Teaching new ideas that people sometimes resist? Try this!

“So guys,” he said, from the front of the large room. “Try this, and you can get to the root of your issue.”

I was on a table right down at the back, so he couldn’t see me rolling my eyes. Jaw set in fury, I looked down at my paper.

It was the Sunday before last, I was at a business retreat, and I was very, very angry.

This year, I’m in a group program, run by Jonathan “Good Life Project” Fields. I’ve been following him for years, and he’s always steered me right. Under his guidance, my business went from doing okaaaaayyy to suddenly making a living doing the thing I’m best at and most enjoy. Working with him again seemed like a good idea.

On this afternoon, 70 other people and I were in a session led by productivity coach, Charlie Gilkey. I’ve hung out with Charlie before – just that morning, he’d been telling me about his recent trip to Hawaii. We get on well and I really like him. I know a lot of people who’ve been coached by him to wild success. He’s a charismatic, clear and powerful speaker.

But, right now, I was cross with him. Furious, actually. Seething.

Or – to be clearer, I wasn’t so much angry with him, as with what he was asking me to do:

We were working on a way to be more organised – putting our time into allocated blocks, and picking one project to focus on. In theory, this seemed excellent, and like something I really need.

But in practise? It was killing me.

I couldn’t figure out how it worked within the reality of my life. I couldn’t figure out how to massage my skippety-changing schedule into his ordered suggestions.

Part of me was being sensible. You’ve paid to be here, it said. You may as well do something. But the rest of me was sullenly dragging myself through the process.

“Ok guys,” Charlie said into the mic. “Now I want you to try this yourselves. Pick three to five problems and apply the five ‘Whys” 

He was talking about a problem solving technique where, you ask what the problem is, then ask why that is. Then ask why that is. And keep doing this, five times, until you’ve drilled down to the root cause of the problem.

I narrowed my eyes and stuck out my bottom lip. I felt the rage like a plank in my chest. I picked up my pen and started writing.

Challenges in my Business:

1. I spend all my time keeping my head above water, so don’t have any time to do business development.
Why?
Because I spend time I should be working, dicking around on Facebook.
Why?
Because I get easily distracted or take hours to get going every day
Why?
Because… I dunno. Because my brain is broken.
Why?
Because it just is.
Why?
Shut up.

This wasn’t very constructive. I tried another:

2. Haven’t booked in the workshop I’ve been wanting to run for months.
Why?
Because I never have the time
Why?
Because I’m bad at time management
Why?
Because my brain is imperfect and broken and not cut out for this stupid system.
Why?
Because I got the wrong chemicals at birth
Why?
Because it just is.

Under my breath, I muttered. “For f–k’s sake.”

That wasn’t 3-5, but I was done.

I know what I need to do to solve the problems in my business, I thought. I just don’t ever get around to doing them.

So what’s the solution to that?

Well, I’ve been trying a lot of things. I stay off Facebook and email before 10am. I don’t have a smartphone (I have an ipod touch, and don’t have Facebook or email apps on that). And yet…

When I’d tried a scheduling system – like the one Charlie was suggesting – it didn’t work. It was good in theory, but in practise, it would suddenly get to 2pm and I’d done nothing, and the whole schedule was out the window.

This wasn’t going to work for me. It was stupid. And I was angry.

“Ok everyone, let’s come back. Any questions?”

I shot my hand up. I tried not to let the fury seep into my voice. Someone passed me the roving microphone, and I stood up and spoke.

“All of my ‘whys lead to the same thing – bad time management. I’ve been throwing everything at it recently, and some of it helps. But I’ve tried a scheduling system like this before, and it doesn’t work for me. It sounds great in theory, but I’d get to lunchtime and have done nothing, and the whole thing would be thrown off.”

What I thought in my head – but didn’t add out loud – was, This system is dumb. It probably works for you and your perfect clients, but not for me.

Charlie smiled. “What you need to understand is that no plan survives first contact.”

Ooh. I wrote that down, then drew a big box around it. He continued,

“Almost anything new is hard to get to grips with. I like to test things, but every time I try something new, I hate it for the first two or three weeks. If I still hate it on week 12 – that’s a problem. Then it’s not working for me. But hating it the first few times is normal.”

Oh! I know how that feels – this is like running for me! The first ten minutes, I basically want to kill myself, but then I love it!

I made more notes.

“And also,” Charlie went on. “Sometimes, any plan can fall apart. When I got back from Hawaii two weeks ago? The next ten days were a total write-off. I didn’t stick to anything I’d planned, almost no work got done.”

And – with that small story – something inside my chest shifted.

It felt like a release of pressure I hadn’t even known was there – like when you don’t realise you’ve been shrugging your shoulders. My whole body relaxed.

And with it, a new set of thoughts:

Marsh, you could just try this. It’s a quiet time for you workwise right now, so you could totally test this out. This might actually be exactly what you were looking for.

Suddenly, I wanted to cry.

And, as I did, I realised what had really been going on when I was so angry. I hadn’t been fully facing what I was actually thinking, which was this:

“Well, Charlie, it’s ok for you and Jonathan and your other perfect entrepreneur friends with your perfect brains that can use any system and never f–k up.

