reality self defence & conditioning

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Learning, self-esteem and the epidemic that is false praise.

February 12th, 2013 — 8:16am

Well it’s been a long time since I have blogged. Thanks for your patience and time to read my thoughts……

I am always looking at how people learn. And I am always looking for ways how to expedite the process. I always want my clients to be quicker, stronger, and more powerful, move better, and get injured less. And quicker. It’s my job.

One of the things that has interested me over the years is the development of self-esteem and how our parents and coaches can either positively or negatively influence that. Secondly how self-esteem can affect our learning process, especially developing skills.

One of my biggest concerns is the use of false praise. It seems there has been an epidemic of false praise, cheerleading and baby sitting in the fitness in industry for a long time. There seems to be a lot of people paying for a best friend rather than going to a trainer and a gym to LEARN.

Yes, going to a trainer and a gym to LEARN. Not to get “smoked” or “smashed”.

Ok so here is a little background. Here are a few things not many of you would know. And it is pretty personal but it is going to highlight some of the points in this blog. I was a pretty sickly kid through most of school and high school and was I bullied a lot. And I mean a LOT.

I went to an all-boys state school in Sydney. I’m not talking about the sort of text messaging and Facebook stuff the kids do to bully these days, which quite frankly speaking is even more cowardice than ever. I’m talking more of the in your face, mentally, emotionally, verbally and physically abusive bullying. I guess it didn’t help either that I also had an emotionally, verbally and physically parent either. Ok so enough of the sop story right? Suffice it is to say that false praise was never an issue for me.

So it may be of interest that rather than running from these issues, I decided to tackle it head on. I was often told the best way to deal with things was to face my fears head on. Now I am a national fitness presenter, in other words I can get up in front of a group of people and not lose my lunch, I move better and am faster and stronger and mentally tougher than ever and I now teach and learn self-defence around the world and have the opportunity to train, spar and fight fighting champions every week. Pretty cool stuff huh? Of course it’s a never ending quest for perfection and continuous refinement. The Japanese call it “Kaizen” I’m pretty sure.

First thing’s first: Let me start by I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be supportive or encouraging, or help adults and children especially, feel loved or valued. I’ve been through that and have been lucky enough to have come out the other side ok. Shall we say partially cooked? But I have asked myself how often do I find myself saying “great job!” to my group of clients or in a one on one session or to a friend’s 7-year-old who cleans up her crayons after a colouring session?

By dishing out false praise to a child or to adults in a training environment for doing things he or she should be doing anyway, we teach them that they get rewarded just for” being”. Later in life in the case of children we tell them they’re smart and beautiful and awesome netball players before they’ve had a chance to earn it—or know what those words really mean. Kids then grow up placing their self-worth in that praise: If I’m not told I’m beautiful, she’ll start to think, then I must not be. And this is problematic. You can see it in a training environment as well.

I came across numerous articles online that discussed a cover story in a Scholastic Instructor magazine (a teachers rag in the US) asking whether kids today are “overpraised.” The concern is that by focusing on self-esteem and confidence building, parents and teachers may not be giving real goals, hard work and achievement the emphasis they deserve. The article cites a recent study in which eighth graders in Korea and the United States were asked whether they were good at math. Among the American students, 39 percent said they were excellent at math, compared to just 6 percent of the Korean eighth graders. But the reality was somewhat different. The Korean kids scored far far better in math than the way over-confident American students. You couldn’t see that coming could you??

Research with children and families has indeed told us that praise has the opposite intended effect. It does not make children work harder, or do better. In fact, kids who are told they’re bright and talented are easily discouraged when something is “too difficult”; those who are not praised in such a manner are more motivated to work harder and take on greater challenges. The unpraised, in turn, show higher levels of confidence, while overpraised are more likely to lie to make their performances sound better. Praise becomes like a drug: once they get it, they need it, want it, are unable to function without it. The TYPE of praise we give needs to be more thoughtful and more specific.

