When it comes to our children, so often our lessons are caught more than taught

“When it comes to our children, so often our lessons are caught more than taught.”

Joshua Becker, American author, writer, and philanthropist

Image from Unsplash by Leo Rivas

How do you respond when given unwanted advice? During your childhood, how often do you recall being told what to do and how to behave? Look to your parents, teachers, and other adults at the time regarding how they tried to mold you.

For many of us, the do’s and don’ts of navigating our world were taught by these well intended individuals. After all, these were likely the methods used on them in their youth. To what degree do such approaches work to create the independent, free-thinking, well-adjusted children we all wish to launch into the world?

Children today are exposed to a barrage of messages from countless sources. Who are the role models setting the example you want them to catch to guide and support their journey?


How can you support and create an environment for your children and grandchildren in which more of life’s most important lessons are caught?

The best thing for being sad, replied Merlin, is to learn something

“The best thing for being sad, replied Merlin, is to learn something.”

T.H. White, Author of The Once and Future King

Image from Unsplash by Dan Dimmock

Research has shown that when we do the same things day after day we fire and wire our neurons to generate consistent and ingrained patterns of thinking and acting. If we happen to be sad over extended periods of time, changing things up can alter our brain chemistry, improve our overall well-being, and strengthen our social connections.

Engaging in new physical activities, taking a creative class, and even learning new recipes and cooking techniques are just a few ways to break your patterns so that a more positive outlook on things can emerge.


How can and will you embrace Merlin’s wisdom and engage in some new learning effort to magically boost your mood and chase some clouds away?  Feel free to reply to this post with what new learning efforts work best for you.

Other people may be there to help us, teach us, guide us along our path but the lesson to be learned is always ours

“Other people may be there to help us, teach us, guide us along our path, but the lesson to be learned is always ours.”

—Melody Beattie, American self-help author

Image from Unsplash by niko photos

Imagine your life as an oak tree standing tall in a healthy forest. Your life began as an acorn filled with potential from a nearby member of your family. You got lucky that first season, landing in a fertile spot with lots of water, nutrients, and sunlight.

With all of these positive influences you received the bonus of a squirrel burying you, and not remembering where, over the winter. You sprouted, started sending your branches and leaves to the sky and your roots deep into the ground. One day you, too, got to be generous, and dropped your own wise acorns onto the ground.


What are some of the most impactful lessons you have learned over the years?

Who were some of the guides and teachers that helped you grow?

What lessons are you still learning and who are the people that continue to bring out your best?

“The Inner life of any great thing will be incomprehensible to me until I develop and deepen an inner life of my own.”

“The Inner life of any great thing will be incomprehensible to me until I develop and deepen an inner life of my own.”

Parker J. Palmer, founder and Sr. Partner Emeritus of the Center for Courage & Renewal

Image from Unsplash by Naassom Azevedo

As a child I did not enjoy reading. Books with big words were the worst and having to “look them up” in the 20-pound unabridged dictionary added to my displeasure. Not understanding the meaning of things and having to read aloud in school were sources of painful frustration and embarrassment.

Things shifted when I finished college and entered the working world. Learning suddenly became more relevant and purposeful, and I gobbled up new sources of information and knowledge to feed my appetite for professional development.

It took a bit longer for me to find my hunger for morsels of personal, emotional, and spiritual growth. If you told me years earlier, I’d be reading spiritual resources — and even poetry — on a daily basis, you would surely have seen my eyes roll.


How have you developed and deepened your own inner life? What inner work is calling you to continue on this path toward greater self-awareness and wisdom?

“I learn by going where I have to go.”

“I learn by going where I have to go.”

—Theodore Roethke, 20th Century American Poet

Image from Unsplash by Ben White

As a child, my wife Wendy took many road trips with her family. Back then, maps and triptiks by the Automobile Club were the main ways of getting from one point to the next. For the adventurous, a few side trips could be built in.

Wendy’s family was different. They’d climb into their green country squire station wagon with rear facing seats for the kids. Each person was given a chance to tell Dad which way to turn between driving segments. Keeping their eyes open for new sites to explore or new places to grab a bite helped them learn about their world by going.

To what degree have you come to realize the value of experiential learning? How has learning by going carved the grooves in your record of life?


Where and how have you learned where you have to go by going? Feel free to reply to this post with your own examples or stories of getting out there.

“Learning never exhausts the mind.”

“Learning never exhausts the mind.”

—Leonardo Da Vinci, the genius and most influential artist in history

Image from Unsplash by Dmitry Ratushny

I consider myself a lifelong learner and make the inclusion of daily learning experiences a top priority. I crave new ideas so much that many of my daily rituals and habits include them.

