The Cornered Cat

A few days ago, Rory Miller posted some thoughts on power. It’ll be fascinating to see where he goes with it; the seeds so far look very promising and you should probably go read his post for yourself.

Because, like my friend Tamara, I hate using good material only at away games, I decided to share with you something I said in Rory’s comments section:

Looking back through my notes from a class I took 7 years ago and (thought I) had long since forgotten, I’d jotted down a verbatim quote from one of the other students in the class. It must have resonated with me at the time because it made it into my notes.

But I don’t remember it.

I have no conscious memory of that segment of the class. No idea who said it, even — just the little squiggle next to the words, that indicated it was a fellow student and not the instructor.

That student had power. He or she changed my life. And I know this, because I’ve been using that idea, in those exact words, for the past two or three years at least, as I’ve taught others.

Lots of weird permutations there. I wonder how much of who I am today, I owe to people I don’t even remember. Every idea I’ve ever had came from somewhere — where?

We have the power to change the world. And most of us don’t even notice when we have.

Thinking about this today in the context of teaching others, because I’ll have many opportunties this year to teach other teachers. There’s the Cornered Cat Instructor Development Class coming up in June here in the Pacific Northwest, which should be a lot of fun and a bit of a challenge for all involved. Before that, I’ll be down in Texas for the AG&AG Conference where I’ll have a chance to work with many of the group leaders and chapter facilitators for that organization. This is in addition to the usual round of working with students (many of whom are also instructors) and with my own assistants and apprentices.

Massad Ayoob speaks of teaching as having an ‘oil stain’ effect — when you plink a singleĀ  drop of oil into a puddle of water, that oil will spread around and change the nature of everything the water touches. That’s power.

To me, one of the most important components of instructor development is helping new teachers understand their own tremendous power and embrace the responsibility that goes with it. Most of us really aren’t 100% comfortable with having power, with having the ability to change the world for good or bad. So we retreat into denial and reject the responsibility we should be embracing.

“We” means… me. I do that. It’s more comfortable to think “no one listens to me anyway” than it is to measure thoughts, weigh words, think about the potential effects before I throw something out into the world.

What about you? What parts of your own power scare you — and why?

2 Responses to Power

  1. Jennifer says:

    But what was the quote that you wrote down?

    Interesting thought about the power you have to shape people in ways that you may or may not ever know.

  2. larryarnold says:

    Scariest thing my father ever told me was that I didn’t have a choice as to whether I would set an example or not. I would. All I could do is choose to make it a good example or let it be a bad one.

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