“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.

EXERCISE:

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?

EXERCISE:

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.

EXERCISE:

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?

“Living up to a dream is rarely as important as entering it for all it has to teach.”

“Living up to a dream is rarely as important as entering it for all it has to teach.”

—Mark Nepo, Author of The Book of Awakening

Image from Unsplash by Keli Stirrett

What did you dream about as a child? How did your dreams evolve or change as you entered adolescence and your early adult years?

If you are a bit older, what did your dreams include in your 30s, 40s, 50s….?

Where did the dreams take you, and what did you learn along the way?

What vision, mission, and goals do you have for yourself today?

How mindful are you about picking up the lessons along each step of your path?

EXERCISE:

Motivational Speaker Les Brown and a few others authors suggest we keep shooting for the moon, because even if you miss, you will land among the stars.

“All learning is state dependent.”

“All learning is state dependent.”

—Jim Kwik, Author of Limitless

Image from Unsplash by Matthew T. Rader

Over the past months, many of us have become increasingly aware of our biases, whether conscious or unconscious. We have learned, through countless examples in our personal and professional worlds, which doors to open, and which to keep closed.

How often do you close the door on others, or worse yet, never open them to peek at what’s inside? To what degree do you live in a state of judgement and protection of the status quo?

What past lessons have been ingrained and habitualized?

EXERCISE:

Where would a state of greater openness, curiosity, and acceptance of other ways of thinking and acting create new learning and opportunities for a fuller and better life?

“Put old wine into new bottles.”

“Put old wine into new bottles.”

—Author Unknown

Image from Unsplash by Markus Spiske

I have always had a passion for learning. I guess that may be why my first career out of college was as a science teacher. Learning how the world worked was a place to explore with endless possibilities.

For me, learning for the sake of learning only took me so far. Over the years, I began to notice how attracted I had become to the actual practical application of this learning.

In the midst of COVID, I have had a lot of time to read and explore what I like to call The Wisdom of the Ages, along with many new books and resources from today’s great writers, thinkers, and leaders.

A common practice in many current books is the use of provocative quotes and engaging stories. They often include many references and expansive indexes that bolster their current insights and messages.

Perhaps there is very little truly unique and original thinking these days. Maybe what the best and brightest of us do is simply put old wine into new bottles.

EXERCISE:

Where and how can you, too, use the knowledge and wisdom you have acquired over the years to navigate your current challenges and opportunities?

Consider exploring my book, The Quotable Coach – Daily Nuggets of Practical Wisdom – with its 365 quotes, coaching commentaries and exercises as a tool to support this effort.

Thank You!

“You cannot teach a crab to walk straight.”

“You cannot teach a crab to walk straight.”

—Aristophanes, classic Athenian poet and playwright

Image from Unsplash by Chandler Cruttenden

Picture a crab scurrying across a beach, searching for food or a mate, or avoiding a predator.

With claws and legs of different sizes and functions, getting to their destination in a straight line is not the point for this creature—being a successful crustacean living from one day to the next is.

Perhaps our changing world has altered our own way of getting around. Many direct routes to our objectives are not open or have significant detours, causing us to adapt and adjust our course.

What can we learn from the crab? Perhaps if we took more lefts, rights, and zig-zags, would we not only survive, but thrive as we headed into the future?

EXERCISE:

Where in your personal or professional world is taking the straight path not working?

Where might a less direct path lead you to where you wish to be?

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

“I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

—Louisa May Alcott, 19th Century American author of Little Women

Image from Unsplash by Bobby Burch

If you enjoy good stories with wonderful characters, please go see the movie Little Women, or by all means, read the book.

In our daily lives we can all be coached by the times we see others face and overcome their challenges and obstacles. Doing so can instill the belief that we, too, can do the same.

EXERCISE:

Where in your personal or professional life are you facing considerably rough waters?

In what ways can and will you face these challenges boldly and courageously to chart your course toward a brighter future?

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

—Dr. Seuss, pen name of Theodor Seuss Geisel

Image from youtube

I am a big fan of Dr. Seuss. I love the idea of imparting wisdom through his unique and colorful characters and stories. Today’s quote is from I Can Read With My Eyes Shut. A few more of my favorite Suess-ful nuggets of wisdom are:

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

“You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

“Today was good, today was fun, tomorrow will be another one.”

“Just tell yourself, Duckie – You’re really quite lucky!”

EXERCISE:

Select a book you have yet to read and commit to reading it in the new year. Consider making this a monthly goad to help you learn more and take you to more places you wish to go.

“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.”

“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.”

—Eartha Kitt, 20th Century American singer, actress, dancer

Image from Barry Demp Coaching

Have you ever done a values clarification exercise? You know – the ones that ask you deep, probing questions such as:

At the end of your life, what would you like people to say about you?

Beyond the usual thoughts of family and making a difference in the lives of others, I would include being a student, a teacher, and of course, a coach, supporting the growth and development of others.

EXERCISE:

How important is the process of learning in your life?

What current and future developmental efforts and contributions will you have shared with others when you move on from this world?