The power of words on a page


Nineteenth-century writer Walt Whitman struggled for years to get anyone interested in his poetry. He became very discouraged. But then he received a note that read:

Dear sir, I am not blind to the worth of the wonderful gift of Leaves of Grass. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom that America has yet contributed. I greet you at the beginning of a great career.

It was signed by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I can’t help but wonder what might have happened to Whitman had Emerson not invested in him by writing those kind words. That note must have been like fresh air to Whitman, who breathed in its encouragement and was inspired to keep writing.

You don’t have to be a professional writer like Emerson to make a difference in someone’s life. Just taking the time to write a note of encouragement is evidence of your willingness to invest in that person.

from 25 Ways to Win with People

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  1. 1
    dave says:


  2. 2


    Thanks for a word of encouragement on encouragement. I find the corporate and non-profit world are so consumed with busy-ness they take little time to affirm.

    I’ve heard it said it take at least 4 positive comments to balance out one negative. Thats a real challenge.

    Your readers might consider asking, “Am I adding energy and positive emotion to others or taking it away?”

    Thanks for all you do.

    Leadership Freak
    Dan Rockwell

  3. 3
    Marie Giles says:

    John, Thanks for that. I recently wrote and published my second book. The first sold over 500 copies to family, co-workers, friends, friends of friends, and interested amazon.com customers. The second has, so far, sold over 100 copies. I have received much feedback and took it in stride, as the poetry in my book is truly inspired from God.

    I recently a book to a former co-worker as a gift. She sent me an email with a very discouraging commentary. She indicated that the poetry did nothing for her and it was all about me. She indicated that others would not be honest with me. At first I was a little taken aback. Then, as days passed, I continue to receive much encouragement from readers of my books and orders to share with others. Several other incidences, like the comments you made today, have continued to encourage me and help me put her comments in perspective. She is only one person against a backdrop of hundreds who have enjoyed and related to my wisdom and poetry.

    Thanks for what you do!

  4. 4
    Deb Inino says:

    What a timeless reminder that our words of encouragement are at times, a refill of fuel to others dreams!
    Thank you!

  5. 5
    Barb Giglio says:

    So very true. I think especially today with everyone communicating so quickly by computer it makes it even more special to receive a note of encouragement by mail. It always makes me smile and especially when you think someone took the time just for you! I think I’ll send a few today, “just because”! :)

  6. 6
    Paul says:

    Thanks for the reminder of how much encouragement can mean. Thank you for writing Failing Forward, I am reading it again after my recent job loss.
    Your works are a blessing to me.

  7. 7
    mike gathima says:

    i read BE ALL U CAN BE recently and it have helped me a great deal. GOD BLESS U 4 YOUR GOOD WORK.

  8. 8
    Monday mojo says:

    […] Notes of encouragement. John Maxwell says you should write a few. […]

  9. 9

    The key to encouragement & compliments (which is a form of encouragement after all) is to make it more than a platitude. The receiver must feel it is unique to them and their work, not just a generalized word. It is much more effective to be specific.

    Saying someone’s book is good is nice, but saying their story telling style really draws you in and makes you care about their characters will make that person know you paid attention to their work in particular and that makes all the difference.

  10. 10

    Is there a way where I can be assisted with a complimentary DVD,BOOKS ,and CDs on LEADERSHIP.I need your help.Thanlking you in
    P.O BOX 37321 OFF CAIRO RD

  11. 11
    Aaron Chavez says:

    Thank you, for constantly sharing and always wanting to improve your readers life. I am a new MIC member and I can’t begin to thank you for all you teach it is very helpful. The only complaint I have is that it places all the responsibility on me. lol

  12. 12
    Danny Andersen says:

    I just feel like taking this oportunity to thank you, John Maxwell and also you – his writers – who are giving us all the amazing oportunity to tap into the wisdom and brilliant teaching that comes from John Maxwell. Because of you we are many who get the chance to have better relationships, better families and better lives – I know I am one. Thanks!

  13. 13
    Wade D. Sadlier says:

    John, your writings have encouraged and blessed me over and over again, just as they have been a breath of fresh air to many others. Thanks.

  14. 14


    What an inspirational post. Concise yet powerful. Thank you for continuing to publish your insights that motivate us to be better leaders. The timing of “The Power of Words on a Page” is uncanny because I happen to have an article on encouragement scheduled to be posted tomorrow morning.

    Thanks again,
    Chris Paulsen

  15. 15
    Ryan says:

    Thank you John, I really needed to hear that.I am encouraged to encourage

  16. 16
    Wunmi says:

    Encouragement is key. I always feel motivated to go on when someone takes the time our of their ‘busy life’ to send a note or make a call to give words of encouragement. I’m currently reading your book “The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” and I’m loving it.

  17. 17
    Sandy Gorman says:

    As a reading specialist, I walked around the campus seeking opportunities to encourage others. As a result, I became encouraged also.

