Teaching About Teachers

My daughter is at the age where she’s able to articulate two things about grown-ups.

1/. We can be caught doing something different than we say.

2/. We often talk about things we don’t know very well.

This gave me an opening to pass along my principles about teachers, BS and integrity.

Step back from the teacher.

What’s your goal with learning?

My goal is to implement the best ideas from experts with specific domain experience.


Put another way => pay careful attention to the best ideas from people who have done, repeatedly, what you would like to do… …pick one idea… do it… repeat.

Sounds easy, it is not.

My mind always wants to engage in debate, to point out flaws, to distract itself from what matters => one good idea, implemented in my own life, over and over and over.

Another risk: once I become an expert in one area, I think I know about everything!

I need to change my advisers as I change domains.


I need to stay humble about my current knowledge. The example I use with my daughter is the “hotshot 12 yo athlete.” Fun at the time but the game still has 50+ years to play out!

Know your role.

The student’s role is not to engage. Take the ideas, and implement.

Gain enough experience to be considered a peer, then we can have a discussion.

In doing, you might discover that one-on-one engagement isn’t a productive use of your time! Why do you think I have a blog… 😉

Many great teachers have lives that are a mess. Remember, it is not the student’s job to sort the teacher. Our job is to implement the best ideas of the teacher.

Sometimes the best idea is to see the teacher’s strategy won’t work for where we want to take our lives.

I’ll give you an example, in sport. In my early 40s, with a young family, I took a deep look at the family lives of my peers and competitors. By this stage, I had a very good idea of what was required to excel at athletics. By looking around, I was able to see that athletic excellence was likely to take me somewhere I didn’t want to go.

A decade earlier, it was the same deal with finance. I got a look under the hood of the lives of the very best, and decided I wanted a life that was different.

Athletic excellence, nope. Financial excellence, nope. Excellence to my spouse and kids => a better fit.

Not easy, not always fun, usual better!

I’ve spotted, and hopefully avoided, a few dead ends => seeing where my actions were likely to take me.

A helpful teacher is someone with a good idea that I can implement. The opportunity to learn is everywhere – keep your eyes open!

A coach, or mentor, is something different. This individual has a system for living that we can emulate. This goes further than useful tips we can apply. A mentor is an individual with a values system we can apply to improve all aspects of our lives.

Mentors share the same risks with regard to venturing beyond their area of expertise, but you’ll find they have much better alignment between what they say and what they do.

In fact, your ability to notice a misalignment between word, and deed, is a useful tool. When you detect a misalignment, you’re probably in a student:teacher relationship rather than working with someone you want to emulate.

Take all that energy you have… the energy to correct others….

…and apply it in your own life.

Make a habit of implementing the best advice of others, and do what you say!

Your life only needs to make sense to you.

Mentors and Peers

How can I stack the deck in favor of being a good guy?

First, I try as much as possible to get positive influences to visit me.

Second, I’m willing to travel to hang out with people that are what I’d like to become. Back when I was an elite athlete, this drove my travel schedule. These days I travel less but it remains a big chunk of my year.

My family allocates 14 weeks per annum for my travel.

  • 4 weeks of that is my wife and me
  • 2 weeks is used for continuing education
  • 8 weeks is for my own uses – these days split between non-Boulder family visits and personal trips, mainly to ride.

My daughter joins me for two weeks of the above and we do another two weeks worth of in-state travel together.

Pulling it together, I have a job description that gives me 16 weeks per annum of variation from my normal routine.

Before my daughter was 2 years old, this allocation would roll between 30 and 40 weeks per annum. As I’ve simplified my life, and released my expectations for triathlon greatness, I feel more free with less travel.

In considering a trip, I ask myself three questions…

  1. Are the people that I will see infused with goodness?
  2. How do the people make me feel?
  3. If I turned out like these folks, would I be ok with it?

There are plenty of people, and companies, who pass the test. Make a note when you meet these people and keep them in your life. 

While its tempting to vacation in, say, Vegas, we are more likely to generate success by keeping the goodness in our lives. For the key relationships (bosses, mentors, clients, peers) visiting on their home ground will broaden your understanding, and keep you humble with your capacity to predict. The on-the-ground situation is nearly always different than I imagine.

The focus on “the good” is an ethical litmus test. I’ve caught myself valuing winning over kindness, an occupational hazard if you’ve spent time in a field (sport) that values relative performance. I’m also prone to errors of judgement due to wealth and beauty.

Choose Wisely.