Have you heard of the legendary violin pedagogue Itzhak Perlman? He had two incredible women in his life. One was his teacher, Dorothy DeLay, at Juilliard in New York. Her teaching style was to inculcate (infuse) his way of thinking and learning so that he could make his own way once she was no longer guiding him.
The second woman, and I would say the most important, was his wife. After meeting Itzhak in college she gave up becoming a concert violinist to become his coach. He says having her as a coach was crucial to all that he became. She spent each concert paying close attention to every bit of information that he needed in order to become spectacular, meaning 'better', at his craft.
I heard this story when I first listened to a renowned surgeon named Atul Gawande who recognized the great benefit of having a coach share his experience at a TedTalk. He brought up that many of us believe that expertise means not needing a coach. I would add to that and say, if we believe we have expertise in an area but don’t need help in continuing to grow, then are we wise experts? Or merely those who expertly plateau?
He goes on to share that in 1875 Harvard and Yale played one of the first college football games. Yale hired a head coach but Harvard did not. Over the three decades Harvard only won three times. They finally hired a head coach, and these games set a precedent for all future sports teams to have coaches.
Why do we as a society think that we are supposed to get along on our own just fine? We go through 13 years of schooling before any ‘higher education’ of another four to eight or more, and we are dumped into a world in which many of the hard truths and necessary lifeskills were never taught in a class we took. Yet the first third of our lives are spent with others telling us what to think and when to think it.
The good doctor went on to say, "Coaches are external eyes and ears providing a more accurate picture of your reality. They're recognizing the fundmentals, breaking your actions down and helping you build them back up again."
If we are not improving, are we moving forward at all? Are we a stagnant pond or a river of fresh, flowing water?
Please know that I am an extreme advocate for loving yourself right where you are and speaking life and not shame over yourself. But I will still ask, "When was the last time you felt you were getting better at being you? Better at doing the things you wish you were further along in? Growing in the areas that others see you need growth in but may still be your personal blind spots?"
I wish someone would teach a class on how to be diplomatic in conversation and less honest about what is really going on in our minds. Or would teach that we are all so different from one another and how to not project our own thinking and perceptions onto others. That it is okay to have an opinion but hurtful to shame someone with it. A class on comparison would've been nice; to let us know that it only produces two kinds of fruit- pride or pain.
My snarky is about to come out:
I wish someone would have told me that pain in your left shoulder can actually just be referred gas pain. It would have saved someone I know a great deal of pain and sleepless nights over the course of two years. I would have been able to say ‘stop drinking carbonated drinks and eating so much watermelon!’. But no one taught me this. My nurse friend said that some people come into the ER thinking they are having a heart attack and it’s only trapped air.
Come on people. Who’s gonna grow us up? Some of us don’t even know the difference between near-death and bloat.
All sarcasm aside, my point is that I have longed for someone to grow me and show me and lead me and care. There have been a few and I call them friends. But the idea in our culture that we should be getting through all of this on our own is a terrible one. I saw this card at the store yesterday:
"There are always assumptions and expectations made, but oftentimes no one to give direction about how to meet them."
This says it all my friends, it says it all.
I truly believe mentors and coaches are the cord of hope that we can hold onto. I pray that you find one, and maybe even two, who would love to walk with you as you find your path and try to stay on it. It is a rough road sometimes and we need those who will hold our hand and at times who will hold back our hair.
An old Laura proverb:
"May you find your village. May you find guidance along the way. And may there be a kindly nurse there who turns you away from the emergency room billing department and tells you to go lie down on your left side for an hour."