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Learn. Teach. Grow.


Adam Glass's Class - This was called the Circle of Suffering. Click photo for my interview with Adam.

I spent a year working at a Special Needs school here in Salt Lake City. Early on in our training, we (the Teacher’s Assistants) were given an assignment.

Write a document for someone who has never worn shoes. Now, explain to them, in as few, simple, sentences as possible, how to tie their shoes.

“Oh please,” I thought. But once my pen hit the paper, I froze up. It was really, really hard. It was as if they had said, “Solve this Rubik’s Cube in five seconds, then deliver it to the Unicorn living at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.”

Actually, that might have been easier. There are so many steps to tying shoes. And trying to find the right words to describe it in a way that was impossible to misinterpret felt…impossible.

June of 2009

When I attended the three day RKC kettlebell instructor certification back in June of 2009, I did it for personal reasons. I wanted to celebrate, to prove I could do it, and to throw myself a party for figuring out how to deal with some of the more peculiar aspects of my life.

I never planned on actually instructing. But after I got home, an opportunity to teach kettlebell classes presented itself. I hemmed and hawed a little bit, but decided to try it. After all, I’d been trained in the fine art of teaching this stuff.

Each one teach one

I have learned more from teaching these classes than I ever could have on my own. I have watched people get stronger right before my eyes. More importantly, they have taught me things and continue to inspire me.

I thought I knew how to teach the kettlebell swing, but I wasn’t sure until I taught it to someone else. I thought I knew how to give someone cues for a proper press, and I did–but until I did it, I wasn’t positive.

One of my strengths has proven to be recognizing when advice is worth taking, and when it is garbage. There are always lessons to learn if you listen.

If I had never taken my dad’s advice to start lifting, I wouldn’t even be upright anymore. As it is, I am…

Twitchy? Yes.

Ugly as Hell? You bet!

Strong? Check.

Always in pain? Yes.

Confident? Absolutely.

Making progress? Always.


I teach what I am able to teach and I learn from whoever I meet.

I believe that each person can learn something from every other person in the world. What an exciting thought for anyone who is curious! If you ever worry that you know it all, you have only to go meet somebody new to get your head right.

Do you believe that there is a person in this world who literally does not have one thing to teach you?

If so, type up that shoelace tying document and send it to me. I still think about it occasionally, and I still haven’t nailed it down.


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  • Lisis November 22, 2009, 8:17 am

    This is awesome, Josh… especially this line:

    “I teach what I am able to teach and I learn from whoever I meet.”

    I learn more from my daily interactions with any random person, than I ever learned in school. Everyone is a mentor, whether they know it or not. And that means I am a mentor, whether I like it or not. It’s important that we live in a way that teaches others by example.

    On a side note, this is one of the reasons I like homeschooling my son. As I teach him the stuff, I finally get to learn it. 🙂

    • Josh Hanagarne November 22, 2009, 11:34 am

      That’s a great perspective, Lisis. “Whether they know it or not” is a potentially sobering perspective. You never know who’s watching.

      • Lisis November 22, 2009, 1:11 pm

        Especially kids. They ACT like they don’t, but they are ALWAYS watching and listening.

  • Boris Bachmann November 22, 2009, 9:59 am

    Vygotsky, et. al are places to look for things on social learning theory – a little dry though. Most recently, assisting at the RKC and then reading Born To Run were wonderful reminders of how essential the social component is to life and learning. A lot of lip-service given to ‘collaboration’ these days, but it’s nice to see it when it actually takes place.

    I like Adam’s Circle of Suffering. I call my basement The Redemption Center. Nice post Josh – your students are very lucky.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 22, 2009, 11:35 am

      Born to Run really changed things for me. I’ve read it twice in three months, and you’re right–it’s a little more palatable thatn Vygotsky et al.

  • Zeenat{Positive Provocations} November 22, 2009, 10:57 am

    Wow wow and wow again! This is such a wonderful post in every way. It just gets to the core and asks just the right questions. I only literally realized how difficult tying shoe laces was when i was trying to teach my little one..and then trying to teach her to brush her teeth..my god thats a huge huge deal. How come I never realized before how many freaking steps it was before…I thought i would draw it for her on flash cards…and then i just gave up…I thought practical is best…cause honestly, i had lost count of the amount of flash cards I’d need…
    Youre so right, each an every person can truly teach you something new. We just need to have an open mind for it. Whether the person is good or bad….both teach their own lessons. If we dont learn from the people around us, I think we will keep falling flat on our faces. Life gives you chances at every instance, its upto us to take those chances and make the most of it.
    Awesome post! Really..and I cant put tying shoe laces down in steps….I’d rather learn from all the people that come my way everyday 😉

    p.s. post will be in your inbox tomorrow 🙂 BE ready to dance for a whole day atleast 😉

    • Josh Hanagarne November 22, 2009, 11:35 am

      I can’t wait for that post! Dancing shoes are on the ready.

