Celebrating Life’s Greatest Teachers…John Page Burton

When many of us hear the word teacher we conjure up an image of a scholarly looking individual writing furiously at a chalkboard while a room full of students scribble equally fast. When I hear the word teacher, I instinctively begin to take a trip down memory lane where I am reunited with people, experiences and events that have collectively helped shape the person I have become. Life is an amazing educational environment that routinely provides us with the perfect teachers and the exact lessons we need to graduate and move on to the next level.

Let’s take a closer look at life’s natural learning environment…

Trial. We learn by overcoming adversity. Each time we face and break through a life challenge we develop a NEW muscle of confidence. It is important that we view our trials and challenges for what they are… some of life’s greatest teachers.

Error. Error can be a positive thing. Error fosters learning and growth. Error requires us to become better problem solvers and provides us with a better sense of what works and what doesn’t. Error is humbling and often inspires us to become more effective communicators, parents, employees and managers. Error teaches us to live and learn. When we learn to embrace error, we find that it can be one of our most inspiring teachers.

Associations. Some of our greatest life lessons arrive through unfavorable experiences. Employers, business partners, friends and relatives are some of the close associations we have an opportunity to learn from. A business partner who pilfers company funds, an employer who expects us to put in extra time without extra pay, or a friend/relative who borrows money from us and then seemingly enters the witness protection program, all serve as teachers who present us with important life lessons. The 5 people we spend the most time with tend to have the biggest influence on our values and beliefs. We must choose wisely!

Children. Parenting requires that we learn and practice patience, tolerance, understanding, unconditional love and compassion. Children are great teachers. They routinely “test” our will, resolve and logic. Parenting is an amazing classroom and the skills we are required to develop translate nicely into our personal and professional interactions.

History. Revisiting our past only has one purpose and that is to serve as a guide for making current and future decisions. Dwelling on the past is an unhealthy use of our emotional resources. Drawing from the past and using it as a reference point can save us a great deal of time, aggravation and money. The past is one of our greatest teachers provided we apply the lessons we have learned.

Ego. When it comes to teachers, the ego is our Professor Emeritus! The Ego’s primary job is to wreak emotional chaos. All of us have had the experience of knowing that something didn’t feel right and yet we proceeded anyway. Later, we “kicked ourselves” for not listening to our inner voice. The Ego thrives when we learn the hard way and prefers that we never pass the lesson. The Ego is a very dysfunctional teacher.

Relationship partners. Our relationship partners provide us with an extraordinary learning environment. We learn compromise, communication, selfless giving, surrender, negotiation skills, money management, sacrifice, unconditional love, anger management and moderation. Our relationship partners tend to trigger all of our unhealed parts and yet they can also stimulate our most vulnerable emotions. Our relationship partners are lifelong teachers.

Society. When I hear the word “society” I visualize a community made up of a diverse group of individuals. Paying attention to societal behavior helps us establish our own identity, morals, beliefs and values. For example, we determine what is acceptable or unacceptable behavior and we learn to either question authority or simply conform to what we are told is true. Society¬† offers us a variety of unique ideas and concepts but it is left entirely up to us to apply the information. At times society can be a confusing teacher!

Rather than fight life, I have found that is is much more enjoyable to embrace my natural learning environment, gather the lessons, apply what is relevant and keep moving forward.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and feedback.