03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

We Teach Best What We Most Need to Learn

I’ve been humbled by some recent critical feedback.  It seems that
some people close to me, both personally and professionally, have been
quite frustrated with me – especially as I ramp up for the release of
my new book.  Ironically, the things they’re upset with me about have
to do with the exact things I teach – appreciation, authenticity,
positive communication, keeping things in perspective, and more.

my ego wants to (and has been) defending myself, making excuses, and
trying to justify my actions – it’s clear to me that their feedback is
accurate.  I actually struggle in many ways, especially when I get
scared or stressed, to practice what I preach.  As I’ve been making my
way through my feelings of remorse, embarrassment, and confusion – I’ve
been thinking a lot about the well-known saying, “We teach best what we
most need to learn.”

Isn’t this true?  So often
the advice we give to others is the exact advice we need ourselves. 
It’s ironic that we sometimes don’t recognize this in the moment (or at
all) and also sad that we don’t give ourselves permission to listen to
our own good advice.  Too often, we hold ourselves to some ridiculous
standard of “perfection” (which no one ever attains) or we’re too
self-conscious to admit we struggle with some of the very same things
we advise others to do.

However, what if we did
listen to ourselves and could realize that the things we passionately
want to teach other people (whether or not we think of ourselves as a
“teacher”) are the things we, ourselves, truly want to learn and
embody.  This takes a vigilant level of self awareness and honesty that
many of us, myself included, don’t always want to practice.  When we
do, not only can we grow personally, we can also enhance and deepen our
relationships with others and our ability to impact them in a positive

Here are a few things we can do to learn from ourselves and use our own advice in a positive, not self-righteous, way:

1)  Be Honest – As
the saying goes, “the truth shall set you free.”  The more willing we
are to tell the truth about how we feel, what we want, and what we see
– the less likely we are to be arrogant, self-righteous, judgmental, or
defensive with others.  This means we’re willing to admit our own
hypocrisy to ourselves and others, with compassion.

2)  Have Compassion – Remember
that everyone, including you, is doing the best they can in each and
every moment.  Having compassion is one of the many things in life that
is simple, but not easy.  The place for us to start is with ourselves. 
When we can forgive ourselves and get off our own back, we then have
the ability to that with others as well.

3)  Stop Trying to be Perfect – Perfection
demands never work – whether they’re focused outward or inward.  When
we expect ourselves, others, or things to be “perfect,” everyone
loses.  What if we didn’t have to do everything right, know everything,
and always “walk our talk.”  Sometimes we don’t, and that’s okay.  When
we stop trying to be perfect, we can accept ourselves as we are. 
Acceptance leads to peace, joy, and fulfillment in our relationships and our lives.

that life is filled with irony and that it’s okay for us to make
mistakes, pretend to know stuff we don’t, and act like we have certain
things figured out when really we struggle with them, can be humbling
at first.  However, when we embrace the idea that we always teach best
what we most need to learn, we can create a deep sense of freedom in
our lives that actually gives us the space and the power to be
ourselves and impact others in the positive way we desire.

Mike Robbins is a sought-after motivational keynote speaker, coach, and the bestselling author of Focus on the Good Stuff (Wiley) and Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Already Taken (Wiley). More info -