Those Who Can’t – Teach

Those who can, do; and those who can’t, teach.

Now, everybody teaches somebody something. You learn all the time, just by observing. It’s when people take the position of identifying themselves as instructors that begin to scrutinize any desired influence they may wish to have upon us.

It was George Bernard Shaw in his four act drama of 1903 entitled Man and Superman who is credited with the saying. Though, Woody Allen did a reframe of the saying in School of Rock, (oddly enough, 100 years later in 2003) when it is said, “Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym.”

The saying is really intended to disparage teachers, to put them in their place with an irreverence for their contribution to society as a default from the failure of their pursuits.

There is some truth and some misleading guidance from the phrase.

On our independent journey in life we really have many, many teachers who fit the description quite well. Unfortunately, for me I discovered it at the premature age of ten.

I have been fortunate to have never suffered the truth of the phrase except twice in my life. Both times, they were female teachers. This is no besmearing of females, be cause the law of averages is heavily weight to the favor of female instructors over male instructors for my entire academic career (43 females to 7 males).

Instructors have the challenge of introducing knowledge by virtue of the subject matter and not according to the interests of the learners. That’s a distinct disadvantage in the quest for independent journeys.

Some group of academics get together and say that in general all students need exposure to these subject matters, most of which are introduced far too early for any genuine thirst for knowledge to be whetted in the minds of the instructed.

Instead, it’s a matter of time, a matter of the volume of materials to be brought before the instructed and a matter of giving some evidence the feat has been accomplished. Thus, public school to the masses.

In an attempt to circumvent the cattle call approach, some well-meaning adult in the life of the young instructed believes it best to introduce a tutor as an independent path.

All that does is accentuate the disconnect. The tutor is chosen for precise acquaintance with the subject matter, not an acquaintance with the instructed. Only the slightest thought is given as to compatibility between the tutor and the instructed.

The instruction relationship is totally about transfer of knowledge.

Now, that is not a bad outcome, but it is not an independent journey.

It is by design an adult to child relational spectrum, never a peer to peer or adult to adult. The respect  always defers to the instructor, the power always deriving from the informed to the uninformed, the initiated to the uninitiated.

How can mutual respect be established if the only respect given from the learned to the unlearned is the aptitude to learn?

We might as well reduce all problems to the prospect of their outcomes rather than the journey we take to get there. Let all math problems be evaluated by their conclusion rather than the process to gain their conclusion. Let all conversations be measured by how they end, rather than the content of their composition.

That’s the comparison between instructors and life coaches. Life coaches are focused on the experience of their coachee and how the coachee reasons, not how much information can be regurgitated back in the same form as it was given.

A life coaches says: “what tests have you faced this past week,” rather than, “what questions did you miss?”

A life coach measures the learning, not the knowledge.

The distinction between a life coach in the classroom and an instructor in the class room is this:

A life coach understands that life gives the test and the lesson follows. An instructor gives a lesson and then issues the test.

A life coach discovers the test for the coachee, and the instructor administers the test to the unlearned.

A life coach is partner along an independent journey, not a tour guide that directs the unlearned along the path of knowledge, constantly saying, “Be sure to stay on the path. Do not wonder off the path.”

A Mentor Is Not What You Want For Independence

Someone told all the millennials I know that they each should have mentor. Why? To be guided through the career obstacles that always beset the newbies.

That’s ridiculous. First, mentors are good for their own career path, not yours.

Among the distinctive helping roles, mentors are chosen when a person wants to be helped to experience what the mentor has experienced.

I have a mentor these days. I pay for the opportunity. My focus is to experience the success she has experienced in a particular field of pursuits. That is not an independent journey and I’m not pretending that it is.

I selected the mentor, the mentor could chose to accept me or not accept me. I evaluated what the mentor has done, who the mentor is, and how likely it would be for me to be able to mimic what she does.

Here’s the sad part. I lost me in the process. In truth, even if I am successful, it will not be my success. It will be the recreating of her success under my name. In fact, I’m attempting to replicate the entire experience in a completely different field and using the mentorship to keep me alert to what I might consider doing. It’s like an independent, unguided study.