“It’s ok for you, because you don’t have wasted days. You don’t get distracted by Facebook or magazines or snacks. You all wake up at 5am, meditate an hour, exercise for another, drink a green juice and read three chapters of a novel before my alarm has even gone off. You all stick perfectly to every plan you’ve ever made.

Because you’re not broken like I am.

I’m broken, and unfixable, and these plans will never work for me.”

With Charlie’s one, short, vulnerable story, all of that disappeared.

That vulnerable story showed me that he isn’t perfect either. And if he isn’t perfect – if he also messes up sometimes – maybe it’s ok that I do too.

Maybe it doesn’t mean that I’m broken and incapable of fixing this problem.

And so I stopped feeling broken, and opened myself to the possibilty of trying this out.

This is the power of telling vulnerable stories.

 

Vulnerable stories don’t have to mean putting your intimates in the window. They can just be a short reference to one time you messed up.

When we think the aim is perfection, messing up is not an option.
And if messing up isn’t an option, we’re terrified to even try.

When we’re shown that it’s ok to make mistakes, we’re MUCH more open to new ideas.

 

So, if you want the people you’re teaching to be open to what you’re teaching them, you know what to do:

TELL VULNERABLE STORIES!

Teaching? Want people to be open to new ideas?
Tell them vulnerable stories!
(
TWEET THIS HERE)

Have you ever had this experience – of getting angry when you’re learning a new concept? How did you deal with it? Or has someone’s vulnerable story helped you be braver?
Let me know in the comments below!

If you’d like some help telling more stories in your work – because you want people to be willing to try out what you’re teaching, AND because good storytelling helps with connection, memory retention and information processing – then I would LOVE to help you with that. Click HERE to find out more.

Thanks so much for reading! If you know someone who has trouble teaching new concepts – or, who also gets angry when learning about them – you can share this story with them using one of the round buttons below.

You rule!

xx (Yes Yes) Marsha

PS want to know my best-ever client secret – and get even more advice, tips, plus stories that I won’t put on the internet? Come and join the Yes Yes Family – it’s free! Just pop your details in below:


12 Comments

  • Autumn

    Reply Reply February 22, 2017

    LOVED this story! Marsha you always know how to make me laugh out loud.
    Thank you for sharing your vulnerable stories with me.
    I needed this today to make me realize I’m not alone in my barely-keeping-my-head-above-water kind of reality.
    Cheers

  • Catarina Andrade

    Reply Reply February 22, 2017

    Great reminder Marsha, and you made me laugh, per usual 🙂 Since I support women with conscious parenting (hello minefield) and the inner work (like meditating to help us not lose our sh*t with our kiddos… as if anyone “has time” for that) I share a LOT of my realness. Don’t want to fuel the societal pressure for mamas to be perfect or feed that bogus paradigm so I probably overshare ha! I wish more entrepreneurs did what you suggest so we could all feel ok being humans x

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Reply Reply February 22, 2017

      Oh i LOVE that you’re doing this work!! With parenting, it’s so easy to assume that no one else loses it, shouts, swears, and feel like an absolute heel when we do.
      Thank you! And let’s keep telling real stories!

  • Anne Gage

    Reply Reply February 22, 2017

    Thanks for your honesty and sharing your experiences, Marsha. A timely reminder for me that we never really know what’s going on for anyone else. Everyone has struggles. Not everyone shares them.

    “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” ~ Steve Furtick.

  • Kate

    Reply Reply February 23, 2017

    Marsha! Omg I can totally relate to this. Thanks for sharing. Made me laugh but also I learned something to try myself. I’ve been struggling for the last two months to put in place a morning routine. …still waiting. Good to know I’m not alone. I’m going to try this technique today. : )

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Reply Reply February 23, 2017

      You’re not alone!

      Also, when I changed my morning routine, I timed out my dream one. I realised, it would take me 3.5 hours! So I reassessed what my dream morning routine is 🙂

      x

  • Ellen

    Reply Reply February 23, 2017

    Great lessons for all of us.. perfection and being vulnerable. Powerful, as always, Marsha.

    PS – where you in Austin? I met a friend at his event a couple of weeks ago. If so, hope you had a good time in ATX… or mostly had a good time. 😉

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Ah! We were at a hotel somewhere, and of course I now can’t remember its name!

      Glad you found it helpful, thank you for telling me!

  • Joy

    Reply Reply March 24, 2017

    Nice to know I’m not the only one who angrily insisted to herself and those at her table during that same course that time blocking does NOT work for a person like me. Frankly, I don’t want to be boxed in. You can’t schedule creativity. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    But I’m trying it now and it’s sort of slowly and with many lurches and hiccups helping me be more productive. Sort of. 🙂

    • Marsha (Yes Yes Marsha)

      Ahhhh, this makes me so happy that it’s working for you!
      My compromise, is to have ONE BLOCK for ‘Future work” and make it non-negotiable. I’ll let you know how it goes!

      Glad you found something to relate to 🙂

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