Thursday, October 25, 2007

What i Know

I spent the next 15 years running schools within hospitals. Working with children and families, I was able to “cut the roof off the houses” and peek into the lives of families struggling to grow and prosper. I saw how our factory model of education left too many children on the outs looking in or trying to avoid and escape. And, I saw the pain and frustration of parents and families with insufficient resources to counter the negative and discouraging influences. We developed some creative programs that were designed to tap into each child’s natural mode of expression. Interestingly, for a few years, with my own children, I was unable to walk through the halls of their schools without becoming upset and angry. It seemed as if the only displays were artwork, something not every child found to be inclined to use for expression.

So we actually tested children to see if art, music, drama, movement, or writing were more natural means of expressing themselves. Relationships are dysfucntional and can do something to one's spirit. Surprise, surprise, children were quite variable, and this didn’t always relate to pre-supposed skill levels. As a life coach, you need to understand this basic premise as well- expression is like finding the river you can canoe on – every river is different and each person may have a different pace with which they identify and feel comfortable.

Life's struggles

I have been a life coach and psychotherapist for 30 years. I began my career preparation working on the streets and playgrounds of tough inner city Detroit neighborhoods. Serving over 2500 children, adolescents, and adults per week, I was initiated into the struggles to survive and thrive of countless people from diverse cultures. While carrying babies in my arms, directing games, and trying to prevent gang violence, I learned to appreciate the value of strong life skills. In those days the daily motto was: “communicate, communicate, communicate” because if we stop talking, something bad will inevitably happen next. This motto, involving the art and later the science of communication, has stood the test of time. Communication skills may “weigh” only as much as a feather but they can yield an infinite fortune in golden opportunities in life. Being prepared to coach others means also having the experience of being coached over and over again. In my youth, I endeavored in a number of sports, experiencing coaching on both the receiving and providing ends. This is a key ingredient in coaching i.e. not needing to get credit for solving others problems or creating their solutions but helping them realize and access their own strength, power, and courage. Sometimes we do that though businesses, we find our strength in that, others through life struggles. But me? I go through my business, struggling, unsure, full of love, full of happiness like it's my love life. Business and its debt and advice.

Finally, I learned from another mentor, the power of learning how to join people to influence them as opposed to the power of being a hardened adversary. My mentor, Jo Erickson, told this story to illustrate the power of joining. He was brought up on a farm, and one day watched, much to his delight, his father trying to lead a stubborn and frightened heifer into the barn. When he laughed out loud, his father became incensed, and challenged him, then 15 years old, to do a better job. Jo circled the poor heifer a couple of times, and then almost in one motion, he pulled the heifers tail, and it scurried into the barn. Amazingly when he pulled the calf in the direction of his stubborn opposition, the animal directed itself into the barn! I enjoyed those years immensely because of the quality of the people I encountered and the wonderful supervision that I received. It was there that I began to see how the influences of people’s environment, social support or lack of it, and personal resources limited or potentiated their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. But, I also learned that these external factors were insufficient to protect everyone from devastating illnesses, life crises, and rough passages through normal milestones.