It’s an obsession

Here we are starting another great forum for Joyful, Jubilant Learning and I am humbled by the opportunity to write and share my experience of life-long learning. I have to admit that at times I do not feel very qualified for this task, for as much as I am passionate about learning, I am at best a “challenging” student of life. You see, I learn best from great teachers and so I have an obsession for finding those great teachers that have graced our current and past times. This obsession has led me to a variety of tactics to find the opportunity to meet and learn from great teachers. My contribution to this forum will be sharing what I have learned so far.


A student of “The Old School”

When the student is ready, the master appears.  ~Buddhist Proverb

The first step in finding great teachers is being a good enough student that is allowed into their classrooms, because frankly not all great teachers are willing to teach all students. This lesson I have learned the hard way and by the best teachers, my “Old School” teachers. The Old School (a.k.a. The O.S.) approach to teaching expects that all students are willing to learn. You show this by embracing the humility and respect required to honor the teacher and the lesson. In the exasperated words of one of my great teachers, “just shut up and listen, Toni. If you just listen and learn, you will know the answers to all of your questions.” This was a powerful lesson for me in Ha‘aha‘a (humility) because it taught me that the humility to truly listen for learning and not to show how much you know is the greatest gift we can give a teacher. This lesson was reinforced when my teacher would believe in me enough to ask me a question. If I answered correctly, then I could enjoy the pride on my teachers face. If I answered incorrectly, then I also learned the hard lesson of Ho‘omau (perseverance) to keep on listening and learning in the face of my teacher’s disappointments.


The quest for finding great teachers


Once you are able to understand and employ the qualities of a good student, it is time to find your great teachers. This part of my adventures has been the most fun because I can imagine hundreds of human “Yoda’s” waiting to be discovered so that they can share their knowledge with me. In my quest for these great teachers, I apply the same humility that I learned at The O.S. and I couple it with my passion to learn. The end result is I am willing to listen and talk with just about anyone. I mean it. You give me a span of unstructured time and a stranger or two and I will seek out what they know often times to the embarrassment of my friends and family.

Let’s also not forget books. Books are the portal to the teachers we will never meet. To be willing to pick up and read any book that looks interesting, you are opening doors to some of the best teachers of the world. Even better opportunities are the books, blogs and articles that our fellow students recommend. These are true gifts that should never be turned away. I also believe in a liberal arts approach to training classes. I will take any training that looks vaguely interesting. This has included bagel baking, government jobs and martial arts training classes, just to name a few. All of them have taught lessons beyond the advertised curriculum and have given me the opportunity to learn from great teachers. So remember, to find the great teachers we must be willing to go to all lengths. As you can see, the obsession is there. Can you imagine being in an elevator with me or sitting next to me at a coffee store?!

Sharing the lesson

To teach is to learn twice. – Joseph Joubert

The best way to learn a skill or lesson is to teach it. The best way to honor your teacher is to live it. The trick for both of these things is to do it well; the magic is when it works.  The non-negotiable Kuleana (role and responsibility) of being a worthy student is to live and share the knowledge that was given to us. This can be a simple tactic of suggesting a great book to a friend, or to taking the time to share someone’s story with your family and friends. The more complex and rewarding tactic is to actually “walk the talk” of what your great teacher taught you and by virtue become a teacher too.

Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence. ”“ Abigail Adams

In closing I would like to say "Mahalo" to Rosa for orchestrating this wonderful forums and blog community. As being a great teacher herself, she is showing us how to teach and learn. I would also like to say "Mahalo nui loa" to all of my new teachers as they share their mana‘o for life-long learning for this next month.

Toni Howard is a Workplace Aloha Coach for Say Leadership Coaching.  She is passionate about bringing nobility to working arts of management and leadership by sharing the principles and practices of Managing with Aloha.  She is also the host and author of a new and upcoming blog site called Imua with Management.


  1. says

    As the School Turns…

    It’s back to school time. The usual rush and panic. Not at our house. The only ‘kid’ left is my son, who is on his own. He still lives here, in his own little apartment in the basement, but he comes and goes as if he didn’t life here. At 23, I think th…

  2. says

    Toni, this is a great way to get us started. I am taken especially with the image of the book as a portal to a teacher and thinking of the Harry Potter “portkey” that when you touched it, you were transported to another place.
    I also thank Rosa for what she has enabled us to take part in here (and not just this special month) Rosa has created a portkey!
    I am ready to go.

  3. says

    Use a picture of Yoda in your post and we’re friends for life (lots we can learn from that little guy!).
    I appreciate your point about finding many teachers. Too often, one looks for _a_ mentor. I believe that we should have _many_ mentors. One person will not be able to teach us everything, but many people will be able to teach us something. I try to discover those who are the best in the areas I’m wanting to grow and learn from and ask for their guidance.
    I have many mentors and teachers. I also try to teach from my own strengths and point people to others who can be more beneficial when they ask me to assist them in an area that I am weak in.
    Leaders grow daily…not in a day,

  4. says

    Toni, I love your obsession and your desire to grow. It reminds me of my own obsession to extract every possible lesson from every action I take and decision I make.
    As Tim mentioned, they quickly become my mana‘o and are enveloped into my consciousness.
    Tim I plan to use your banner to promote this forum way to ‘Ike loa.

