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Jeroen de Flander - Speaking

Who said What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

Jeroen de Flander
art of performance by Jeroen De Flander

After all the positive comments on Bernard’s fun facts regarding the quotes “Great minds think alike” and “Explain it to me like I’m a 4 years old”, I asked him to share some more insights. Today, we take a closer look at the quotes “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” and “Don’t ask, don’t get”

Join Bernard from Doctor Quote and discover how Friedrich Nietzsche, Michael Jordan, Mahatma Gandhi, JK Rowling, Watergate, a Tupperware party, and a shopping cart are all connected to these two famous quotes.

Who said What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger?

‘What doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger’ is the eighth aphorism of Götzen-Dämmerung by the German philosopher, writer and poet Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900).

The influence of Nietzsche’s philosophy in today’s thinking is still significant. Concepts like “God is dead”, “the übermensch” and “the will to power” are well-known.

Many interpret this statement as meaning that setbacks, pain and misery make you stronger. But setbacks, pain and misery only make you stronger if you learn from them for the future. Because even if you get back on your feet after a setback, if you don’t grow and learn from it, the next setback will hit you even harder.

The life of Friedrich Nietzsche, an esteemed professor at an internationally-renowned university, was a long one. Suffering from long-term migraine attacks and worsening blindness, he was forced to leave his Chair. After that, he mentally collapsed. Crying, he embraced a horse that had been beaten in the street and threatened to kill the German emperor… all painful experiences that Nietzsche endured and from which he couldn’t find the strength to recover and grow. His life ended after 11 years of physical and psychological deterioration.

Why is resilience important?

The quote of Nietzsche is often linked to the concept of resilience. Resilience is the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events.

American psychologist Emmy Werner followed a group of nearly 700 children in Hawaii, including children with a high risk of severe stress due to poverty, family circumstances or psychological disorders. In this group she identified that some of these children showed a lot of resilience with an internal locus of control: they were autonomous, independent and believed that they influenced their performance.

Stephen Covey describes in The Seven Habits of Effective Leaders how you can enlarge this internal locus of control, or in the words of Covey, the circle of influence. Every person is involved in a number of things – health, work, family, friends. So you have a circle of involvement of things you are emotionally and mentally involved with. Within this circle, you have another circle – the circle of influence. By being proactive, you can enlarge that circle. I can choose. Maybe there are other solutions. I can do things differently. I determine my own feelings. And this is in contrast to blaming, denying or running away from others.

Dawn Staley, an American basketball player and coach, three-times Olympic gold medalist was born in a deprived neighbourhood in Philadelphia. As a little girl, she loved basketball and wanted only one thing – to play on the court. In the Netflix series ‘Playbook’, she explains that this was far from obvious and could only be achieved with a lot of creativity and perseverance. After all, the big boys had taken the only big field. “You should be in the kitchen” and “Go put on a skirt” they shouted. So she thought of a way to enlarge her circle of influence. She always walked the streets with a basketball and had one golden rule. The boys could only play with her ball if she was allowed on the court. After a while, she made enough progress to reach the top 10 and secure a permanent spot on the court.

What do people meant with the Growth Mindset?

Mistakes and setbacks are an inherent part of life, of growing up, of a professional career. Making mistakes is part of learning, it is a process of growth, where we climb the learning curve step-by-step.

The American Professor, Carol S. Dweck, at Stanford University developed the theory of the growth mindset. She states that people react to failure according to two patterns. People with a fixed mindset believe that skills are mostly innate and interpret failure as a lack of the necessary basic skills, while people with a growth mentality believe that they can acquire a certain skill if they put effort into it or study it.

Some differences between the two mindsets:

Fixed mindsetGrowth mindset
ConvictionIntelligence is innate, you cannot grow into itIntelligence can be influenced and you can grow in it
FocusResults-driven, appear smartProcess-driven, want to get better
CommitmentNot necessary, not usefulNecessary, useful, leads to growth
ChallengesAvoidance, abandonment, seeing it as a threat, a threat to the environmentEmbrace it, persevere, see it as an opportunity
MistakesDislike, discourage, avoidEngage to learn
FeedbackDefensive, taking it personallyAppreciate it and use it to learn


I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that’s why I succeed” said Michael Jordan, one of the greatest basketball players ever.

Who said Don’t ask, don’t get?

“Don’t ask, don’t get” is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), Indian lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist and political ethicist who employed nonviolent resistance to lead the successful campaign for India’s independence from British rule. Unfortunately, I could not find out when he made this statement. Other famous Gandhi quotes are: ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win’ and ‘You must be the change you wish to see in the world.’

The meaning is straightforward: You already have a no. You can get a yes. The key question then is how can you increase the chance of getting a yes as an answer?

In his book Influence, the “Psychology of Persuasion” by American Professor of Psychology Robert B. Cialdini, explain six ways of influencing others to procure a greater chance of getting a yes from our interlocutor: reciprocity, consistency, consensus, liking, authority and scarcity.