  18. 18

    Thank you Bro. John for all that your envolved with: Recently had the opportunity to encourage a lady who had just lost her husband and was having many bad things happening to her. She had been sleeping in her living room afraid to go to her bedroom because she felt someone sitting on her bed at night. And she thought it was her husband. Often time we are prong to think negative rather than good and I related the story that everyone knows about the footsteps in the sand and then told her, it was probable Christ sitting beside her to comfort. Its amazing how just a little word of encouragemet can change someones life. Thanks for this oportunity Pastor Charles Harelson

  19. 19
    Veronica Madrigal says:

    John, My daughter is currently being treated for Leukemia and I can’t tell you how many words of encouragement we received via mail, email, Facebook, calls! It is a pleasure to hear people are praying for you and are thinking of you and it probably takes less than 5 minutes! So thank YOU for encouraging others to invest in people around us!

  20. 20
    Marianne says:

    Thanks for a wonderful encouragement. Will always keep that in mind. God bless!

  21. 21
    Pershley says:

    Indeed words r important. U rmnd me of Gary Chapman in the book “five Primary Language of love”. Words cn brk no bones bt they cn brk hrts. Words cn biuld n at the same tym they cn destry. An as u say in da book ” wining wth people” “it tks a skil 2 build smthng,bt 2 dstry it tks no skl at al.nyc nyc. *smiling*

  22. 22
    Christy Moosa says:

    To each leader,

    Today we have the oppourtunity to impact not only today, but also tomorrow and the future.

    A true leader understands the gravity of his life in the life of his followers as he

    – is able to discern and step in on the struggles his follower faces today,

    – is able to see them for the person they will become tomorrow

    -and to prepare them for the possibilities for the future
    … in such a way that increases the individual and any organization.

  23. 23
    Elan Govindasamy says:

    A powerful reminder.

  24. 24

    The power of encouragement, John you are my mentor and we’ve never connected. Just started reading your new book on connecting today.


  25. 25
    Candace says:

    This is an example of encouragement + excellent timing = pays HUGE dividends:))
    I try never to miss a critical timing opportunity!

  26. 26
    Robert says:

    When I was in 7th grade a new kid move into our school. At recess one day he must have looked down because I went over and said that he would be fine because the kids in our school were nice kids and he would make friends. We had a reunion of our class about 25 years later and that now adult kid made it a point to mention what that encouraging comment meant to him. We never know the impact our words may have on another. It is interesting to me that I did not remember that incident.

  27. 27
    Robert says:


    I am encouraged to encourage. Thank you for refreshing me with this very good thought.

    Further, is your book “Everyone Communicates….” already availabe here in the Philippines? I’ve asked the leading bookstore here in my locality but appeared to be not yet available.

    This book means a lot to me. I was surfing the net in Aug 2009 when I blissfully came accros your intro to this book. Came Sep 1 when the first chapter went live, I became more thirsty of reading the next thing you’d say.

    I now have few of your books and have made a big difference in me. Please assist me have a copy of your new book.

    Thank you.

  28. 28
    Sohan Tiwade says:

    Dear John,
    Thanks for that inspiring real life incident. It motivates people not to give up on their dreams and also to encourage eachother with good words both written and spoken. It’s a great example.
    Joy be all yours

  29. 29
    Oarabile H Tlhotsapele says:

    hello John
    I guess words are powerful tools we have and if we use them for the right purpose we can change the world and peoples’ lives. If only we can know when and how to apply them to particular people and situations. I believe we can leave a great impact on peoples hearts.

  30. 30
    Charles says:

    Dr. Maxwell

    So true but yet many people fail to recognize the power behind words. Words are very powerful and have a means to making a drastic change in history either positive or negative.

    God Bless

  31. 31

    Very true! A simple note of appreciation encourages the person to continue his work. And if the note comes from someone about whom you have written, the motivation becomes hundred times bigger. Thanks for sharing this nice example here!

  32. 32
    Yvonne Green says:

    That is so true about encouragement. Especially in today’s world it is so easy to hear something negative whether it is the newspaper, or news on TV ecetra….
    The power that encouragement brings to a person not only does it add value to the person’s life. This is also something that Jesus taught whether its the Greatest Commandment or the death of Jesus on the Cross. Jesus shed his blood for all. Everyone matters to God. Encouragement is something everyone needs just like everyone needs Jesus.
    Thank you for your willingness to be God’s vessel.
    Keep Magnifying God,

  33. 33
    Maciej says:

    Thank you for doing great job dr. Maxwell.

    God Bless,

  34. 34
    Maciej says:

    Thank you dr. John Maxwell for your excellent work as a pastor and leadership teacher!

    Dear all
    I cordially invite you to share your gratitude to dr. John Maxwell – right here, right now!

    “Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul” ~ Henry Ward Beecher


  35. 35
    Edward G. Gallegos says:

    Encouraging others through words either spoken or said can be refreshing to the giver as well. Whenever I find myself dragging emotionally, I know it’s time for me to find someone to encourage and pretty soon I’m feeling better!

  36. 36
    Nick Oyler says:

    Thanks, I need to do that more.