I thought I knew all there was to know about making my homemade apple pies, until I thought someone else could just step in and help. Then I realized all of the little things I unconsciously pay attention to or do that make the pies turn out the way they do. At first I thought the pies turned out well because the recipe was so simple (in my mind). It wasn’t until my enlisted friend started making the fillings and they weren’t turning out right that I realized I was missing something. I thought I was an expert at these pies when in actuality until I tried to teach making one, I didn’t actually understand everything I was doing that made the pies what they were. This incident reminded me that failure really is the best teacher.
The same goes in climbing. As much as we try to improve our skills, it isn’t until we start to teach someone else how to climb that we explore our knowledge to any depth. It’s hard to fail at that step because that’s when we want to be seen as the expert or at least respected as knowledgeable. I coach a lot of people and I am continually seeking out instruction for myself so that I stay on top of the latest thinking. This helps when people come to me after having had different instruction or training for climbing. I’m hopeful that I have deepened my knowledge and at the very least know where to turn to find answers when I need to dig deeper.
Meanwhile, while still difficult to face, failure is a part of coaching, teaching, mentoring, leading, etc. It’s a part of our life, the counter to success…life’s way of finding balance. I simply try to remind myself that failure in our teachings shows us that there is more to learn no matter how much we think we know.
In that pie situation, I realized the missing critical step was making sure the stove top was hot enough to boil the butter after it melted. This prevented the butter from separating after the filling was prepared. I had never paid attention to the fact that I did this automatically and hence did not catch that it wasn’t happening during the initial preparations. After taking the reigns and examining every step it was clear, this was the missing piece. After that, all of the fillings came out as expected!
My poor friend thought it was him, but it was actually me. After this incident, I will now confidently be able to teach how to make the perfect apple pie.
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