by Pete Ferguson
Last night I was reminded of a very important aspect of coaching – as a coach my role is to learn together with the participant. The lesson was brought about by my 8-year-old daughter, Abbie, who is learning to ride a bike.
Abbie is older than probably the average age of bike rider. So there was some social pressure for her to be able to ride, but more importantly, our family has a routine of going to the park during the summer mornings and Abbie being able to ride sans training wheels would greatly speed up the process.
Last summer we were unsuccessful. As you may recall, learning to ride a bike involves falling – a LOT. And falling hurts, creates scars, and creates a lot of fear which is not easily forgotten. As a parent standing by, it is not pleasant to see my little daughter get all banged up. It is also frustrating, because I know how easy it is for me to do it. I also see her riding with little use of the training wheels and I know she has the potential to do it.
But like a butterfly trying to get out of its cocoon, if I try to do it for Abbie, she will not learn the important lesson, and she will not learn by growing and going through the struggle herself.
Here is the setup, our street is .15 miles long. I stood at one end, my wife Stephanie at the other. We would help Abbie get moving and she would ride to the opposing parent. I would help her turn around, and then give her a push off. Here is also where Abbie played coy. Unbeknownst to me, Stephanie was making Abbie work a lot harder. I ran down to the other end of the street to see what was taking so long. Steph was standing there, not helping. Only instructing, encouraging, and making Abbie do it herself. My first inclination was to jump in, take over, hold Abbie up. But I resisted and stood back and watched her struggle.
Einstein’s brain had a significantly larger proportion of myelin to neurons than other brains. The number of neurons were the same, but Einstein’s brain had a lot more myelin. Simply put, the more myelin, the faster the signal between neurons. Faster signals equal greater ability. It is fascinating science, pick up the book on Amazon.
So each time Abbie is trying and failing, she is actually getting better. It is counter intuitive in adults to try something we know we are going to fail at. For kids, however, it is everything about life. And good coaching is really just teaching adults how to be kids. Try and fail. Try again, fail again. The joke of finding your inner child isn’t far off. And I’m grateful to Steph for reminding me that good coaching is providing a perspective of what you see going wrong and going right, but standing back and allowing failure and continual effort.
Learn: Take up a new hobby, take a different route home today from work. Try a new food, do anything to shake up your normal routine and then look for creativity.
Act: In helping others, bite your tongue and restrain yourself from stepping in. Stand back and allow the silence and space for the other person to learn through failing.
Share: Read the Talent Code. It has changed the way Steph and I parent and we have some great results from doing so. Learn by failing. Fail forward fast!