Untitled Document

imageA wiser person than I once said that humans have four basic needs. One is the need to be nurtured. Next is the need to be needed. Third, the need to be noticed. And finally, the need to be nudged.

Although I never had much luck nudging my own children, I’ve often thought of a story about a small boy who could not be nudged to quit banging a drum. Various attempts were made to do something about quieting the child.

One person told the boy that he would, if he continued to make so much noise, perforate his eardrums. This reasoning was too advanced for the child, who was neither a scientist nor a scholar.

A second person told him that drum beating was a sacred activity and should be carried out only on special occasions. A third person offered the neighbors plugs for their ears; a fourth gave the boy a book; a fifth gave the neighbors books that described a method of controlling anger through biofeedback; a sixth person gave the boy meditation exercises to make him placid and docile. None of these attempts worked.


Eventually, a wise person came along with an effective motivation. He looked at the situation, handed the child a hammer and chisel, and asked, “I wonder what is INSIDE the drum?”

No more problem.

I agree that we sometimes need to be nudged. At times, we may need to be nudged into healthier behaviors. Or maybe nudged out of destructive relationships or patterns. Or simply nudged to think a little bigger; to do or be a something more challenging and less mediocre.

No doubt, that is why the motivational industry is so successful. (And no, it is probably not true that if you listen to your motivational tapes backwards you will become a failure. I think a couple of you may have been worried about that.)

It seems to me that good leaders know about this basic human need to be prodded, challenged and encouraged. They also know that the best way to nudge someone is often simply to invite them along a path that is more appealing than the one they’ve chosen. The best leaders teach us to dream and tempt us to do more than we ever thought possible. They challenge us to be a part of something great.

Writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” Sometimes all we need is a nudge to desire something magnificent.

Is this the nudge you need?

Steve Goodier

Scroll to Top