Our brain keeps on churning thoughts and sometimes a particular thought keeps gnawing you. At such times, I have learned to pay attention to it. The latest ‘worm’ that has been haunting me is the phrase, “We teach best what we most need to learn.” Since it’s been coming up for me, I guess it’s a good topic for today’s blog. But what does it mean? What are you a stickler about? My interpretation is that the things that we are sticklers about are things that we ourselves need to learn. It is also possible that we are sticklers about things that we have already learned and seen great value from the learning. Here’s an example of my own. When I cook, I expect people to be sitting and waiting at the table, ready to eat, while it is still hot and fresh. There's something totally annoying about a stickler who insists on accuracy, but can't quite stay accurate themselves. It seems that some people close to me, both personally and professionally, have been quite frustrated with me. Ironically, the things they’re upset with me about have to do with the exact things I coach – appreciation, authenticity, positive communication, keeping things in perspective, and more. Although my ego wants to (and has been) defending myself, making excuses, and trying to justify my actions – it’s clear to me that their feedback is accurate. I actually struggle in many ways, especially when I get scared or stressed, to practice what I preach. As I’ve been making my way through my feelings of remorse, embarrassment, and confusion – I’ve been thinking a lot about “We teach best what we most need to learn.” It’s ironic that we sometimes don’t recognize this in the moment (or at all) and also sad that we don’t give ourselves permission to listen to our own good advice. Too often, we hold ourselves to some ridiculous standard of “perfection” (which no one ever attains) or we’re too self-conscious to admit we struggle with some of the very same things we advise others to do. I had to learn this Why is this something I focus on? Because I had to learn it myself. I have a tendency to be a procrastinator, waiting until the last minute to meet my promises. I used to think it was just fine to be five minutes late to a meeting—everyone else was, after all. And then I met my coach from hell, I’ll call her Manisha. (’cause that’s her name). Manisha was teaching me and my colleagues to build productive relationships with other people in order to be a good team player. A stickler is more respected if their ideology is seen to have positive effects on their community or work place. If you can be the one who contributes quality, your meticulous nature will be more popular than if you are seen to be mainly into critiquing others at the expense of doing actual work. Manisha had a no budge approach to the start time of our sessions. Woe to you if you came into the training session even 30 seconds late. Her point, which I later came to appreciate, was that in being late to a meeting you are failing to meet a promise that you have made to others. In addition, you are wasting valuable minutes of time for everyone involved. Multiply this by 10 meetings a week (a modest number in many organizations) and you can see how much time is wasted by a seemingly unimportant action. Quite simply you are robbing others of valuable minutes of their lives by being late. Manisha was a tough coach but she gave me many gifts, one of them being time conscious. So now, I am a Timezilla with my clients. It’s not about the time so much as it is about being judicious about managing your promises to others. So what I teach I needed to learn (and still do upon occasion). Hold yourself to the highest standards. Reserve the most critical eye for your own contributions, and always make sure your house is in order before you go making proposals for better quality. Keeping yourself accountable will help you avoid becoming just another unwelcome judge of collective activity, or a naysayer. Focus your obsession for perfection on your own life and let the results speak for themselves. Be compassionate. Always phrase your criticism of others in neutral, subtle conversational context. Be friendly, outgoing, and into other peoples' ideas, with the occasional "stickler" comment thrown in. Most often, you can be seen as supportive even if your actual comments are critical. It's all in the way you deliver a message or appraisal to a person or a group. If you feel you need help with this, talk to others who are generally known as "supportive" and learn from them. Remembering that life is filled with irony and that it’s okay for us to make mistakes, pretend to know stuff we don’t, and act like we have certain things figured out when really we struggle with them, can be humbling at first. However, when we embrace the idea that we always teach best what we most need to learn, we can create a deep sense of freedom in our lives that actually gives us the space and the power to be ourselves and impact others in the positive way we desire. What do you teach others? So what things do you teach others? Are you nuts about getting a project finished once you’ve started it? Are you always counseling others to be patient? Are you critical of people who disregard the feelings of others? Do people who are negative drive you up a wall? These are all examples of ‘things you are teaching.’ Take a look at the lessons you ‘teach’ others. And then take a look at yourself. Is the lesson something you have already mastered and strongly value? Or is the lesson something you have yet to learn? Isn’t self-exploration grand?