• Simon Matthews

How We Learn


I’ve just finished reading a great book, and I’m making my way through another at the moment (which will take a whole year – you’ll see why shortly). The book I’ve just finished is “Every tool’s a Hammer” by Adam Savage - yep, the Mythbusters guy. The subtitle of the book is “Life is what you make it”. It’s superficially autobiographical but at a deeper level, it’s a book about how to live.


One of the valuable lessons he discusses is the idea of “learning by doing poorly.” This approach allows for mistakes to be made and in some ways almost redefines the idea of “mistake” as simply a “step along the way to greater understanding”. It’s a valuable characteristic for anybody, particularly for leaders.


The book that will take me a whole year to read is “The Daily Stoic – 366 meditations on wisdom, perseverance and the art of living”, by Ryan Holiday. It was a recommendation from a physician colleague and I’m very grateful to him. If you don’t know a great deal about the school of philosophy called Stoicism, I’d encourage you to explore. The principles of Stoicism include accepting what’s out of your control, managing your inner life (emotions) effectively, preparing for contingencies and allowing failure to occur in our lives.


People often think of stoicism as meaning “emotionless”. But this mischaracterizes stoicism. The philosophy and its practice are really about being measured, considered and mindful in our daily lives. The world desperately needs leaders – not titular leaders, but those with the capacity to nourish themselves and cultivate in others, their own strengths, visions and values. Those who are trained in the skills of coaching - to be compassionate, empathetic, joyful, respectful, and to listen deeply, are those with the capacity to lead and inspire.


The 35th US President John F Kennedy was scheduled to speak in Dallas, Texas on 22 November 1963. He never delivered the speech, but it had been prepared. He was due to say this:


Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”.


Wellcoaches will continue to be a place where skills, not only of coaching, but true leadership, can be cultivated.

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