One of the best mentors I ever had did me a favor that I carry to this day. He said, “No, I won’t.”

I was a middle manager, with about 130+ people on my team. I came to him after struggling with a hard decision. Honestly, I was avoiding the decision I knew I needed to make, it was uncomfortable. 

He had a decade of experience on me and demonstrated prowess at making the hard call. It would be an easy call to make for him…and easier for me if he made it. 

I presented my challenge, laying out the contributing factors expertly (if I do say so myself). For him, this was a softball. 

Then he caught me off guard when he said, “No, I won’t answer that question for you. You’re avoiding making the tough call and I’m not doing you any favors by answering that question.” 

I left his office frustrated and unsatisfied. Frustrated at myself, and within an hour I summoned the courage to make the decision. After that day, I realized I wasn’t dealing with an experience shortfall, I was suffering from a courage shortfall. 

Every time since then, when I’m trying to make the tough call, I think of that day and reach down deep for my courage. The best answer he could have given me was “No, I won’t,” and in doing so I left his office with a life lesson I still carry 25 years later.