Unlike Leonardo, however, my capacity to learn gets a bit weary over time. I’ve noticed that when I visit museums, read for extended periods, or watch educational TV programs, I reach a limit and need a break to rest my mind with an alternative activity, or even a nap.

Fortunately, my mind recovers fairly quickly and I am ready once again to sponge up and apply new learning in quick order!


What topics and areas of learning energize you the most? How often do you exercise your mind to expand your capacities for growth and personal development?  Where do you need short breaks to renew and recharge between these efforts?

What if in skipping the pain, I was missing the lessons

“What if in skipping the pain, I was missing the lessons?”

—Glennon Doyle Melton, American author and activist

Image from Amazon

One of my favorite poets is Mark Nepo. I am reading his brilliant volume, The Book of Awakening for the third time.

My first read was almost 10 years ago, just after the passing of my mother, Rose. Upon subsequent readings, I have come to realize just how many of his life lessons came out of a variety of painful points in his life including a very serious bout of fighting cancer.

The past two years have introduced us all to many painful experiences. What learning can you embrace from your pain and perhaps even the pain others experienced in your various communities?


Consider awakening to the lessons you may have missed by exploring Mark’s book for yourself.

“We often avoid taking action because we think, I need to learn more, but the best way to learn is often by taking action.”

“We often avoid taking action because we think, I need to learn more, but the best way to learn is often by taking action.”

—James Clear, author, entrepreneur, and photographer

Image from Unsplash by Ethan Elisara

Following a two-year career as a middle school science teacher in Philadelphia, I secured a job as a pharmaceutical sales representative with the Upjohn Company.

That’s right — in the early 80s I was a legal drug dealer, promoting Motrin for pain and arthritic conditions to physicians, over other meds available at the time.

My training was rigorous, with an initial one-month stint in chilly Kalamazoo, Michigan in January. The company — which is now part of Pfizer — was about a century old at the time and took great pride in preparing over 1,000 sales reps to be among the best in the industry.

Once our book learning was complete, we were sent out to work with our district managers, to get field experience meeting with real doctors, intending to influence them to prescribe our magic orange tablets.

In the beginning, my manager did most of the work, describing features and benefits of our medications over those of our competitors. Following a few such interactions, my manager, Stan Ershler, informed me that he had to leave. I indicated that I would head right home to continue my studies. He said, Absolutely not! Go out and find some more physicians to talk to — see what happens! I definitely could have used a pill for panic attacks at that time!

With great patience and a bit of tough love, I was out the door, diving in the deep end in my new career.


Where are you hesitating or procrastinating on taking action because you feel you need to learn more?

In what situation is taking action and getting in the game likely to be your best teacher?

“Teachers should prepare the student for the student’s future, not for the teacher’s past.”

“Teachers should prepare the student for the student’s future, not for the teacher’s past.”

—Richard Hamming, 20th Century American mathematician

Image from Unsplash by Adam Winger

Who have been your most influential teachers? Which of them tapped into your greatest interests and inspired you to want to learn, grow, and achieve?

Which of them poured themselves into you with love and also saw that their job was to bring out the possibilities within you?

The questions, Will this be on the test? and How will this prepare me for my future? are worlds apart.

Fulfilling even the most well-intended curriculum and tapping into the knowledge stores of many teachers and other advising professionals can only go so far.

How can we better prepare our youth for a future in which exponential wisdom will be required?


What would be possible if your role as a life-long learner was to use up all the teachers that come into your life?

As you soar beyond the relevancy of these well-intended individuals, keep looking for the future sages and stoics to help you take your next steps.

“The role of a teacher is to introduce you to your inner teacher.”

“The role of a teacher is to introduce you to your inner teacher.”

—Loch Kelly, author, meditation teacher, psychotherapist

Image from Unsplash by Science in HD

Who were your favorite teachers when you were young? What made them so pivotal in your growth and development? What lessons did you learn that live on within you these decades later?

Mr. Felteberger was my high school physics teacher, Mr. Zimba was my grade school shop teacher, and Dr. Schmuckler from my college years all left great impressions on me, and their memory still brings many smiles.

Each of them brought tremendous generosity and enthusiasm to their art, and saw their role as building and shaping minds and characters to take into our futures.

Most significant was how they instilled and brought out my natural curiosity and passion for learning, which continues to this day.


How did the great teachers in your life light the fires of you own inner teacher? How can and will you be such an educational catalyst for others?