A while ago, our 12-year-old daughter Sofie gave us a master class in this. She wanted a trampoline and had done so for a long time. My wife and I always replied in the negative, citing rational arguments. A trampoline is dangerous. One in five of all emergency admissions for children playing or playing sports are due to trampoline accidents. The trampoline takes up a lot of space in the garden and will kill the grass. We have nowhere to store the trampoline in the winter. Sofie understood the arguments, but didn’t give up. She did a masterstroke. She contacted her grandfather who lives alone a little way away. “Dearest grandpa in the whole world” she said, “Can we have a trampoline in your garden? I’ll pay part of the amount myself and I promise to visit you several times a week. And after jumping on the trampoline, I’ll come and sit with you on the sofa and have a nice chat”. Of course Grandpa couldn’t say no…

The following story shows that it is okay not to ask for something once in a while. In 1990, a 25-year-old woman was too shy to ask for a pen during a long train ride from Manchester to London. “To my immense frustration, I didn’t have a functioning pen with me, and I was too shy to ask anybody if I could borrow one” she writes in her blog.

During the journey, she had a great idea for a new book and new character. Since she couldn’t write anything down, she spent the four-hour journey working out her idea. “I think, now, that this was probably a good thing, because I simply sat and thought, for four (delayed train) hours, and all the details bubbled up in my brain, and this scrawny, black-haired, bespectacled boy who didn’t know he was a wizard became more and more real to me.”

Maybe you already suspected it: the shy lady on the train was JK Rowling, and the black-haired boy with glasses was Harry Potter.

What are six ways of influencing others?

Robert B. Cialdini, explain six ways of influencing others to procure a greater chance of getting a yes from our interlocutor: reciprocity, consistency, liking, consensus,  authority and scarcity.

Let’s have a closer view.

The rule of reciprocity is a fundamental principle in our social relationships. To those from whom we receive a Christmas card with New Year’s wishes, we feel obliged to send a card too. The rule can be used by clever people for their own benefit: after an extreme request that is almost certain to be turned down, the person making it makes a smaller request.

The Watergate affair, in which the Democratic Party headquarters was broken into in order to install bugging devices and which forced President Richard Nixon to resign is a story of reciprocity. Because earlier plans by G. Gordon Liddy, who was in charge of covert operations for the re-election of the president, were rejected. These plans included equipping fighter planes with listening devices and blackmailing Democratic party members with expensive call girls. These plans were four times more expensive than the bugging equipment at party headquarters. After all the refusals, the other members of the committee felt obliged to grant this last, particularly daring, request.

Consistent people are often seen as strong and intelligent. Therefore, once a choice has been made, we will continue to defend this choice and adapt our behavior accordingly. The art of influence, therefore, is to lure your “victim” into making a choice. Petitions often look innocent, but they are not. By signing an appeal, you make a choice and this can influence your behavior.

People for whom we feel sympathy, immediately have an edge. Liking can be gained by excelling (if you are stunning, or have a doctorate degree or wear a uniform), praising, or because you happen to be similar. Research has shown that candidates in elections with common names such as “Smith” or “Johnson” start with a head start.

One of the most cunning sales tricks that uses liking is a Tupperware party. Earl Tupper started as of 1946 to sell plastic or glass food storage containers. In 1951 he approached Brownie Wise, a saleswoman working for Stanley Home Products. She was a divorcee with a son to support and she saw the potential of the Tupperware products to be sold in home parties. The concept was simple: a friend calls you to spend an evening with her. A Tupperware saleswoman will be present, but part of the proceeds will go to your friend. You can’t refuse this, can you? Soon, the Tupperware parties outsold the store sales and the concept is now world-renowned.

The fourth rule is the rule of consensus. People decide how to act based on what other people do in a given situation, especially in exceptional or uncertain situations. For example, when you get off a plane and you arrive in an unfamiliar terminal, you often just follow people in front of you.

A great example of consensus is the example of the introduction in the 1930’s of the shopping cart. American entrepreneur Sylvan Goldman and owner of a few grocery shops under the name Humpty Dumpty noticed that customers stopped buying once their shopping basket became too heavy. So he invented the shopping trolley: two shopping baskets on wheels. Despite its ease of use, no customers wanted to use the shopping trolley, until Goldman hired a number of men and women of all ages to drive around with the shopping trolleys. Goldman died a multimillionaire.

In our society, there is a strong pressure to accept and follow the guidelines of an authority, even if they go against one’s own values and preferences. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic was further proof of this. Governments, based on scientific advice, could in no time force entire populations to avoid social contact for weeks or months and to stay at home as much as possible.

Orson Welles was a genius at misusing an instrument of great authority in the legendary radio play “The War of the Worlds” in 1938. On Halloween night, 30 October 1938, CBS radio broadcast this radio play based on the book by H.G. Wells that tells the story of an invasion by Martian men. The radio play is a sequence of “objective” news reports from all sorts of reporters who report on a strange explosion on the planet Mars, a strange object landing on a farm in New Jersey. The news then picks up speed with reports of aliens landing on Earth and occupying our planet. Because of the objective way of reporting on an official radio, for a while many people effectively believed that aliens had landed on the earth. Orson Welles’ name was immediately made…

The last rule is the rule of scarcity. People attach more value to things that are more difficult to obtain. Certain websites make good use of this principle to put pressure on people to buy. You get to see “Only five items of this item available” or “Six other people are also booking a room in this hotel right now”. As things become less accessible, we lose certain freedoms of choice.

We conclude with this nice quote of the Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde: „If you don’t get everything you want, think of the things you don’t get that you don’t want.“