I knew him for about five minutes of my life. But the effects of what he said and did continue today. So it is with strangers with the courage to offer help.
About 36 years ago, I was at Memorial High School to complete my track workout. Self-coached by this time-a long story about not cutting my hair to please the coach-I was trying to make the most of the talent God gave me to run. I loved track workouts, particularly interval 220s (this was before metric distances, of course), and I was having a great workout. The times were good and I felt strong.
"You're pretty fast. You could be faster," the man said as he jogged up alongside me during my interval between runs. "Mind if I run alongside you on your next 220 and point out something that I noticed?"
I loved running the 880. And a tip from an "old" man would be great if it helped me prepare, though I admit to some consternation that an "old" man was planning on running with me. But, he joined me on one 220 run and shared with me how my stride was a tad too short, thus using too much energy and keeping me from fully utilizing my strength and speed. "There, see how different that feels? And notice how you are taking fewer strides for the same effect?"
"Wow," I said, or something equally profound. And "thank you." I don't recall ever seeing him at the track again. But, his lesson taught me much that day, influenced how I coached kids in community track clubs for seven years, and provides me a reference point as a father , husband and manager today. I think of that man many times. He taught me:
· To offer help to someone who is trying. Not everyone will ask for help, for reasons ranging from embarrassment to hubris. Another big reason is not knowing who has the needed information and is willing to share it. I would never have thought about picking that man from the several at the track to ask for advice about my stride. Sometimes teachers need to make themselves present.
· To demonstrate lessons instead of just narrating them. Part of the demonstration requires give and take, too. As the man showed me what he noticed, he also asked if I noticed the difference. Coaches of all types should find out of the lessons are creating a difference.
· To understand why the other person wants to succeed, and teach them from that perspective. We all have different reasons to want to gain knowledge and to achieve; lessons are best retained when they come to us through the channel of our desires and intentions.
Listen to Life is a free newsletter about learning and getting more from life by paying attention to our own stories and the stories of others, based on the presentations, writings, photography and workshops by Dion McInnis (www.dionmcinnis.com). Copyright 2009 Dion McInnis. All rights reserved.