3 lessons from coaching and being coached, book writing and aerial parallels discovered as coach and student.

“What is a master but a master student? And if that’s true, then there’s a responsibility on you to keep getting better and to explore avenues of your profession.”

Neil Peart

When being a beginner in a new pursuit yields lessons that serve you as a pro in an old pursuit…

I first made the decision to take aerial (“circus”) classes in the fall of 2017, a combination of gym boredom, a need to get in shape, and the whimsy to try something new and fun. Little did I know how my journey from square one in something totally new, would parallel my book writing coaching practice, where I take new authors on a similar journey.

Yet I only recently discovered 3 parallels connecting my experience as a new student of the aerial arts and as a longtime book coach. Rather poetically, I made the discovery during a lesson with my current lyra (aerial hoop) coach, learning new ways of wrapping my 48 year old, titanium-rod embedded body around a steel circle dangling from a 20 foot aerial rig.

My teacher was making observations about my learning style as an aerial student, noting my extraordinary level of patience with learning fundamentals, usually in small progressions. They also noted how I don’t compare myself to other aerialists, instead focusing squarely on my own progress. I will admit, I found these compliments quite validating, especially since I started aerial as a total beginner, learning something completely new, and being completely out of my element. More than simply validating, there was something familiar about the things my teacher was saying…

It was as if a lightning bolt hit the steel hoop…

I thought, “Could this be what it’s like for my book coaching clients, learning to do something they never thought they could do, and all the lessons they learn along the way about how to make it work? Is this why my passion for book coaching has exploded since I (metaphorically) ran away and joined the circus???”

Hence the discovery of 3 lessons from coaching and being coached!

Fundamentals

The foundation of every craft, vocation, sport, any pursuit with long-term goals and layers of learning required to reach those goals, like levels of a pyramid, is fundamentals. Without constant mastery of fundamentals, the potential of how far you can go and what you can do, is chopped off at the knees. 

Listen to a football broadcast on any given Sunday, pay attention to how many times the word “fundamentals” comes up. Many quarterbacks can hurl a ball downfield with a strong, talented arm. There are only a few whose careers last for years because they know how to strategically place the ball in a receiver’s arms. Their knowledge of fundamentals gives them an understanding of how to avoid the defensive arms between themselves and the receiver.

In aerial, without fundamentals (especially conditioning), you can get injured – sometimes permanently. In book writing, it’s equally as painful. You can “kick out” a book that “seems” to have a good premise buried somewhere within, but the writing is so unskilled, unstructured and sloppy that the reader can’t follow your train of thought. The book with the perfectly good idea goes into the discard pile. 

Being coached on aerial fundamentals over the last four years, has set afire my passion for learning, examining, and teaching writing fundamentals to my authors. Ask them and you’ll hear – it’s one of my favorite things! 

Further proof is my daily podcast for authors, Your Daily Writing Habit, where one of my “3 pillars for author success” to help authors build a lifelong writing habit is writing fundamentals. Funny how the podcast idea showed up right in the thick of my aerial training! “Engaged legs = pointed toes” is to “Don’t use 4 words if you can say it in 3.”

Not Knowing What You Don’t Know

Being an absolute, no-idea-what-the-hell-I-was-doing beginner in the aerial arts has been an exciting, terrifying, awesome, incredibly hard and sometimes painful (and bruising) learning journey. I’m of the opinion that every single one of my aerial teachers deserves to be granted sainthood by the Vatican for their patience in magically transforming a totally out of shape couch potato writer in her mid-forties, with severe scoliosis and a titanium rod holding her back together – into some variation of an aerialist. 

I know (because they told me) that they had never encountered a student with this particular casserole of challenges. Working with me challenged them to almost relearn how to teach aerial, inventing new progressions (like training wheels) to get me to even basic skills. As the student in this situation I’m now seeing what an incredible treasure trove of lessons I learned about coaching, especially coaching total beginners.

Those sweat-drenched, often mind bending lessons (figuring out where I was upside down in the air), translated into what is now the greatest love of my entire 20 year writing career: turning “non-authors” into authors. Taking individuals who have barely written more than an email, and through my coaching program, magically transforming them into authors of completed books. 

As an aerial student, I was able to see what makes a great coach from a completely different point of view – the air, and also from the POV of a total beginner. That has been invaluable for me as a book writing coach – learning to reframe ideas, and feeling the joy and challenges of learning something new. In a way, I have walked in my “non-author” book coaching clients’ shoes.

At my circus school, I was the – “believe me, if Christine can do this ANYONE can do this” poster child for the aerial arts, for non-believers. That’s why I believe so fervently that I can do this for people who do not think they can write a book. If I can fly in a hoop – YOU can write a book! We’ll make it happen together (and it will be fun!).

New Expressions of Old Knowledge

In aerial, I’ve had to learn how to connect with my body and use it as a physical vehicle to tell stories in the air. This has been an intuitive process of forcing my over analytical writer’s brain to shut down, and put my body in the driver’s seat. Learning how to turn my brain off has been one of the greatest challenges of my overthinking life! It’s still a constant struggle, but I’m getting there. 

In those moments (usually in performances) when I have completely “let go” and just let my body lead – creative magic has happened. I’ve learned an entirely different type of flow than I’m used to in book writing. In doing so, I’ve discovered new intuitive mental pathways of story structuring, writing, and overall storytelling that I regularly pass along to my clients.

Being a total beginner in something that couldn’t be further away from my professional comfort zone has put me in my clients’ shoes and, I believe, it has made me a better, and more valuable book writing coach

When’s the last time you were a total beginner at something? What lessons did you learn that you then brought over to your regular profession/area of expertise? For those of you who also coach or teach others in some capacity, how could making yourself a complete newbie in something totally outside your comfort zone, make you a better teacher? Share!

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