“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?

“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?


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?


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.


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!