Here’s where we also see how praising kids sets them up for a world that’s almost never as generous. Life doesn’t necessarily award participation. For kids who’ve spent their lives being celebrated for, say, tying their own shoes, failure can be devastating. In a recent New York magazine article, 27-year-old Lael Goodman said, “The worst thing is that I’ve always gotten self-worth from performance, especially good grades. But now that I can’t get a job, I feel worthless.” And this guy’s an adult; it’s even worse for an actual child. What’s more, by focusing too much on how we can build our kids’ self-esteem and confidence, we’re overlooking teaching them what real achievement means—and depriving them of knowing what it’s like to feel the satisfaction of setting a high goal, working hard, and achieving it. Earning it!!

Here is the gold…………When we place more emphasis on the reward rather than the process of learning or doing, AKA the journey—whether it’s an algebra problem or kicking a football—kids inevitably focus more on the reward. They stop learning how to spell because it’s a benchmark for learning (and necessary); they learn it for the trophy and ice cream party that follows.

This just can’t be good. This is also the reason in schools we don’t see long division in some curriculum’s because of the argument “because I don’t need it in the real world” failing to appreciate the problem solving process and what is actually learnt by doing it, which is learning to logically and rationally work through a problem. This equally applies to learning how to add up without using a calculator or learning correct spelling, grammar and punctuation than having to hit spell check on the computer. Have you noticed that kids these days struggle with basic maths and English and it’s no surprise that numeracy and literacy levels are dropping because all this stuff that “isn’t relevant in the real world” isn’t in school curriculums anymore? Shouldn’t we be asking “what is this actually teaching us?” and “what are we teaching our clients or children?” The weight of that responsibility is heavy.

Oh and the notion that you can praise a kid too much is heresy to parents and teachers who have long believed that building self-esteem should be the cornerstone of education. If kids believe in themselves, the thinking goes, achievement will naturally follow. But confidence doesn’t always produce better students.
Worse, failure can be devastating and confusing for a student whose confidence is based on an inflated ego, rather than his or her actual abilities. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t praise our kids or that teachers shouldn’t try to engender self-confidence. But self-esteem should be the result of good grades and achievement, not false accomplishments.
The point here also isn’t to criticize children or adults. But it’s to recognize that self-esteem really, truly comes as the result of achievement—in the classroom, on the field, in the gym, at home—rather than false accomplishments.

If self-confidence equals your actual capacity to do something then surely self-esteem is similar. Self-esteem comes from real accomplishments. I’ve always felt the same about self-respect…..I’m sure it’s all one in the same. You earn it.

Children are growing up in a world where there are no winners or losers and praise is handed out almost as easily as A’s in school. Advanced academic programs are watered down so more students can be labeled “gifted,” and you’d think every kid in the neighborhood is the next Thorpedo , or Rod Laver or Dennis Lillee with how many trophies and ribbons are given to last-place finishers. And when it comes to competency based training, it seems to be for the most part “we have lowered the bar so more people can get over it” rather than helping people develop the skills to get there!

I’m all for building the self-confidence of kids and adults, but I think we have gone off track somewhere. Instead of letting kids grow actual confidence through achievement, we are condemning them with false praise that only inflates their egos, gives them a sense of entitlement and wanting everything now. What’s worse is when it gets too hard, it’s just too easy for them to quit. Or it’s just as easy to play the victim and blame everyone else, look for the quick fix, pass the buck or bury the head in the sand. This is the problem with the “feel good” generations. They have no mental resilience.

Essentially, we are so afraid to let ourselves or our kids fail and molly coddle away any risk that we wind up robbing them and ourselves of any real achievement. True self-esteem comes from true achievement, whether that’s winning a race or learning to tie a shoe. Success can even just be giving effort to a difficult task. Whatever the goal, the achievement of it is what builds actual self-esteem.

Here in though lies the problem. You have to make mistakes and often to learn. We learn from making mistakes.

If you don’t make mistakes you simply don’t learn anything. In his AMAZING book The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle discusses how the brain is like a muscle and the more you exercise it the stronger it becomes. Every time you try hard and focus and learn something new and make mistakes and try hard again the brain forms new connections that over time make you smarter and or more skilful. Intellectual and skill development is the formation of new connections that continue to build on each other through effort and learning. And over time, regardless of age you can add to it. You can hone and sharpen and improve. As you age this can continue. Isn’t that SUPER cool?

So if you aren’t putting the effort in and focussing and learning and making mistakes and trying again, well you simply aren’t learning or becoming more skilful. Putting stuff in the “too hard” basket all the time because it makes you feel uncomfortable or because you “don’t feel good” means you do not step outside your comfort zone. As a result you are stifling you’re own and your children’s self-development.

