Grateful For: The Nudge

There’s a secret art to pushing someone off the edge.

In my wilder years I used the art for dares and orchestrating absurd feats of amateur machismo. I’d talk friends into rappelling out of trees, moving the kicker ramp back that much further from the landing or downing another car bomb. I convinced friends to come skydiving or toss their last pennies into one more road trip. Convinced them that it would all work out in the end. 

Some of my closest friends dubbed it “peer support” since it wasn’t quite peer pressure but it wasn’t too far off. I guess I’d help them put into action that which they were temporarily resisting – for better or worse.

Lately, I’ve tried to use the power for good and I’ve come to realize that the secret to pushing someone off the edge is less about a jarring shove and more about the nudge. Less force. More bump. A bit of nuance.

The nudge requires proximity. You’ve got to be close enough to the recipient that you can brush shoulders and trace their steps stride for stride and side by side. A shove requires you to step back into someone’s life (which is rarely effective at a major crossroads). The nudge just twists an arm. It's gentle and intentional, to the point, and it isn’t intended to hurt anyone. It's calling a bluff without boasting. The nudge says, "I know you better than that, and you know you better than that."

It’s about recognizing the possibility of a different trajectory. It’s tender course correction without guilt or shame. Encouragement instead of mandate. Less volume. More virtue.

I’ve received a bit of both and dealt my share of each. But I know my path today reflects a series of nudges that deserve my utmost gratitude.

So here’s to friends who told me to go for it; for family who had my back; for mentors who said, “try this”, and authors who said, “keep at it”; here’s to friends brave enough to chase down dreams, and those elders with such fresh truth. The nudge is all around us - nearly as frequent as those who may need one.

So learn to nudge and be nudged. Speak up with class. Have some awareness. Skip the shout and try a whisper. Go for the long play. 

Stay close to those close to you and bump them time and again. Shake things up when they go astray or play it too safe. Recognize when you’re coming in too hot. Take note of those who nudge you and thank them for their impact.

Because when people start to move past their comfort zones and out of the shadows, things really take flight.