The Things We Know Best

“The things we know best are things we haven’t been taught.”

—Luc de Clapiers, 18th Century Marquis de Vauvenargues

My first career, fresh out of college, was as a teacher. It was my belief at the time that it was my job to literally pour my knowledge of life science into the minds of 25 sixth grade students. What I discovered was that very little got in, and even less of my brilliant lessons stuck for more than a week or two.

One of my fascinations over the years, and particularly since I began my career in coaching, is what some call the “stickiness” factor. It turns out that most of life’s greatest and enduring lessons occur through experiential learning, in which the student is fully engaged, even lost, in their own inquiry.

EXERCISE:

What areas of personal or professional development are you and others in your world most open, interested, and excited about? How can you structure a deep and meaningful learning experience in these areas?

When the Student is Ready

“When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

-Gautama Buddha, on whose teaching Buddhism was founded

image from kevingcook.com

image from kevingcook.com

When people say, “perception is reality,” they often mean that the way we perceive something makes it real. What if we don’t perceive an issue, challenge, or lesson to be learned, simply because it is invisible to us?

As a student, we must first see a situation and determine that there is value, opportunity, or benefit in it. Only then is there the potential to hear the teacher and see how they might assist us in understanding the lesson.

EXERCISE:

Where are you stopped or stuck in your life? Where are your efforts to move forward being thwarted? To whom could you go with the challenge you face, to determine your readiness and receptivity to the lesson?

“A Teacher Affects…”

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.”

—Henry Brooks Adams, American historian and member of the Adams political family

Photo from Flickr by Anne Adrian

Photo from Flickr by Anne Adrian

Among the core values explored and discussed with my clients is their fundamental desire and passion to contribute to the lives of others.

When we examine the wide variety of roles each of them play in their professional and personal worlds, the opportunities seem limitless.

Who are the teachers, mentors, coaches, and other life supporters who have made the biggest difference in your life? Where have you noticed yourself “paying forward” valuable lessons to those whom you care about?

EXERCISE:

Where and with whom can you share your knowledge, wisdom, and life lessons to influence the lives of others, and more fully realize your unique contribution to eternity?

“The best teachers are those who…”

“The best teachers are those who show you where to look, but don’t tell you what to see.”

—Alexandra K. Trenfor

Photo from bats.blogs.nytimes.com

Photo from bats.blogs.nytimes.com

I have been an active and engaged member of the ICF (International Coach Federation) for almost 20 years. Today, this organization has well over 20,000 members in more than 100 countries. The IFC has been one of the most active in establishing the ethics, standards, competencies, and credentialing criteria for the industry.

Fundamental to the value and impact of the coaching process is how it engages the individual in a variety of learning experiences requiring personal inquiry and self-discovery.

A phrase I like very much that describes this client-centered educational effort is “Coaches let their questions do the heavy lifting.” Although teaching experiences that “show and tell” can be a part of the learning process, it is perhaps when we help others to see, discover, and learn from within that even greater benefits are realized.

EXERCISE:

Think back to the teachers, mentors, and coaches in your life who have made the most significant impact in your life. Examine how many of them helped you discover and believe in your own potential and greatness.

How can you be this teacher or coach for those you care about in your professional or personal life?

Should you have the interest to learn more about coaching and the ICF, please visit www.coachfederation.org

“Teaching others scales right back to us.”

“Teaching others scales right back to us.”

—Seth Godin, Author

Photo from Flickr by winnifredxoxo

Photo from Flickr by winnifredxoxo

I have always had a passion for learning. As a child, I remember vividly my mother coming upstairs to read after our evening meal and some family time. Although she had only a high school education, she had the most expansive vocabulary of anyone I knew.

My own family, and my wife’s, were educators, so it was not surprising that my first career was as a teacher. After a few years, I shifted to business and found myself in teaching roles within the company. For the past 22 years, I have continued to be both student and teacher as I pursue my professional efforts as a coach.

Over the years, I’ve learned by watching others, applying what I’ve learned, and learned the most by sharing what I learned with others. The lessons always scaled back to me with even deeper meaning and impact.

EXERCISE:

How can you learn what you most desire by watching people you admire, practice what you learn, and scale these lessons back to you even more by teaching others in your professional and personal life?

As Seth Godin said in his latest book, What to Do When It’s Your Turn, “Teaching rewards us all.”

“To teach is to learn twice.”

“To teach is to learn twice.”

—Joseph Joubert, French Esssayist

Photo from Flickr by Duane Schoon

Photo from Flickr by Duane Schoon

Have you ever considered that learning is a multi-step process? Do you recall times in your education when you would read, re-read, and literally memorize information to prepare for a quiz or test?

What happened to this information when you tried to recall it even a few weeks later? If you are like most people, non-essential information is wiped clean from your “cerebral hard drive,” to make room for information that is essential, or critical, to your existence.

EXERCISE:

A simple yet powerful technique to deepen and sustain things you wish to learn and master is contained in these three steps:

  1. Watch others who are very skilled at some behavior.
  2. Try to practice those skills for yourself.
  3. Teaching this skill to others will cement and sustain the lesson.

Remember it this way: Watch One, Do One, Teach One.

making successful human beings

“It is not what you do for your children but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.”

– Ann Landers, famous advice columnist

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Image from Flickr by EWULibraries

Consider for a moment that effective parenting is like coaching. Instead of simply pouring ourselves into our children or our clients, we take an inside-out approach to help them discover the wisdom within – and thus help them discover who they truly are. Lessons learned in this manner seem to have a far greater influence and impact.

Just five minutes ago, I received a call from my daughter Rachel, who was finishing her workday serving her clients at 9.30 p.m. on a Friday night. Listening to her go the extra mile to serve others was a very satisfying moment for me as a proud dad.

Exercise:

How can you use your coaching skills to bring out the best in your children, colleagues, friends and even clients?

Teaching is instinctual art

“Teaching is an instinctual art, mindful of potential, craving of realization, a pausing, seamless process.”

A. Bartlett Giamatti, former president of Yale University

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We have all heard the quote “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”Think for a moment about the times when this quote has been most apparent in your own life. How often were you the student? How often were you the teacher?

Exercise:

Consider how we are always experiencing being both the student and the teacher in a seamless tapestry of continuous learning.

In the year ahead, how will you be the student and the teacher in your life and in the lives of others, to fully pursue the boundless possibilities and potential in yourself and in those around you?