Thursday, May 12, 2022

What's your answer?

When I finished high school I enrolled in a combined Law/Accounting degree. I persevered for 3 years before deciding it wasn't for me, however the reason I even started it is an interesting one.

In my final two years at high school I had the same teacher for Legal Studies, Accounting, and Economics.  I thoroughly enjoyed all three classes, and as is often the case the reason was my teacher. I have vivid memories of completing questions in Accounting only to find that my answer was different to the one in the book. My teacher's response to this wasn't to tell me I was wrong, but rather to work through questions with me, and more often than not he would agree with my answer over the one in the book. This finding was subsequently supported by the others in the class who would also come to my conclusion (I tended to work very quickly and so their independent work would corroborate mine). In my (no doubt inaccurate) memory this led to my answer being assumed valid.

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou

The feeling this left me with was one that "my thoughts and views are valid, even if they're different to the textbook". This is one of those moments in my life that set me on a particular course.  As my education progressed through university I found less opportunity to discover my own path, and ended up deciding that neither Law nor Accounting had space for the flexibility that I'd enjoyed in my high school studies of the same topics. The freedom to find our own answers (or to discover existing answers our own way) is something that has stuck with me throughout my life, something I attribute to memories like those from my year 11 Accounting class.

Of course when we parent we tend to take a different approach as our children go through different stages.  Without realising it we apply a situational leadership telling style, implying to our children that this is the only way to do it.  If we aren't careful, we limit our children's ability to move on and develop their own abilities and confidence.

Think about your own experiences - are you leaving your children with a sense that "this is how I've been taught to do the dishes, but there may be other ways that I might discover in future"?

Sunday, April 24, 2022

My first mistake

 I close my eyes and am there, the scene surrounding me far more completely than any modern media. The yard of my first school with the assembly lines painted on the bitumen where we played cricket at every opportunity. The frangipanis that we later learned could be used to indicate whether girls had boyfriends or not. The sandstone buildings that epitomised the area. And of course the blazing sun that we were only just beginning to be aware of the dangers of. I don’t know what age I am. I guess is 7 or 8. We’re old enough to bat, bowl, and catch. And more importantly argue. “Out” we shout in unison, the ball having landed in my hands. We converge in the middle of the wicket for a brief change of roles before the game continues. “But I caught it, I’m batting” I complain as the bowler takes the bat. The chorus of voices responding to my claim informs me that I won’t be batting.

With the debate over before it started I’m informed that “even in test cricket the bowler gets the wicket” — something that made no sense to my primary school self.

This can’t be my first mistake for I’m sure I’d made many before this event. But for some reason it’s a memory that’s stuck with me, a realisation that a view I held was wrong. I of course continue to make many mistakes, no doubt far more than I’m aware of. To this day I continue to reflect on moments in my day where I’ve changed my views on something — sometimes something small, sometimes something material. To do this well I ask myself three questions:

  1. What did I hear that changed today? What was it that changed my mind? What do I now need to re-evaluate having changed my mind?
  2. What did I consider changing my mind about but didn’t? Did I truly listen with the intent of learning rather than arguing? Was there something that wasn’t said that could have changed my view?
  3. What am I unaware of that I should be listening for? Surely there are interactions in which I am completely unaware that I position I hold is considered wrong to others. I am aware that I have a dominant voice, and that often others are silenced without me even realising it. Am I aware of when this happened today?

I love tying these back to my childhood, a time when learning was without ego and was expected. Why is it that we divide our lives into school (learning) and work (doing)? If we’ve stopped learning, how can we know that we’re doing it right?