March 16, 2018

A school should not be a preparation for life.

A school should be life.

Elbert Hubbard


What’s the difference between school and life? In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given the test first, the lesson afterwards; and in some cases, experience can be a hard teacher. One of my favorite quotes comes from Tom Wilson’s cartoon character Ziggy, who said, “Sometimes I think life is one big test, and I’m in the wrong classroom.” Well, not all classrooms have four walls. Your classroom is actually the Planet Earth.


Hal Urban in his book Life’s Greatest Lessons writes, “Our schools do a great job. From first grade through graduate school, they offer a multitude of courses which result in increased knowledge and valuable skills. But there is something missing in the curriculum. We don’t teach our students about life itself, about how it works and what is essential” Unfortunately we come into life without an owner’s manual. The most important thing we need to know in life is learning how to operate ourselves without a guide book or a set of written instructions. 


The most important thing we need to know in life is learning how to operate ourselves without a guide book or a set of written instructions. 


Marlo Thomas, an American actress and writer, in her book, The Right Words at the Right Time, discusses how someone can have a life-long impact on us just by uttering a phrase or statement that resonates with us. Her father told her, “I raised you to be a thoroughbred. Thoroughbreds wear blinders; they don’t look at other horses. They run their own races.” She concludes, “I’ve tried to run my own race my whole life.”


That special someone for me was my dad. He always encouraged me to keep a questioning mind, be curious, be patient, be observant, and to maintain a positive attitude, but perhaps the one thing I remember about him was this one phrase he first shared with me when I was about six years old, “Son, it’s a wasted day if you don’t learn something new.” I may not have understood the significance of that statement at that young age, but it stuck with me and I am forever thankful to him for sharing that wisdom. Judy Dench was quoted in a recent interview, “I want to learn something new every day. I try to. I learn new words. I love it.” On her right wrist is a tattoo of her personal motto, “Carpe Diem” (seize the day). She had it done for her 81st birthday.


Sam had just completed her first day at school. “What did you learn today?” asked her mother. “Not enough.” said Sammy. “I have to go back tomorrow.” If we fail to grow and learn continuously, then our lives are wasted. Should we choose to be a lifetime learner, we have made the choice to be a continuing work in progress. And for life-long learners, the learning never stops because life never stops teaching. All life events are formative no matter what age; they all contribute to what we become day by day and year by year. Warren Buffet states, “We’re here to go to bed a little wiser than when we woke up.”


If we fail to grow and learn continuously, then our lives are wasted.


One day, a four-year-old girl lined up all her dolls on the couch of her living room. “What are you doing,” her mother asked. “I’m playing school,” she replied. “I’m the teacher and these are my prisoners.” Well. I’m not the teacher and you are not the prisoners. I do bring you 70 years of living with all its joys and frustrations, successes, setbacks and challenges, along with 45 years of experience facilitating leadership workshops on personal and professional development in addition to working the last ten years as a Grief and Loss educator and coach.


Jim Rohn writes, “Don’t be afraid to borrow if someone has said it well.” I will be referencing numerous quotes from both well and lesser known people. I have tried not to misquote or mis-spell a name and have tried to be accurate in crediting sources as I found them. I’ll sprinkle in a few anecdotes, spice it up a bit with some humor, all with the hope of making this learning as exciting, and interesting as possible.


While interviewing the legendary Jack Nicklaus, a reporter once remarked, “Jack, you have had a spectacular career. You really know your way around the course. What is your secret?” Nicklaus replied, “The holes are numbered. Well, should you decide to join me in this school of discovery, you will find a more informal curriculum. The lessons presented will not be numbered. Each month, you will be presented with a new lesson, one that you can digest, mull over and think about. Some lessons you may be familiar with and perhaps a review is in order. Some you may find easy and some may be hard and very challenging. Some of the lessons may even require changing long-held habits. In some situations, you are going to play the role of participant observer in your life. It is as though you are watching yourself in a movie. You learn to develop a sense of awareness, almost like stepping out of yourself to see yourself more clearly. As you watch yourself, you do not evaluate or judge. You likely will discover you have particular response patterns that you use over and over.


This is not a school where you have to rush. There is no reward for speed. Your task is to keep growing and learning as we go along. By going slow, you have the time to think, to look around, to really absorb and to allow new insights to emerge.


Take the time to practice and develop patience. Impatience takes away joy. It tells you that you are wanting something that is somewhere else instead of focusing on the opportunity presented in the here and now. Develop the habit of being wholly present.


Each session will conclude with a section entitled, “Food for Thought.” It’s kind of a mental gymnasium. Here you will find thought provoking questions, an occasional personal challenge, and a number of selected quotes that hopefully, you will find interesting and sometimes even stimulating.


Develop the habit of being wholly present.


This is an active blog. While “Food for Thought” is optional, I would encourage you to be an active participant; this is not a school for passive learning. Don’t be like Snoopy, who in one of my favorite Peanut cartoons, states, “Lazy is a very strong word. I like to call it selective participation.” To get the full benefit of this earth school in instilling a growth mindset, it is essential for you to participate fully. Abraham Maslow writes: In any given moment we have two options, to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.


I would recommend you create a workbook to do these exercises. There’s something about seeing your words written in ink, on paper that can have a powerful effect on your mind. The combination of reading the blog and participating actively in your personal growth journey can’t be understated.


Someone once said, “Life is a puzzle. Putting it together is a challenge.” So, if you are puzzled about life in general, or just enjoy the process of learning, or want to participate just for the fun of it, join me for what I trust will be an exciting adventure in personal growth and discovery.


School is now in session!!!


Next month: Life is hard and sometimes unfair...but it is still good.



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