I taught my 25th class in a Mayan cave for a group of 10 incredible entrepreneurs . . . Geek Yoga at it's absolute finest. After 75-minutes of sweating while staring at stalactites, we closed our practice with three rounds of Ohm, resonating beautifully from our seated position literally within the walls of the earth.
As I bowed forward to express my gratitude, I saw a flash of all my previous teachers and felt, in seconds, that they were passing a baton to me. I felt deeply supported, as though they were all welcoming me in to their community, giving me their blessing to step into my new shoes as a teacher so I could serve and help students transform just as they had done for me.
Big goals are like that sometimes -- they are so big that even if we are outwardly taking steps, our inner belief system hasn't quite caught up. And yet, I find the longest goals to be most rewarding, particularly because they require such an internal transformation.
Everybody Starts Somewhere: Video + Article
The video below is from a recent speaking workshop called Platinum Presence (led by Cheryl Dolan) which I was fortunate to attend with highly inspiring friends like Pam Slim, Jonathan Fields, Willie Jackson, Nick Reese, Lewis Howes, Mike "Ambassador" Bruny, Charlie Gilkey, Derek Halpern and other incredible creatives. We were asked to speak extemporaneously for seven minutes about a topic we are passionate about.
The funny thing about this speech is that I delivered it the day before leaving for Mexico; all those fears were completely washed away by the time I returned home.
This speech is ruff and not rehearsed -- but I'm sharing with you anyway, because the emotion behind it is real -- and very relevant to any of you attempting something new. There's also a mini two-minute seated yoga sequence at the beginning -- I encourage you to follow along!
Yoga Journal Article Submission
Below are my same thoughts in written form -- this is from an article I recently pitched to Yoga Journal.
Within the first ten minutes of teaching my own yoga class I became overwhelmed with a visceral appreciation for just how much skill all of my past and present teachers possessed. The dance of verbalizing every movement, breath and body position while delicately balancing demonstrating, adjusting, assisting, and holding the space. For the first time in six years of practicing yoga, I finally understood that teaching was much more than a hobby; it was a doorway to a lifetime of learning.
Much like children only start truly appreciating their parents after they've flown the nest, I gained an entirely new appreciation for my teachers once I found myself at the front of the room. For so long I had been a student, lost in my own world, hearing the teacher just enough to follow the class -- certainly not "hearing" the multitude of considerations they were seamlessly weaving together.
It is from that place of deep admiration and gratitude that I make a humble request to all of the veteran teachers out there: let us newbies in. Even if you're a little nervous about our lack of experience, give us a chance to find our way.
With articles like the recent (and controversial) New York Times piece by William Broad on how yoga can "wreck the body, " it's easy for new teachers to feel like they shouldn't bother, lest they ruin their students for life.
Broad says, "Many teachers lack the deeper training necessary to recognize when students are headed toward injury." While this may true, consider also that newer teachers are just as equipped at asking their students to listen to their bodies and to stop if something is causing pain or bodily harm.
Teaching yoga is a tradition that dates back thousands of years. Without new teachers to carry on the practice, we would have far fewer yogis benefiting from the wonderful marriage of mind, body and spirit. And yet, it can be incredibly intimidating to emerge as a new teacher among tens of thousands of gifted veterans worldwide.
But every one of those teachers started somewhere. Every teacher taught their first class, even if they are now teaching their five-hundredth. While not every teacher may have had nervous butterflies, sweaty palms and a fumbled-flow during their first few attempts, many did experience those growing pains.
In my past life on the Training & Development team at Google, I discovered a very handy learning model that I frequently refer back to when attempting a big goal or learning a new skill:
- Unconscious incompetence – You don’t know what you don’t know (ignorance is bliss)
- Conscious incompetence – The dip! You suddenly become aware of how much you have to learn. You might feel dumb, incompetent, frustrated or discouraged as you realize you need more skills, time or practice in order to move forward.
- Conscious competence – You’ve started to master the new skill, but you still have to actively think about whether you are doing it right.
- Unconscious competence – You don’t even have to think about it any more – the new skill comes naturally and/or finishing the goal becomes completely do-able. This is really the fun part, where you are flowing and “in the zone.”
Whenever one is learning something new, they will almost certainly hit a "dip" -- the phase of conscious incompetence where they are fully aware of how much they don't know, fumbling awkwardly through the task at hand, feeling like all they want to do is quit and give-up. The key is to keep going -- to remember that, as cliche as it sounds, the only way out is through.
I completed my teacher training at White Lotus in Santa Barbara in 2010, under the tutelage of Ganga White and Tracey Rich. It wasn't until January 2012 that I finally mustered up the courage to start teaching my own classes in New York City.
For months prior I would psych myself out of it, particularly after taking classes from the many brilliant teachers in New York. Why would anyone ever take class from me, when there is an abundance of more experienced teachers right outside their doorstep? And why should these more experienced teachers let me in to their community when they have so much more insight and experience?
But eventually, class by class, Sun A by Sun B, I started developing my "teacher legs," feeling increasingly more confident in my ability to facilitate a great experience for my students, even if I was still new. And the teachers I encountered were gracious and helpful.
To the new teachers out there: give yourself a chance to succeed. Remember that everybody starts somewhere.
To the experienced teachers: know how much we admire and respect your knowledge and experience. If you cross paths with a newbie, let them in. Ask them how teaching is going, and maybe even if we have any questions. You have no idea how much we'll appreciate it.
I am finally emerging from The Dip and finding a new home in the "conscious competence" phase. I have a feeling I'm going to be here for a while…if not a lifetime. That's the beauty of life and big goals -- we get to practice "beginner's mind" every day, as a teacher and as a student, on and off the mat.
I'd love to hear in the comments: In what area/s do you want to give yourself permission to be a beginner?
P.S. I'll be doing a live video Q&A call hosted by The Young Entrepreneur Council at 8:30pm ET on February 22 -- would love for you to join us!