I’m worried we are creating is a generation of children of egomaniacs with devastatingly low self-esteem.

For my clients and students they get it that for the most part they train with me to learn new skills, like Muay Thai, Kettlebells, Krav Maga or Primal Move. To learn. Not to have someone patting them on the back all the time. I’m not there to externally gratify them.

If they really push hard and focus I will let them know. If their technique and skills are improving I will let them know too. But if it’s not the case then I have the integrity to tell them so as well, my version of the truth, even if I risk losing their patronage because they aren’t hearing what they like. By making those mistakes, having them pinpointed and then chipping away at improving on them they are achieving real accomplishments and goals. They are LEARNUNG. By doing so I am in turn improving their self-esteem rather than being a paid best friend.

Suffice to say my students have taught me more about myself than anything. For that I am eternally grateful.

People have mentioned that I don’t have a lot of motivation cues or tips. They are correct. We are all adults. You either have it or you don’t. I agree that we all need a hand from time to time and I really try and help push the right buttons to keep that fire ignited for those that need it externally.

I have also had my fair share of students with thin skins and very delicate egos and lots of pride who ultimately would rather have me blow wind up their backside rather than actually learn something and train hard and smart to achieve a real goal or accomplishment. To make mistakes as I have, and more importantly to learn and improve on them. What am I to do? Pat them on the back and tell them that what they are doing is great when it is crap???? Funny enough I know a lot of trainers that do. They are in the popularity game.

And that is chasing mediocrity or worse………..

I guess I don’t have lot of motivational cues as most things have never come easy to me and I believe that good things come to those who work their butts off. I have never thought as I trainer that I am better than my students, more so to the fact, that I am their trainer because I’ve done a lot more stupid stuff then they have and have made a lot more mistakes in my time.

And I intend to make a few more.

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What is Krav Maga?

May 31st, 2012 — 5:11am

What is Krav Maga?

 When people ask me what I do i usually tell them I am a personal trainer. If they probe a little deeper and if I think they may be interested in the combative arts I mention I am a self defence instructor. They often ask me what I teach. My response of “Krav Maga” usually ends up with a reply of “Krav what?” So the purpose of this article is to explain through a brief history, of what Krav Maga or “Contact Combat” is and what its origins are.

Imrich (“Imi”) Sde-Or, the founder of Krav Maga, was born in 1910 in Budapest, which at the time was one of the centres of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He grew up in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia, in a home where sports, law, and Central European education were equally respected. Samuel Lichtenfeld, Imi’s father, was undoubtedly quite a unique figure. At age 13 he joined a travelling circus, and for the next 20 years engaged in wrestling, weightlifting, and various demonstrations of strength. For him the circus was also a school, where he met people involved in a wide variety of sports and martial arts, including some quite unusual ones.
 
With his father’s encouragement, Imi became active in a wide range of sports. He first excelled in swimming, and subsequently in gymnastics, wrestling, and boxing. In 1928 Imi won the Slovakian Youth Wrestling Championship. In 1929 he won the adult champion-ship (in the light and middle weight division). That year he also won the national boxing championship and an international gymnastics championship. During the ensuing decade, Imi’s athletic activities focused mainly on wrestling, both as a contestant and a trainer.

 In the mid thirties, conditions began to change in Bratislava. Fascist and anti-Semitic groups appeared, determined to upset the public order and harm the city’s Jewish community. Imi became the un-crowned leader of a group of young Jews, most of them with a background in boxing, wrestling, and weightlifting. This group attempted to block the anti-Semitic bands from entering the Jewish quarter and wreaking havoc there.  Thus, between 1936 and 1940 Imi took part in countless violent incidents.

In 1940, having become a thorn in the side of the anti-Semitic inclined local authorities as a result of his activities, Imi left his home,family, and friends and boarded the last immigrant ship that succeeded in escaping the Nazis’ clutches. The vessel was an old riverboat named Pentcho that had been converted to carry hundreds of refugees from Central Europe to theland ofIsrael (then calledPalestine).

