Carl Mays: Be the friend you want to have

Aug. 02, 2013 @ 11:14 PM

Early in my career I wrote a children’s book titled “The Magic of J.B.,” which was published by Broadman Press and later adapted into a film strip program. Now out of print, the book is about a 10-year-old girl who, in addition to being the fastest runner in her school, does seem to have magical qualities.

She took in a sick, frail parakeet that never uttered a sound, and through her care the parakeet became very healthy – and very noisy. She later found a skinny, little stray kitten, brought it home, talked her mother into letting her keep it, and soon the little kitten became a good-sized healthy cat.

Next, J.B. saw an unidentifiable dog get hit by a car. The dog’s leg was broken and it looked like he had not been cared for in ages. J.B. began to care for him and he became a blue-ribbon champion.

Finally, J.B. came to the aid of a boy in her class. Other kids had laughed at him, teased him or ignored him. J.B. simply became his friend.

Toward the end of the book, when it is evident that J.B. had a very positive effect on the parakeet, the kitten, the dog and the boy, some of the kids claim, “She must be magic!” J.B.’s teacher responds, “Her magic is the love and concern she has.”

When I wrote the first edition of “A Strategy For Winning,” Dale Brown was basketball coach at LSU and wrote a testimonial for the book. I had an opportunity to visit with Coach Brown, talk to his team and sit on the players’ bench when 7-foot-1 Shaquille O’Neal was with LSU. (You should have seen me standing next to Shaq!)

Coach Brown was a great motivator. No matter where his teams wound up in the regular season standings, they always seemed ready to play the tournament games.

When LSU upset every team they played in the NCAA post season tournament to reach the Final Four one year (without Shaq), a sportswriter said to player Derrick Taylor, “Your coach is known as a great motivator. What is it he does that gets you ready to play?” Derrick replied, “Well, I guess the main thing is, Coach believes in us. And, you know, when a coach believes in you, it helps you to believe in yourself.”

Danny Ainge, now president of basketball operations for the Boston Celtics, was asked when he was a player how he accounted for his great turnaround in professional basketball. When Ainge came to the Celtics after an outstanding collegiate career at Brigham Young University, he barely made the team and only later became a vital part of a championship group for several years.

Ainge answered, “At first, I felt like none of the coaches or players had confidence in me and I began to lose confidence in myself. But then things began to change when they began to indicate I had potential. When they started to believe in me, it helped me believe in myself. I became a better player and we became a better team.”

Providing the type of support that Ainge received and J.B. gave is a skill we all can develop. How? By simply treating others the way we want and need to be treated.

Find the good in people and help them with the negative. Pay honest compliments and take honest, positive corrective actions. Express encouragement. Show you care. Take time to listen. Be thoughtful. You’ll be amazed and delighted with others’ reaction. Be the friend you want to have!

— © 2013 by Carl Mays, speaker and author whose mentoring site,, is based on his book and program, “A Strategy For Winning.” E-mail to, call 436-7478 or visit