Mentorship feels a lot like plagiarism. Most people don’t realize that plagiarism is not only the taking of exact wording from a written source and presenting it as your work, (here’s an example of a plagiarism checker) but it is also stealing the thought and action gained from another source and passing it off as your own.

So, even the thought is off limits. You must have an original thought.

Some would say, no, you misunderstand what mentorship really is. Mentorship is a relationship between a mentor and a protege concerning a transfer of knowledge, social capital or expertise from the mentor to the mentee (or protege).

Did you catch that? Not only the experience that has come to form an expertise, but even the social status or sponsorship, as well as the mentor’s knowledge.

Did you hear anything that gives you the idea that the person begin helped has any part in the focus of things?

It’s like the one being helped just finally says, “OK, it’s about being successful like you, not about being successful like me. I’ll just glide along your trail and maybe one day I’ll get a trail of my own.

You see, if we are going to live and to give an independent journey we don’t accomplish that by mentorship.

We never extend an independence for ourselves or for those we help if we do not keep the focus on the one being helped.

Now keeping the focus is always being certain we begin from and return to the perspective of the one being helped. That can not be done, truly done, from a mentor relationship.

The mentor is chosen because of success in a similar field selected by the one who needs help. Then the one who needs help enlists the mentor because of the mentor’s experience.

No one has the same experience as another. The mentor can catch a few things, but in truth, the mentor’s expertise and knowledge is only good for those who walk a similar path. Even if the path is similar, invariably the obstacles and the environment surrounding that path is no longer valid.

The selection of a mentor for social collateral (someone to grease the rails for the mentee) is not really mentorship, it’s sponsorship. It’s based entirely on the clout of the sponsor and the possible promise of effectiveness by the mentee. Again, it is the mentor (sponsor) that becomes prominent.

The independent journey is best traveled by a life coach and coachee.

The best advice for millenials is to forget the mentors and acquire a life coach. One that will continue to be taught by you who you are and the choices in front of you; who will then teach you to teach yourself the steps to success from your point of view, within your immediate surroundings, for the sake of your desired success…not mimicking the life, career, or choices of some mentor somewhere.

Coaching for the Who, Not The What

Coach and Mentor QuarrelThere are tons of life coaches everywhere these days. I’ve met a few.

There are the sports coaches who are all about taking your current skills to a higher level.

There are mentors who do great as long as your problems coincide with their experiences.

There are instructors who offer to introduce you to a broader understanding of the problems or challenges you face.

There are experts who know their field extraordinarily well, but unless you formulate the question in the precise field of their expertise, they’re a whole lot like visiting with a disinterested, bored friend.

There are consultants who can give you all the ends and outs of a particular process and are so enamored with the process that they can help you bend to fit the needs of the process, but not the other way around.

Helping Services

I want a life coach that coaches me….the Who…rather than the task I need to achieve…the What.

All the Who’s in Whoville can’t find their way all the time. We need a coach that centers on us and keeps the focus on us and our limitations or surroundings or resources and not on a different condition we will never step into.

So how do you know someone is coaching to the Who?

They just keep using You questions. Instead of using questions like, “Do others have the same difficulty?”

The question is, “Specifically, what are the difficulties you face?”

How would you implement that approach in your situation?

How do you feel about your success?

How will you know that you’ve achieved the result you are looking to achieve?

When coaches center on the What, it all tends to get much too technical.

What specifically matters most in achieving this task?

What is the next step in accomplishing it?

What barriers or limitations might keep that from happening?

The What questions bring out the nuts and bolts, but not the personal turns and twists that are required when you are involved.

How does that seem important to you?

What is the question you are not asking yourself?

In order to accomplish this, what steps would you have taken to be successful?

What is your reason for doing it that way?

What are you overlooking that seems to keep coming up and keeping you from progressing?

How would you put into your own words the expectations someone else would have of you?

How will you know that so and so approves of what you have done?

As you evaluate the why you haven’t take these steps until now, what comes to your mind?

What other areas does this breakthrough seem to offer the same sort of breakthrough for you?

How will you change this plan into a series of specific actions?

These You questions keep the focus and the perspective coming from the one being coached, not the one offering coaching.

This independent journey has to be taken by the individual, not merely the companion.

Respecting others and ourselves means we must take the action from our shoulders and keep it centers on their shoulders.