In 1944 Imi began training fighters in his areas of expertise: physical fitness, swimming, wrestling, use of the knife, and defences against knife attacks. During this period, Imi trained several elite units of the Hagana and Palmach (striking force of the Hagana and forerunner of the special units of the IDF), including the Pal-Yam, as well as groups of police officers. In 1948, when the State of Israel was founded and the IDF (Israeli Defence Force) was formed, Imi became Chief Instructor for Physical Fitness and Krav Maga at the IDF School of Combat Fitness. He served in the IDF for about 20 years, during which time he developed and refined his unique method for self-defence and hand-to-hand combat.

After he finished his active duty, Imi began adapting and modifying Krav Maga to civilian needs. The method was formulated to suit everyone – man and woman, boy or girl, who might need it to save his or her life or survive an attack while sustaining minimal harm, whatever the background of the attack – criminal, nationalistic, or other.  To disseminate his method, Imi established two training centres, one in Tel Aviv and the other in Natanya.

 Even during his last years, Imi continued to personally supervise the training of those who have attained high ranks in Krav Maga, and to spend time with the instructors inIsraeland abroad. Imi monitored the trainees’ progress and achievements, captivating them with his personality and imparting them with his knowledge and unique personality. Imi, a teacher, a fighter and a great human being, passed away on the 9th of January 1998, early in the morning, in the hospital just 5 hours after he got there, and with Eyal Yanilov at his bed-side.

Eyal Yanilov is the worldwide chief instructor for Krav Maga Global KMG and the top Krav Maga practitioner in the World today.

www.kravmaga.com

 I’m honoured to have him as my instructor and friend.

 

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Are you actually ready for training, coaching or advice?

March 16th, 2012 — 2:15am

 

Are you actually ready for training, coaching or advice?

 

This is a summation of a few articles from a well known Strength and Conditioning and kettlebell coach I have followed for years in the US. Mike Mahler put out these articles some time ago (years); along with this summation of his articles (read: plagiarized) I have added my own thoughts and experiences over the years I have had with challenging clients. I hope you enjoy the read-it’s an interesting subject on mindset.

 

So do you think you are ready for training, coaching or advice? Sure.

 

Sounds a bit cheeky to ask doesn’t it? Besides you’re a customer and you’re paying for it right? Perhaps not. Read ahead and let me challenge your perspective on that.

 

Often when people are looking for a coach or trainer, many people ask “how good were they as an athlete?” If they were a superstar on the field, oval, ring or their chosen arena then they must be a great coach right? Wrong. Perhaps the question we should be asking is “how good an athlete can they make me?” Some of the most amazing athletes I have trained with and under have also been the worst coaches! The skill sets required of the athlete and the coach are very separate. But I digress………………

 

On consultation with some of my closest clients/friends for them it boils down to what their goals are and how badly they want to achieve them. Their belief is if the desire is there, commitment should follow. That’s why they are getting results.

 

The Learning Process

Most important things can only be learned in the process of doing them. You do something and you get feedback–about what works and what doesn’t. If you don’t do anything for fear of doing it wrong, poorly, or badly or to make mistakes, you never get any feedback, and therefore you never get the opportunity to get better, learn or to improve. This is a scientific fact. When you are making the most mistakes is when you are learning the most!!!!!! It sounds counter intuitive but it’s true.

 

Making mistakes–and lots of them–is simply part of the learning process. All successes are based on a ton of failures. Again, experience is the magic ingredient so crucial to valuing timely advice.

 

So if you don’t get feedback you don’t learn. So this brings me to my first point. Are you ready for feedback and advice? Are you READY for it? If you are after a paid friend or a cheerleader for a coach, then guess what?  Don’t get me wrong a positive feedback mechanism is important here too! But you probably won’t learn a thing. External gratification and false praise will not help you perform better unless you are prepared to make mistakes and take the criticism of a coach onboard. Feeling good doesn’t necessarily equal results. Constant refinement and improvement from both external and internal feedback mechanisms does. Do you think that the best athletes in the world “felt good” all the time they were being put through the rigors of their chosen sport? The need for external gratification subject will be discussed another time, but I digress yet again……….you need to be challenged mentally and physically to grow. So are you ready?

 

Do you actually VALUE the advice you seek?

An interesting thing about good advice is that it’ doesn’t usually benefit the recipient unless the person has enough life experience to comprehend the value. Part of learning what works is learning what doesn’t work. In other words until you discover that what you are doing is ineffective only then do you usually have the willingness to take the advice of someone else. 

