For me, June began with two intense IAC meetings and two equally intense learning experiences. This has me thinking more deeply about coaches, passion and lifelong learning.
I spent four days viewing TED Global with five incredible women. As you probably know, TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. Each presenter has eighteen minutes to discuss an amazing idea, demonstrate innovative technology or display or perform an artistic experience. This was the second of a two-event subscription. One of my favorites from the fall event was Embrace the Shake. This time, I was inspired by this woman’s decision to drive, and astounded by what we can learn by recording sounds in nature that we would not otherwise notice. As I watched talk after talk, I could not help but notice the passion each speaker felt. Even if the topic did not interest me, the passion enticed me to listen.
Between sessions, we laughed, we debated, we dissected, we shared meals, we enjoyed each other’s company. We created our own community of intellectually curious women learning together. We supported each other and we coached each other. Over the four days, we learned about many topics, but, perhaps more importantly, we learned about each other and about ourselves.
Music, Music, Music
Immediately after TED, I spent two days on the Hudson River immersed in music at the Clearwater Great Hudson River Revival, a music and environmental festival. Of the many wonderful performances, two left me thinking about how masters practice their craft – David Amram and Josh White, Jr. Amram, now 84, has composed more than 100 orchestral and chamber music works, written scores for Broadway theater and film and is considered a pioneer of jazz French horn. He also plays piano, numerous flutes and whistles, percussion, and dozens of folkloric instruments from 25 countries, and is an improvisational lyricist as well. White, 63, is the son of a legendary folksinger, and was an acclaimed actor before moving into composing and singing.
I wondered how they remain so young and vibrant. In both sets, it was easy to see and hear the dedication of the artist. Their passion for music, for performing, for delivering a message was clear. There was a playfulness in both performances. There was evidence of experimentation. At one point, Amram was revising a composition as he played. There was also collaboration. Both performers called fellow musicians up to join them on stage in spontaneous collaboration. Both acknowledged the influence of others on their own work.
Although none of us may have been coaching as long as Amram and White have been playing, many of us are into, or beyond, our second decade in this profession. So, I wonder, for myself and for all of us: what sustains us? Do you still feel the dedication that you felt earlier in your career? Do you feel that flutter of passion for your work?
I came away from those two learning experiences with what feel to me like important factors in keeping that passion in my coaching:
1. Learning in Community
Coming together with others to share ideas always enriches my own thinking. Communities of Practice are spontaneous groups that arise in organizations to promote individuals learning together. We try to create opportunities to come together within the IAC through chapters and through member chats. How can each of us create these communities for ourselves? Can you form a TED group? A Mastermind? A coaching triad? Join online discussions?
There are so many new things to try, so many techniques to tweak or tinker with. In a conference presentation, past president Bob Tschannen-Moran reminded us that constant experimentation and repeated approximations bring us closer to the ideal. Every success is the result of many, many attempts that we too easily label as failures. What can you try?
Sometimes, we’re very protective of our ideas, and often that works against us. I’ve been reminded that there really is nothing new under the sun. If that’s true, why not share? If you follow the history of an idea, you often can see how that idea has been improved by the contributions of many people. One of the beauties of folk music is that artists come together to collaborate on songs and that each singer builds on and improves on a common base. Musicians coming together to jam create marvelous new music. How can we do that as coaches? Who are you jamming with? How are you sharing ideas and building incredible new things?
It was clear that both the TED presenters and the Clearwater musicians saw their work as play. They all were enjoying themselves and that joy was contagious. Yes, of course, we do serious work and we help create serious and important change in the world. And we can have a really good time doing it! How often do you laugh with your clients? I laugh at myself, too.
What sustains you and propels you forward?
Susan R. Meyer, MMC is President of Susan R. Meyer, Coaching and Consulting and of Life-Work Coach. She provides personal and executive coaching and facilitates seminars on topics including life planning, emotional intelligence, leadership development, communication, and coaching skills for managers. www.susanrmeyer.com.
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1 thought on “From the President”
I am inspired by your post, Susan! I have often had similar feelings as I have watched the performance of a master – and often musicians as in the experience that you relate in this piece. I particularly appreciate how you have teased apart some of the factors that characterize the achievement and maintenance of mastery. These are critical practices for coaching and I really appreciate the efforts of all those in the IAC who contribute to these practices. Mastery is a social phenomenon.
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