The Most Powerful Teacher
by John G. Miller
My wife, Karen, (Twitter @QBQMom), recently said to me, “John, you have an opinion on absolutely everything!” As I thought about her statement, I realized an opinion was forming in my mind …
She’s right. I always have.
I probably got it from my dad, the Cornell University wrestling coach and pastor. He loved to teach, as well as freely share his opinions—on people, places, and things. And since modeling is the most powerful of all teachers, and our most critical role models are our parents, I suppose I got the tendency to always have an opinion from him.
Now, having opinions is not necessarily a bad thing, but it could be since it’s true that any strength taken to an extreme becomes a weakness. Having strong and frequent opinions can lead us to improving, well, anything! But having too many opinions can cause frustration, stress, and relational damage. It can feel—and be—critical. It’s a fine line. I’ve had to learn to bite my tongue and not always share what I’m thinking. The reality is some things just aren’t worth having an opinion on.
In QBQ! The Question Behind the Question, about halfway through the book, we pose this question: “As you’ve been reading this material on personal accountability, who have you been picturing, thinking, ‘I wish they could hear this, because they need it!’”
And since I did write the book, I will stipulate to the fact that I can’t, even with all my opinions, change anyone but me. But if I had no opinions, then QBQ! and its companion book, Flipping the Switch, would never have been written! And the new team study book, Outstanding! 47 Ways to Make Your Organization Exceptional, would’ve been titled—if it had been written at all—Mediocre! Absolutely 0 Ways to Improve the Place.
On a recent flight I sat next to a woman with wisdom. And, of course, wisdom is what we learn after we know it all. That’s who and what she was: A wise person who could teach others simply by how she lived. As we chatted, she shared that when she first moved to a certain big city with her husband and three young children, not one neighbor came to greet them. The weeks went by, they unloaded boxes and hung pictures and drapes, but nobody welcomed them to the neighborhood. So one day she told her kids, “Let’s bake cookies for all!” —and they did. Then, loading up their little red Radio Flyer wagon, they spent a Saturday morning delivering fresh, still-warm homemade cookies and big smiles to their new neighbors, up and down the street.
Upon hearing her story, I commented, “Um, gee, that’s really something. Your family was the new family in the neighborhood and yet you took cookies to people!?” Her response was wise. Leaning toward me with a hint of mischief in her eyes, she nearly whispered, “Sometimes you just gotta teach people how to live.”
I know what she meant, and you do, too. She wasn’t being arrogant, haughty, or proud. She was actually endorsing what we teach in our books: I can’t change others, but I sure can model the right behaviors myself. She definitely had an opinion on this whole topic of how to be neighborly, but instead of lashing out at people, playing the victim, or complaining about the neighbors in front of the children, she turned her opinion into action. Yes, action that all could see. And most importantly, she had three children watching her. I bet as adults now, they chuckle over Mom’s fine example as they, with their kids in tow, deliver cookies to people who maybe, possibly, just don’t quite know “how to live.”
And that’s okay. I mean, who doesn’t feel better eating a fresh, still-warm homemade cookie—and learning a valuable life lesson at the same time?
Remember, modeling is the most powerful of all teachers. Let’s turn our opinions into actions.
And now let’s turn this QuickNote into action by asking The Question Behind the Question (QBQ):
“What action can I take today that sets an outstanding example for others?”
John G. Miller
The QBQ! Guy