When you don’t understand the value of the advice given, it doesn’t matter how great it is, you simply aren’t ready for the message. You’ve got to earn the ability to assimilate advice in order to benefit from it. In other words if you are at a kindergarten level in your schooling then you probably aren’t going to value a college professor coming in to lecture you. You just wouldn’t assimilate it or get it. No value. The college professor may just look like a geeky guy in a tweed jacket and coke bottle thick glasses boring you senseless.

 

“I have witnessed and coached many people who simply aren’t in a place to take on board the material I have to offer, even when they ask for it”

 

And you know what is strange? When I see these people a few years later they are still overweight, injured or in the same place they were when I left them. It is weird how all that works……

 

If things are going well

Generally, when things are going well (or at least we think they’re going well) we’re less open to advice. Try giving advice to someone who’s just begun strength training and you’ll know what I mean–remember when you first started training? In the first months trainees can make terrific progress on just about any program, so at this stage they typically aren’t open to any advice, thinking they know what they’re doing and that infinite progress is theirs. However, once their progress slows down to nothing or, worse, they’re injured, trainees may finally realize they don’t have all the answers after all. Not only are they now open to advice, they’ll actively seek it to get back on track…that, or they give up.

 

Advice seeking and receiving

Advice is a funny thing: some people love being in the advice-receiving stage. They just can’t get enough advice. No matter how much great advice they receive, they always feel they need more before even thinking about acting on any of it. Of course, seeking advice doesn’t mean you’re ready to receive advice. Often, advice-seekers attempt to postpone the inevitable while they safely remain in research (procrastination) mode. They tell themselves when they’ve done enough research and heard enough advice, they’ll take some kind of action. The problem is no amount of advice or research is ever enough. No matter the exceptional advice they’re given, they imagine they need still more. Somehow these people think if they can just secure enough advice, and carry out enough research, they’re safe from making mistakes. The fear of making mistakes is the fundamental reason so many people neither grow nor find their success; their anxieties about hard work and failure delay necessary action. The results? Their fears become a self fulfilling prophecy. And often nothing happens.

 Rather than following good advice and achieving their goals they’ve made the act of receiving advice their goal when they just need to get started………

 

I know I used to be one of these people……

 

People receive great advice all the time, yet few actually do anything with that advice. For the advice-receiving addict, the remedy will always be to seek more advice and delay action. The problem with this mentality is you can postpone your entire life remaining in advice-receiving mode rather than JUST GETTING STARTED. It is also what’s known as “paralysis by analysis”.  Thinking that the advice may help us achieve our goals is exciting; however, at some point you have to go from the anticipation/excitement stage to the action stage. And once you start thinking about putting the advice into action, reality kicks in and you realize that following through on the advice is harder than remaining in the advice-receiving stage.

 

You must take action with the advice you’ve been given before going back and filling your cup again. It is earnt.

 

 

 

Advice haters and Action Addicts

Next, let’s look at the people who hate receiving advice: they tend to be pretty miserable people. If you think you know it all, how can life be exciting? After all, one of the greatest joys in life is interacting with–and learning from–those interesting people who can profoundly affect your life. People who hate receiving advice are usually in repeat mode, wherein every year is the same–for years on end.  

 

I know- I used to be one of those people too………

 

Ten years go by and nothing significant has happened since the same year has repeated ten times over. The advice-haters may be action-addicts who are simply too busy making their endless moves to stop and benefit from any useful advice but, unfortunately for them, their personal growth, and enjoyment of life even declines–because they’ve failed to slow down and reflect. They think they know it all and don’t want any advice from anyone. They never seek advice and if they happen to receive it, they never follow it. As a result, their growth is hampered and at some point, usually comes to a screeching halt. You can only get so far with what you know: in order to go from where you are to where you want to be, you need to learn more and act more. Seen the movie Groundhog day?

 

Conversely an action-addict’s action is a distraction device, just as advice merely distracts the advice-receiving addict. If advice-receiving haters were more open-minded, their action would be more efficient. The funny thing about advice-receiving haters is they love giving advice to others! After all, they’ve got the “know-it-all mentality” and feel an ego-boost and an ego stroke when others approach them for advice.

