey, once famously said: “The deepest urge in human nature is the desire to be important.” If that’s the case, let’s not underestimate the role that appreciation, encouragement and praise can have in generating this feeling of self-importance.

Steven from the story earlier recalls this as being a pivotal moment in his life as it showed that, despite his disability, he can achieve things that even able-bodied people can’t. Mrs Beneduci saw past the limitations of his sight and recognised his gift of extraordinary hearing.

It was with this encouragement that Steven blossomed into the worldwide phenomenon he is today – Stevie Wonder.

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