Back to School

As I write this I’m aboard an airplane on my way to do something I haven’t done in 31 years. There are probably some things that I’ve been away from longer but they are few and far between. As I think about it, I haven’t played a league game of hockey in over 40 years. I haven’t ridden a tricycle. I haven’t played the trombone (in any serious way). I haven’t spoken to my half-sister Sheila.

I’ve thought about that for the better part of half an hour and that is all I can come up with. Three relatively insignificant things and one that is really important that I find a way to do again.

That’s it. The only things that have been out of my life longer than going to school. So here I am, flying off to the Hudson Institute in Santa Barbara to pursue a certification in leadership and transition coaching.

It’s a bit daunting and very exciting.

The daunting part is the commitment. I’m committed to this for 10 months. During those 10 months I will have four trips to the school, 15-20 hours additional work per week, numerous teleconferences with advisors, two personal coaches to work with, a base of clients to build, recorded and evaluated coaching sessions, professional hours to accumulate and at the end oral and written exams to pass. I worry about the impact to my personal life and relationships. There will be a solid need for discipline, which if I’m honest with myself, isn’t my strong suit.

If learning is the key to growth then this tree is really smart!
If learning is the key to growth then this tree is really smart!

The excitement part of this adventure outweighs all of that. I’m excited by what I will learn, by relationships that I will form. I’m excited about what new perspectives I will gain. I’m excited by the opportunities this may open for me in the future. But the thing that provides the greatest excitement is that this truly is an opportunity to grow!!!

When I think back to my previous educational experiences that is what it was most about. Sure there was knowledge imparted during our formal schooling. I think the most important of that knowledge was imparted in elementary school when we learned our “three R’s”. After all it is pretty hard to advance ourselves without the ability to read, write and do arithmetic. The rest of it is about learning to think and practicing skills. Certainly there was always new knowledge imparted at each stage in our education, but I’ve always felt that the most important thing to do with that knowledge was to build upon our ability to solve more complex problems and take on bigger challenges. We learn to think independently and synthesize new thought.

So I want to enter into this “back to school” opportunity with those things in mind. What new knowledge will be made available to me? How will that knowledge combine into my current base and allow me to grow new capabilities? What skills will I become more adept at? What more will I be able to contribute to the communities I am a part of? Will it allow me to create new approaches to my work and my life? How will it change my ability to express myself? What new experiences will I have to draw upon in the future?

Isn’t this the essence of education? Of learning?

Class is in session.   Nice classroom!
Class is in session. Nice classroom!

I realize that learning has been important to me along the way, but perhaps in more of an “on the job” sort of way. It has served me well, but it has only been since joining my current organization where, even in the interviewing process, lifelong learning was set as a priority. It rekindled my quest for formal knowledge, reading, and learning new skills. For growth.

How do we, as leaders, help our teams embrace learning? Do we help them to embrace lifelong learning programs? Do we find ways to make formal training available? Do we encourage them to learn continuously by identifying relevant books to them? By providing assignments that require new knowledge? By passing on interesting articles and websites?

How do we as leaders foster growth in our teams? What do we do each day to encourage learning? What resources do we identify and make available? For myself, I think I need to be much more aware of this as a part of my day to day leadership.

What about you? Where does learning sit in your priorities? How do you introduce learning to your teams? Do you display a love of learning?

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Ian Munro @

Ian Munro is a leadership and vitality coach with a primary passion for working with senior professionals who wish to improve their connection to and vitality in their career, or who wish to make a transition to a meaningful and rewarding retirement. His methods are focused on helping clients understand why they present as they do in day-to-day life, discover their authentic self and give themselves permission to build a meaningful and rewarding future, both professional and personal. Ian’s love for this work has developed naturally as he built his career as an executive and leader in the IT services industry, serving in many roles and facets of this industry over 25 years. As he reached the pinnacle of his career he began to search more deeply for meaning and alternate rewards from his own career and to begin to plan for his own “first retirement”.

10 thoughts on “Back to School

  1. Congratulations on your choice to return to school!

    You failed to answer the one burning question we all have though, what’s your lunchbox look like? Did you choice a movie themed box, cartoon character themed or the super hero themed box? Careful with your thermos, they break so easy and that means no soup or milk that day.

    School is a great place to learn. Unfortunately for most, some of the first lessons of school were: hierarchy is alive and well and you will know exactly where you fit soon enough. When in doubt chose group think over individual thought. Memorize versus learn, you’ll do better on the tests.

    Going back to school as an adult is a great opportunity to break some of those hard wired institutional norms. As an adult we can avoid memorization techniques and elevate our learning such that we seek first to understand then be understood. We can explore the outer edges of our ideas, we can engage in dialogue, we can achieve a certain intellectual alchemy because we know every student has a contribution to make to my learning. But lastly, we still go back to school with a certain hierarchical framework, because now we go back to school PUTTING others first, versus experiencing ourselves put last as it was the first time.

    Enjoy this great educational experience

    1. Thanks Andrew. Our group discussed your comments today after our session. We wholeheartedly agreed with the need for a new meme in education. But the phrase that resonated most was that of “intellectual alchemy”. I have never before contemplated this concept but can tell you without hesitation that it is real when a group commits to leave the ego and simply be present in service of others and their own “true north”.

  2. Ian

    I admire you for doing this. When we are young doing things like this is much easier. As we age we generally lose our mental flexibility. Breaking the mold is a good thing, if only we all had the courage to do it.

  3. I have long-ago recognised that learning and growing is one of my needs and I ache when I am not doing it. When I am learning it is SO uplifting that miraculously I have much more energy and increased efficiency that somehow the extra hours required appear from no-where. Obviously other things are dropped without even realising it as I no longer engage in trivial meaningless events and pastimes.

    I LOVE how always, whenever you learn something new, you impart that gift of knowledge you have gained on to other people.
    Good luck with your course.

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