More often than not, they prefer to disburse advice they themselves wouldn’t follow (the double standard or one rule for me and another for you-all you have to do is look at half the personal trainers out there) and the advice they give others is often negative: they’re the people who’ll tell you why your goals and dreams won’t work out rather than offering constructive advice. Just as they can’t take good advice, neither can they give it.  And they are often pretty miserable people.

 

 

Validation seekers

Another category involves people who only seek advice, which is in line with what they currently believe. In other words, they’re looking for validation when they request advice, not objective advice. These advice/validation-seekers have only their illusion of open-mindedness–in reality they just want people to agree with them. They’ve made validation-seeking their goal rather than a genuine impetus for growth. Which means being brutally honest with yourself. You’re only going to learn so much from people who tell you what you want to hear and share your same views. In other words you need to be prepared to be challenged mentally. Someone patting you on your back is not that. To be challenged is to grow.

 

I know this one all too much as well. Until I realized again I was beating my head against the same brick wall in the same behavioural patterns and needed to change.  

 

 Rather than seeking sound and balanced advice, the advice/validation seeker is looking for someone who’s on his same page. Their motto is: I only accept advice that’s in line with what I already believe. These people hold the illusion that they’re open to advice and even benefiting from advice but upon closer scrutiny it’s clear they’re merely seeking validation. Because advice/validation-seekers aren’t receptive to the possibility that they’re in error, they never grow beyond their own egos. They simply follow their own advice, and when they doubt that, they look for external validation. Advice/validation-seekers simply don’t want to change and grow: they want to justify their behaviour.

 

This is coined confirmation bias. And it’s very hard to fight even if you are aware you do it. It is enormously difficult to objectively judge a point of view you have already decided to disagree with.

 

 

 

Paying for advice

I used to believe people who paid for advice valued it most, but since being a trainer for close to 14 years now, and in some pretty upmarket and yuppie areas, I’ve witnessed numerous of my former clients paying for this advice then failing to act on it, as they take neither me nor themselves seriously, ending up dissatisfied with their lack of (desirable) results. I no longer believe this.  Especially if they don’t value the money they earn or have inherited. Some people think spending money for advice is a sure thing, but it means nothing if you’re not following through on it.

 

Buying advice doesn’t equal results. Only follow through does.  And this “following through” is much harder than getting the advice in the first place.

 

What happens if I have met my goals?

Again the feedback I have had regarding this is “well I have worked so hard to get to where I am I don’t want to go backwards”. Fair call. There is another old saying that goes “it’s a lot harder to rebuild than to maintain”.  Another strategy is to simply set some new goals whilst staying in the “maintenance stage” of your training. It’s far better to aim for small improvements than to go through the whole process again. So if motivation slips it’s always a very positive thing to remind yourself of how far you have come and more importantly why has it been important.

 

 

Conclusion

People fall into these because of cognitive biases and they often happen without conscious control.

 

You are not a bad person if you have these biases-everyone does. But you do need to be aware of them and their existence in your thought process for you to correct them.

  

 

 

As the saying goes, “you can bring a horse to water but you can’t make it drink”. I remember watching a current affairs program dismissing the value of personal training as some people weren’t getting results, not appreciating the fact that it is the responsibility of the client to go out and do what they have been asked to in order to get results!!!

 

 

 

 

If you decide to get coached or trained try these tips:

 

  1. Ask yourself. Is my cup empty and am I ready to be coached?
  2. Do your research, check qualifications and then when sufficiently impressed, give your trainer a little faith. If you don’t give them a chance it will never work!
  3. Take advice and then actually follow through on it. When you have acted on it, then go back and refill your cup.
  4. Remove the negatives. This means activities that have broken down your body over the years that are injuring you or the diet that is killing you slowly or removing the hecklers and saboteurs from your social network that continue to keep their foot on your head when you are trying  to step up!
  5. Be consistent for while. If you don’t show some patience, persistence and perseverance with anything you won’t get a result. Why is it any different for training or coaching?  Why ask for a trainer or pay for one if you are not ready to immerse yourself in the process?

 

The bottom line: there’s a right time and place to benefit from advice and training. If you’re not in that time and place, there is no benefit. You must earn the right to a receptive mind.  So, before asking anyone for advice or training, make sure you’re ready to receive it.

 

 

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