So I received a comment in an e-mail this week:
You confirm exactly what's wrong with most people doing coaching – a lot of presumptuousness despite a surprising lack of success in their previous endeavors.
In the past, a comment like this might have sent me reeling for a week. For all my training, it's only been a very short time since I've come to embrace the notion that the only way I can fail is if I fail to act in the first place. Until I came around to this, wow, would I have identified with his statement. I would have felt exposed, and I would have crawled under a rock to hide.
That didn't happen this time. My correspondent was calling me out about a post that touched on parenting, an area about which I feel extremely competent. As I responded noting my success in that area, I started looking at my life as a catalog of successes rather than one of failures, and that little shift has made a huge difference.
I've been a lawyer for twenty years now. I can remember with excruciating detail a handful of missteps along the way. The last time I went through my old files though, I also noticed it was full of satisfied clients I'd pretty much forgotten along the way.
But it's been the same in life. I overslept and missed a bus once. I was so ashamed of what I'd done, I made up a lie about it, and dropped out of a program I loved. I stole a baseball mitt from a good friend to give it back to the person he'd stolen it from. I didn't make too many friends after that. I had a teacher who whited out her comment in my yearbook because she'd written a comment to a different David. I just didn't count. And then, I've had opportunities along the way that I just didn't jump at. I declined trips to Berlin, Alaska, Mexico, the Caribbean (on a boat no less), and Disney. I let whole little league seasons go by without ever swinging at a pitch. I declined jobs and deals and left correspondents hanging.
As I look at the life I let get past, and how I was with that, I wonder that I got anywhere at all. Or should I say anywhere meaningful. In a lot of ways, I just mindlessly followed the paths that somehow opened before me, or that followed an idle word given too much meaning.
And when I notice that's how I've been with the world, I can get how I, or even others might not see me as successful.
But my correspondent got me working on the other list, and for that I thank him. I delivered newspapers. I provided valuable service to Mrs. Beals, one of my first and favorite customers, whose grand-daughters couldn't be counted on to empty the litter box for the house full of cats they'd accumulated. I cleaned gutters, and watered plants. I provided faithful service to a number of employers, supported the bereaved, visited the sick, took care of the elderly. I saved a synagogue, ran a nursery school, painted, mowed, cleaned, shovelled snow, built and fixed houses, playgrounds, cars, motorcycles, appliances and other stuff, and helped other people do the same. I worked on boats, on farms, in dining halls, hotels, and retail establishments. I even ran for office a number of times.
I set up phone systems and computer networks, did some nice carpentry, fixed a bunch of cars, and picked up my share of hitch-hikers. I've even done some awesome wedding and special-event photography. I ran four and a half marathons. I've rowed 13.8 million meters in ten years on my rowing machine, which includes a marathon and 23 half marathon distances in this ranking season alone.
And while I did this, I conducted a whole bunch of real estate closings, helped people get divorced, settled personal and business disputes, started up businesses and non-profits, got people compensation for their injuries, and kept them out of jail. I qualified for law in a second country (fifth jurisdiction) and worked on matters of human rights, privacy, bankruptcy, usury and taxation.
And on the way, I've touched hundreds of other lives, not just as a lawyer, but as a teacher, through my assisting and coaching at Landmark Education (now Landmark Worldwide), now by providing my coaching for a fee, and just by being a thoughtful, helpful kind of guy.
And while I knew most of this, I haven't really owned it. But now I do, and the mistakes and missed opportunities on the way all seem a bit smaller, and I can take them as blessings for the lessons they have taught me and the wisdom they have brought.
And so dear reader, if you've any doubt left, I invite you to make a list for yourself. Note the successes, pull out the old thank you notes (I really treasure the ones I've received), and get yourself as the contribution that you are. And if you've missed some opportunities along the way, maybe it's time to take one or two of them back and add them to your to do list. And if you need any help along the way, reach out, That's what I am here for.