Retirement Talk

WHAT to do with the rest of your life?


Episode 715 Get a Coach!

This is Retirement Talk. I'm Del Lowery.

I've been studying the classical guitar for over 30 years. I still don't play it very well. But I continue to love the instrument and love the process of practicing. I just have to overcome my feelings of inadequacy and ego. I have had many teachers over the years but only the most recent has really made contact with my special needs. She is patient and inspirational. She understands my efforts in later life to range into a field of study that is not suited to my casual, make-do nature. I have never been good at details. She recognizes my weaknesses and inspires my continued study. Without her constant attention and encouragement I'm afraid my exploration would have ended long ago. I take two lessons each month. She's my coach.

It seems like coach has been accepted as the proper term to apply to most any instructor. Personal coaches are available to help us guide our own lives wherever they might be or wherever we might want them to go. We have coaches for exercise and coaches for mathematics. We have coaches for violins, voice and yoga. We have coaches for growing flowers or cleaning out clutter.

I recently read an article in the New Yorker magazine by a well respected surgeon in a New York hospital that had employed a coach to help him perform surgery in the operating room.

He had been attending a medical conference in California and had taken along a tennis racket since he had long ago been a very good tennis player and hoped that he might find someone to share a game or two. He had no luck. He inquired at a tennis club and was told that his only option was to higher a pro for a lesson if he wished to hit.

He hired the coach and within one lesson was hitting his serve ten miles and hour faster than he had ever served in his life. He then thought about Nadal and other tennis professionals and the fact that they always have a coach with them. He started to wonder about the value of having a coach no matter the endeavor.

He returned to New York and asked Yo Yo Ma if he had a coach and he said,"Yes". He asked Itzak Perlman and he said "Yes, his wife used to be a concert violinist." He went to a retired professor/surgeon and asked if he would agree to come into the operating room and see if he would coach him in surgery.

Eyebrows furrowed around the operating table when it was announced that the coach would be in the room during surgery. The watchful eye of an expert detected places where improvement could be made. It was a resounding success and has been repeated several times since.

This past year my wife who is a watercolorist hired one of our baristas who is a recent art school graduate to come to our house one a week and coach her painting. It had an amazing effect. Change was immediate. Unfortunately summer holidays came and the girl relocated to another city and Brenda lost her coach. Perhaps another will soon appear.

Thinking of personal coaches my mind always drifts back to one of my favorites, Monseur de Ville.  When we lived in Alaska he came out to our house each Sunday morning one winter and coached us in speaking French. Our kids were in elementary school and we all four set around the dining table two hours each week with Monseur de Ville. Monsieur de Ville was from France. He dressed like a Frenchman and talked and looked every inch of being  french.

It was a great way to spend Sunday mornings as studying the language was new to all of us. We could help each other and laugh at each other on a weekly basis.

Unknown to us Monsieur de Villewas also a great womanizer. He had problems that got all out of hand and one Sunday morning in the spring he did not show for our coaching session. The next day we read of his suicide on the day of our lesson. The suicide followed his killing of a fellow teacher at a local high school. Love gone bad. You want to be careful when you choose a coach.

It sometimes seems like we should grow up and no longer need the sharp eye of an outsider to guide us. We might "Know how to do it ourselves". But I have found that it is almost always possible to gain from having another opinion. It pays to put the ego on the back burner sometimes and ask for assistance.

Plus; it is always interesting to talk to an expert in almost anything. You get a glimpse into someone else's bliss. If they are passionate about the subject and willing to share their lifetime pursuit it can open up new windows for viewing the world. We have used coaches for everything from carpentry to cooking and from Tai Chi to computers. Hopefully we will be able to continue these enlightening encounters.

Now I have to practice my guitar. I have a session tomorrow.

This is Retirement Talk.


If you have a question, comment or suggestions for a topic please contact:








Follow Retirement Talk on Facebook: on Facebook