None of us live the exact same life as another. None of us see ourselves exactly as another sees self. We view our surrounding from our set of eyes and until we listen to what our friend describes, we only see a reflection of what they see (and a reflection by nature is similar but opposite of what you are facing… our right side reflects their left side).

How do you stay focused on the Who and coach to the Who?:

  1. Stay curious about what they see, feel, sense, know, experience…keep getting input without making assumptions…keep asking for confirmation or correction from them, rather than giving it to them.
  2. Stay moving forward…don’t bog down in the past and lose the momentum of the presenting challenge they bring to you. (Coaching is for present and future action, not for understanding or correcting the past).
  3. Never supply your understanding, always seek their expressed view. (“I understand” needs to be replaced with “Tell me more about that so I see it the way you see it.”)
  4. Do not become their accountability partner, instead ask who in their busy life will be best to keep them achieving their goal….how will they know to help you remain accountable…when will that begin…what step will you take first to begin it?
  5. Encourage the strengths they have demonstrated in the process of coaching to the Who; how have they surmounted barriers even in the brief conversation you have had. Look forward to hearing how well the journey went in your absence.

How To Talk So Your Friends Are Helped

How To Speak To HelpAll of us have friends who seek a listening ear from time to time. Even more of us have friends that want us to provide answers to their questions. And still more of us have friends that want us to tell them what to do.

Regardless of how they come, they put us in the place of a counselor or adviser. Our desire is to help, but we might not feel good enough, well informed, or worthy enough to respond.

What would you say if you can take clear steps in any situation to leave your friends at a greater position of strength than when they approached, no matter what the subject may be?

Here’s a plan that works every time, provided the person is mentally healthy and generally forward thinking.

  1. Ask what they would like to do about the matter if there were no obstacles in the way.
    • Money, time, knowledge are all excuses, so move them to the side temporarily to face the matter.
    • Encourage the person to simply suspend the barriers, you’re not asking them to discount them.
    • Promise you’ll come back to face what is the way, if they will step beyond it right now.
  2. Ask what about the matter could be done (like a First Step) within the next week?
    • Sometimes people stall here, but again, encourage your friend to temporarily let this be the priority for the moment.
    • Assure the friend that other things with which they are involved are equally important, but for these minutes, let’s set them aside.
  3. Ask what barriers are immediately in front of that first step.
  4. Confirm it is a barrier, and ask what creative ways can that barrier be used to help the first step occur rather than hinder it.
    • Often our barriers can be turn more as a glancing force rather than a head on attack.
    • The energy to brush past the barriers tend to give us the acceleration needed to get on with the first step.
  5. Ask the friend, what does it look like in your mind when you get past that barrier with the first step? What comes next?
    • What are the barriers to that?
    • How can they be turned to yield help to accomplish the next step?
  6. Is it in your plans to take those steps?
  7. If no, why not; if yes, who is going to hold you responsible to take those steps?

As simple as those 7 passes through the process can be, they are universal in helping a friend with their questions.

The benefits are tremendous:

For your friend, you have a means of responding at anytime, about any matter.

Your friend will be helped and know you are trying to help.

For you, you don’t take on your friend’s problem. You keep your friend in the center of the discussion rather than bringing up your past successes.

You walk away to meet again and help again, every time.

If you don’t have an outline for dialogue you are more apt to:

  1. Dwell on your own failures or successes…thus becoming the center of discussion rather than your friend.
  2. Refer to an expert who will dwell on the problem and not your friend.
  3. Refer to a mentor who will serve only if they have experienced the same problem with the same limitations in the same circumstances (rare to seldom).
  4. Become instructional as if you were the adult and the friend were the child.
  5. Make your friend more dependent upon others than finding the means, the confidence, and the way to get through such trials in the future.

Seeing the likely alternatives, why not use this seven step process or develop one on your own?

You may find it helpful to create an acronym to keep your steps in order and your plan before you in the nick of time.

Something like: BREADBREAD to help a friend

B begin where they are

R refrain from introducing anything or anyone beyond their own relationships

E engage them in projecting past the barriers they recognizes

A aim for their stated goal by using resources in their own path

D drive them to an accountability partner other than yourself to assure they take their first step.

BREAD the staff of life and an ever present help when a friend in need comes for advice and leaves with strength for their journey.