A Reminder to Listen, Learn, Grow

 In Blog

There was a time when I thought if I acknowledged a learning, it would be a red flag that there might be other things I didn’t know. It felt like a failure to admit when I’d experienced a moment of personal or professional growth. The 8-year-old in me wanted to say, “I knew that,” even when I didn’t.

When I started Beetle Press in 1998, I was a writer, editor and graphic designer, and I had to admit there were things I didn’t know about running a business. But I didn’t admit this easily, and as a result, I didn’t grow or develop my business skills—and my business—as quickly as I could have.

It’s critical that we continually engage in educational exercises—whether that’s reading about what’s new in your industry, taking a class, signing up for a coaching session or simply listening to someone speak with intention on an unfamiliar topic. There is no shame in educating yourself on a new level.

Lately, I’ve committed myself to learning more about politics and current events because we are at a time in American history where we all need to pay attention and be present.

In the past few years, I have engaged in intense learning around my work. I signed up—and greatly benefited from—business coaching with Val Nelson. I entered into a collaboration called The Creative with Ruth Griggs, a marketing strategist, and Maureen Scanlon, a designer. Working with them has been like enrolling in an MBA program in terms of what I have gleaned.

I also learn from clients, like Linda Edwards of Glenmeadow, a life plan community in Longmeadow, high on the list of people who teach me without knowing it. Linda is Glenmeadow’s marketing director. She brings a passion to her work as well as a standard for top quality, and I take a lot of pleasure in watching her, and listening.

I am trying to teach my grandson that it’s exciting to grow and develop, that it’s a sign of intelligence to say, “Oh, teach me more about that.” He has the mindset I once had that if you admit to not knowing, you are not bright.

“I know that,” he says often.

“And if you listen, you will know more,” I tell him.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t always need a reminder that I could keep quiet and acquire a new piece of information. Sometimes I have to learn the hard way.

Like last fall, when I pulled my boat out of the water at Sportsman’s Marina and, as I do every year, spent hours cleaning the filthy bottom.

About two hours in to my work, two men happened along and began to tell me about a product called Slimy Grimy. I insisted I’d used it before and that it didn’t work. I even had a brand new container of the stuff in my car. They praised the virtues of Slimy Grimy. I insisted it didn’t work. They gave up on me.

But 30 minutes or so later, another guy came along with the same message, “Oh, if you used Slimy Grimy, you’d be done in 15 minutes. You just wipe the side of the boat with your sponge, and that black stuff comes off, white as the day you bought the boat.”

I argued. Told him I’d used Slimy Grimy before. He did not let it go as easily as the first two want-to-be mentors. He asked me to get the product out of my car, and I did—because it was clear he was not going to go away. He asked me to mix a batch up, and he told me the trick I didn’t know, because it’s not on the directions: You need hot water, which I fetched in the marina bathroom.

I mixed a batch, and, satisfied he’d changed my life for the good, the guy left to pull his own boat out of the water on his trailer.

My first pass with the sponge, soaked with hot Slimy Grimy produced a shiny white stripe on a boat I had been scrubbing for a half day. I couldn’t believe it. The whole boat was done, and the bottom gleamed like new, in the 15 or 20 minutes it took for my persistent mentor to pull his boat out.

I thanked him profusely.

I learned something important! So, remember to listen, even when you think you know better!

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