In early elementary school, I had a few major issues that made me a bit of a challenge for a traditional school. I wasn’t bad; in fact, I was pretty good. But I had a way of talking out of turn, often about whatever we were learning.

The teacher would say something interesting; I would say, “That’s cool!”

Then she would send me to the principal’s office.

My principal was nice enough, given the circumstances. He would ask me questions about what had happened. I would tell him. Then he would paddle me.

It wasn’t extremely hard, but it wasn’t fun, either. And after a few dozen times in the principal’s office, he stopped doing it.

From then on, whenever I had a problem, the principal told me to go to the counselor’s office, sparing him a loss of time in his day and giving me someone I could talk to who understood how dedicated I was to learning.

Unfortunately, that didn’t spare me 100% of the pain I went through during that time. I repeated first grade twice and was paddled through both years and on into second grade, too. But by my 6thgrade year, through perseverance and continuous dedication to relating to those around me, I transformed from a student that failed everything into a student with straight A’s.

Since then, I have always kept in mind the power of looking beyond the situation to truly understand people. Once the school decided to truly understand me, they stopped paddling me and started teaching me. And that made all the difference in how I learned and what I thought of the school and the world in general.

While working with a client or employee, I always work to understand them as deeply as possible to make sure I know where they’re coming from. Helping someone achieve their goals requires teaching them. You can’t teach someone if you can’t communicate with them. And you can’t communicate with them if you don’t know them.

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