  5. says

    Mahalo Toni, as Steve has said, a fabulous posting to get us started!
    I am particularly drawn to your mention of humility, and I personally know of how it has helped shaped your character. You are a sponge when it comes to learning, and are the student who is the teacher’s dream.
    Humility, learning, enthusiasm, and frankly, the work ethic and diligence to fold them into our lives… sounds to me we are calling for a return to some good, “Old School” values.

  6. says

    Toni, you’ve set the bar quite high for the rest of us with this great post! I loved the Abigal Adams quote, for I too believe that learning requires diligence. I also have reawakened my own love of books, drawn from an intellectual curiousity that had waned but simply needed a push (thanks Rosa!). Lastly, sharing our knowledge is probably the biggest reward of all, and your words of advice make that point very well. Well done, and all the best.

  7. says

    I especially like the last comments saying, “The best way to learn a skill or lesson is to teach it. The best way to honor your teacher is to live it.”
    For me this is really true. To learn only for the sake of learning misses the best. But to learn for the purpose of passing it on and giving back, it one of the most satifying experiences I have ever had.

  8. Toni says

    Wow everyone, I am so humbled and thrilled by your wonderful comments! As Rosa knows, it was a bit daunting for me to start this forum with the great writers lined up, so to say your comments are a relief and an honor would be an understatement.
    The articles are one part of the forum, but the comments are a larger part of the synergy and power of our Ho’ohana Community. With that said, your comment, Steve, was perfect! I love the analogy of the portkey, and lucky for us, this blog is just a mouse click away!
    The image of students sharing their teachers to create a network of learning was a great way to show us a “big picture” of our purpose here. Mahalo Tim for sharing your thoughts with us. I look forward to your future writings and also a “talk story” about Yoda and other great teachers.
    When I read Greg’s comment, specifically his words of “enveloped into my consciousness”, it sparked for me the image of a tapestry of our “lessons learned” and “experiences valued” which we all wear. Greg, your words are poignant and mahalo for sharing your personal mana’o on your journey of learning.
    Mahalo Starbucker for your kind and generous words. Seeing the great writers that are part of the Ho’ohana Community, I have to say the bar was already set very high and I am just humbled that you liked my article. I am also ecstatic that someone recognized my quote! I cannot wait to read your article on the 7th.
    It is always a great feeling to find another person like me who finds teaching so rewarding (besides Rosa of course). Mahalo Gary for sharing your passion for teaching and sharing your knowledge with us.
    Rosa, mahalo nui loa for your guidance, your generous words, and your patience with a difficult student, (a.k.a me). I agree that “Old school is the best school” especially when we have a great forum like this to take class in. Thank you creating our classroom.
    Overall for me, Jubilant, Joyful Learning is about finding and learning from great teachers, namely all of you. Already I have started and I am just excited about the upcoming articles and the great comments they will spark starting with Rebecca Thomas’ article tomorrow called “Exercise your Passion for Learning”. See you at the next class!

  9. says

    First of all just well done!
    well done for having the courage to stand up and be first. Being way down the track in this wonderful learning month has me sweating big time. So my first thought before i even started reading was “You brave thing!” followed by “You poor buggar having to go first!” That probably says far more about me than enything else!!
    However as i read i started to compare my planned efforts and instead got TOTALLY sucked into the wisdom you were sharing. Many nods told me that I resonated with what you were saying and was awed by your ability to say it so well.
    Keep up the good work!

  10. says

    Man Toni! I got goose bumps reading this, along with the comments. Where you say, “because it taught me that the humility to truly listen for learning…” I can relate. This also becomes an obstacle to my own writing. I get so caught up in research and learning it delays the writing :-) It is also why I so rarely comment in meetings.
    You have also inspired a thought of which I cannot but help to write about!
    Rosa – books and learning are certainly HOT topics in our Ho’ohana Community, aren’t they?

  11. says

    Yes they are Dave, and for good reason!
    Looking forward to this writing you have teased us about :-) I love what you just posted on your blog about the Cluetrain Manifesto: I have to pull it off my bookshelf again.

  12. says

    Thank you Chris for your encouragement. I love your Pink Apple blog and I am honored that you were able to find resonance with my writing. I cannot wait to read your article on the 16th.
    Wow Dave, to be told that I inspired a thought is one of the greatest compliments I could receive! Mahalo nui loa for that nice present this morning. I must agree with Rosa, I now cannot wait to read this writing that we have been teased about. :) I also look forward to your JJL (Joyful, Jubilant Learning) article on the 14th.

  13. says

    Cluetrain: Toni Howard

    Toni Howard is a Workplace Aloha Coach for Say Leadership Coaching. Toni writes Its an Obsession , a passionate, most excellent essay on incorporating the Hawaiian value of Ha’ahaa (humility) into the process of learning, while painting a rainbow portrait

  14. says

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