Live what you want others to learn

In 1 on March 31, 2010 at 2:45 pm

I have been working on a project for myself, something I will share soon with whomever is interested.

I wrote recently about what our Fathers never told us and it seemed to resonate with people.  It has led to the question I get in every presentation I ever do to adults– how do I help my kids hold onto wonder. to discover and fulfill the promise inside of them?

The answer is simple– Live what you want others to learn.

I don’t care if you are a parent, a coach, a boss, a friend, a spouse.  Live what you want other people to learn.

Why is that so important?  It comes down to trust.  Nothing is more powerful in education, in personal development, than trust.  Trust comes from what you do and how you do it, not from what you say.

An Olympic Gold Medalist, a good friend, was cleaning out an old computer once and he was rereading many of my emails, of things I had sent him as we were working together in preparation for the next Olympics.  He said it very simply to me.  “You are so consistent.  No matter how much times passes, your message is always the same, just said a little differently.”  He was telling me he trusted me, that whatever else was going on, he could trust me.

I once asked a flight instructor from a U. S. aircraft carrier why he was so respected by the pilots he taught.  “Credibility and tone of voice.  They know I’ve been where they want to go.  And they don’t need me freaking out over the radio when they make a mistake while they’re trying to land on an aircraft carrier.  They trust me to teach them, and not judge them.”

A heart surgeon and also a good friend told me once that in training residents and medical students, he knew the answers were inside of them.  It was his job to bring it out of them.  “They had to trust me.  I got that trust not by testing them, but by figuring out how to ask the questions the right way, so they saw and could use what they knew.”  He won more teaching awards than anyone else I’ve known in my twenty years in education.

I have been around some great teachers.  I don’t necessarily mean teachers by profession.  I mean people who others learn from.  Without learning, there is no teaching, even if you call yourself a teacher.  Many of them told me they knew one simple rule– people who trust will you learn from you.

But in my own experience, I have discovered an additional characteristic to great teachers.  T. S. Eliot said it best.  “Those who trust us, educate us.”

Think about that for a second.  If someone trusts you, they will share what they know about themselves.  They will share their dreams, their fears, their worries, their hopes.  They will show you what is right about them.  They will show you what they don’t like about themselves.  They might even ask you for help.  In the end, they will help you without even trying.

Trust leads to the most powerful tool in education.  Teachable moments.  Those moments when the light bulb goes on, when epiphanies happen.  To paraphrase James Joyce, these are moments when you both see beauty without the need to possess it.  You simply understand.  You see.  Learning is seeing.  I do believe what Keats wrote, that beauty is truth.

Nothing is more beautiful than the promise born inside of us.  Elegance.  Something as powerful as it is simple.

My entire life, I have known this.  Maybe you have as well.  Sadly, almost nothing in our prefab world embraces this.  I, like everyone else I know, loses sight of this.

But let me ask you a question and ask you a favor.

The question is this.  How much time each day, how much energy each day do you take to see the beauty inside your self, in the life that you’ve led?

The favor is this.  For the sake of all of us, will you take a few minutes each day to remind yourself of that beauty of life, of your life?

Why am I asking this, why am I writing this now.  For two reasons.

Since leaving my job, I have had time to observe life and people more than I normally do.  I have slowed my life down.  I don’t drive a car, but ride my bike everywhere and what I see is disturbing, sad even.

I’ll start with picking my girlfriend’s daughter up from school.  I walk or ride my bike to get her.  Then we walk back home.  It takes about 45 minutes.  Along the way we talk.  She often dances and sings.  Most of all, she makes fun of me.  But we are with each other.  Period.  If she had a bad day, I hear about it.  If she had a good day, I hear about that, too.  But that takes about five minutes.  Then she gets to decide what happens next.  Singing, dancing, asking me questions.

After about a week or so of that I started watching the other parents.  They show up in their nice cars.  The kids run to them and hug them.  And as soon as they are buckled in the car, the cell phones come out.  The video players go on.  The frustration and rush of the day reappears as they sit in traffic to get out of the parking lot.

One day we stopped at Barnes and Noble for me to buy her a book.  We stood in line at the cafe and waited.  Her nose was buried in her book and as she turned the pages she shared with me the things she liked and the things she thought were stupid.

Ahead of us in line, though, was a mom on a cell phone.  She was paying no attention to her child.  The little boy was into everything.  Knocking things off the shelf.  He would say mom, then again a little louder, until he had to scream it.  She just kept saying “I’m on the phone.”  Finally she’d had enough.  He was embarrassing her.

“Why won’t you listen to me.  I’m on the phone.”

Live what you want others to learn, I wanted to say.

The other reason I am writing this is the great response I got to my piece about what our fathers never taught us.  They did not teach us that how we feel matters.

Why didn’t they teach us that?  Because they didn’t know.  Worse than that, society’s message for too long was that “feel” was always selfish.  Feel was the touchy feelies.  Truth is people are scared of the touchy feelies.  They are the adult equivalent of cooties.

So what do we do about it?  Why do I believe so strongly in feel?

Because I did my homework.  I studied high level world class performers.  People many of us want our kids to grow up to be.  They embraced feel, distinguished it from the touchy feelies.  To them feel was data, it was information– about themselves.  Feel is the ubersense of self.  How do you know when you are being yourself?  You feel it.

Paying attention to someone sends the message that you care how they feel.  Giving them time, giving them silence and space, allows them to show you themselves, to show you how they feel.

What I know, what I learned is we all do have a choice, but only if we are aware of that choice.

It is the difference between diamonds and pearls.  In my next post, I’ll explain the difference and why I believe it matters.  My own belief is that if most people knew the difference, they’d raise pearls instead of cut diamonds.

Trust me.  🙂

  1. I followed a link here from runners world and am hooked. Once I read these, the points seem so obvious but obviously they are not or I would have been doing them already! Thanks for the great blogs

    • Thanks, Eric. It is pretty funny to me how obvious these things are, but the experiences I had to go through to understand were amazing. Feel free to tell your friends about it. The words are mine but the lessons I learned come from people most others do not have access to. I just want to share what these amazing people taught me.


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