  • Srinivas Rao November 22, 2009, 11:02 am

    Josh: I think that this is a really interesting perspective and I actually think I couldn’t create a document on how to tie your shoes for somebody who’s never worn shoes before. My own ability to relate to this comes from my two attempts to teach friends how to surf. I never realized that just because I can surf it doesn’t mean I can teach somebody else how to surf. In fact what I learned from those experiences was that so much of what I do has become subconscious.

    Lisis:I agree that everybody can teach you something. When I watch a beginning surfer I think of it as a time to relearn the basics and the fundamentals all over again and keep reinforcing. Regarding homeschooling, I recently was thinking about how I’d have a life if I had kids and I wanted to travel the world and surf, and I thought, “that might be a much more enlightening education than the traditional route.”

    • Josh Hanagarne November 22, 2009, 11:36 am

      I can’t imagine that anything gives you any semblance of what it feels like to surf, other than surfing.

    • Lisis November 22, 2009, 1:10 pm

      Hey, Srinivas! I can’t say whether my son’s education is more enlightening, but it is certainly not traditional. We move every two years or so, just to learn about new places and new people, so homeschooling is a natural fit for us.

      What he IS learning is that just because “everyone else” does it one way, or just because it’s “always” been done that way, does NOT mean HE has to do it that way. He’s free to be himself. 🙂

  • Chris Baltzley November 22, 2009, 11:51 am

    The shoelace thing just brings home a major difference between our culture and many others – especially pre-literate societies. The standard way to learn was to shut up (don’t jump right in with questions), watch someone do it (over and over, usually), and figure it out yourself.
    As much as I love reading, I think that sometimes we are a little TOO fixated on the written word and too ready to go there even for things that it is not suited for. Personally, written instructions ONLY work for me when there are also visuals of some type or when I can follow them “hands-on”. I also think that is why I am having so much trouble getting going with a consistent functional workout program. Since I don’t have the financial wherewithal to hire a personal trainer, I am trying to cobble one together from (mostly) written instructions and it’s just really hard to get clear in my own (distractable, ADD-enhanced) mind how to get from point A to point B, etc.

  • Michelle McGee November 22, 2009, 1:27 pm

    I’ve always been a talker. I’m the girl who strikes up random coversations in grocery lines or elevators. I’m thankful for this trait because I have had some wonderful conversations. Everyone has a story and I believe that if we are open to it we can learn something from each person we meet. Great post!

  • IthacaJake November 22, 2009, 3:07 pm

    That’s exactly the type of thing that my master taught me: You learn just as much teaching anything as you do taking classes in it. I didn’t really know how much about my martial arts I really knew until I started teaching them.

    100% agree with you man. Awesome post.

  • Kelly Diels November 22, 2009, 6:51 pm

    Josh, about this “ugly as hell” business. I am now going to tell you something your mother and your wife should tell you on a regular basis. It is the same thing I tell my large, drooling, shedding rottweiler/mutt who is mostly loveable but occasionally pees on my feet, either out of spite because his adoptive father/my ex-husband now has custody and he (the dog, presumably) misses me, or insecurity over his appearance:

    you are very pretty on the inside.

    FYI. In case you were wondering, his name is Zeuss, of course. Every goddess needs a Zeuss. Also – what the hell else do you name a rottweiler? He is HUGE. He needed a big name – hence the extra “s” – and “Josh Hanagarne” was taken.

  • James Sjostrom November 23, 2009, 9:48 am

    Great Post Josh!
    I hear a lot about how disciplined this person or that person is, I then chuckle to myself as I know the root of the word is “disciple”. Today, I will be disciplined, not in my old teachings, but in something new!

    I agree, you are beautiful!

  • Forest November 24, 2009, 12:22 am

    Great post, Josh! Good to see you’re putting that RKC cert to good use 😉

    Hope all else is well