Talking About Teaching: Amy Kessel interviews Jen Louden

This article was originally published on AmyKessel.com by Amy Kessel.

++++

Jen Louden embodies the word “teacher.” It’s what she does, how she lives, who she is. Teaching is, for Jen, her way of serving others.

As a best-selling author and personal growth teacher, Jen has spent twenty years guiding women toward self care and personal wisdom. She teaches via her books, her blog, and her retreats, and I have no doubt that hundreds of thousands of women have transformed their relationships with themselves due to Jen’s insight, clarity and gentle delivery of powerful knowledge. I know I have.

After devouring her first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book, I began to replace old ways of thinking with new practices and beliefs around self care. And her work influenced my decision to become a coach for women. In my practice I incorporate many elements of Jen’s teachings on comfort and self nurturing. How could I not?

She has recently shifted focus from self care and comfort to an exploration into how we can dedicate ourselves to serving the world while also savoring life. To do this, Jen created the Savor and Serve experimentSavor and Serve is brand new and full of life, as you’ll see in the blog posts and comments on Jen’s website.

Jen’s commitment to others who teach inspired her to launch TeachNow, an online course she cooked up with Michele Lisenbury Christensen. Michelle defines a teacher as, “Anybody who shares energy, ideas or information with others for the sake of serving.” TeachNow is about teaching, but it’s not limited to those in teaching professions. It’s for all of us who want to share our gifts with others.

In my interview with Jen, we talked about her recent shift, what it is to be a teacher, and TeachNow.

A.K. Give us a sense of what brought you to this new change in your work. Where have you been and where are you going?

J.L. Where I’ve been and where I still am is … how do you fully embrace who you are and what you need to function and thrive and open to life.  I’ve become aware recently that the fear of death is not a big one for me. But fear of being fully alive, fear of not giving birth to what’s in me – that’s what I’ve been dealing with. I’ve dealt with it through talking and teaching about self care and comfort and creativity and writing, but what I realized is there’s something deeper here. There’s a part of it that needs to be tied back to how we express that self care by caring for others.

But I don’t know the answers to any of it. That’s why I launched this Savor and Serve experiment, because I’m blessed and cursed with learning something and having to share it immediately.

A.K. What is it to savor and serve?

J.L. I’m diving, sinking, giving way to this experiment. I’m giving way to a knot and the knot is the story that I live in that what I have to do in the world depletes me, so then I can’t serve in the way I’m called upon to serve.

More than a knot, it’s a box. I have the story “you have to do this this and this!” and then I run off to do it and I feel resentful and depleted. Then I say “Hah! You’re doing it again!” That prevents me from serving the way I want to serve. And I’m not even sure what that is yet. That’s what I’ve discovered so far in the experiment.

TeachNow, the course, arose out of my own long journey of suffering around teaching and wanting to bring some of what I learned to other people, but also wanting to continue that learning. So part of the course is 28 interviews with master teachers. One of the beauties of what I do and the beauty of  the internet is that we can learn so much from one another and we can get into the little places that we haven’t ever shared before.

A.K. Is teaching serving?

J.L. Yes. For many people. It is for me. It’s the way that I serve right now. Many people are called to serve that way but they get really frustrated because they show up to teach and it doesn’t go well so they decide, “That means I’m not a teacher.  I’m not supposed to serve this way.”  No no no no! If there’s one thing I want to solve with this course it’s that feeling.

Parker Palmer, one of my heroes, is a teachers’ teacher. He’s an amazing man and he still feels this way when he goes to teach. After 35 years and a PhD and god knows what else. Addressing that is part of what gets in the way, because we may feel called to serve in a particular way – let’s say teaching – but then we think that because we’re called to serve that way it’s going to go beautifully. So we need support.

A.K. What about people who don’t want to be teachers in the conventional sense?

J.L. That’s most of the people who attended TeachNow last time we taught. Including people who had never thought about being teachers, and who had never taught. We had such a wide range from professors and high school math teachers, to yoga teachers to writers, bloggers, people who are reluctantly called to speak or teach and who want to do so with ease. A huge range. And they all got so much out of it.

A.K. We’re all teaching every time we speak.

J.L. There’s never been a time in history when more people were teaching as part of their livelihoods and part of their personal expressions. And I think that maybe that word is off-putting. For some people it’s really exciting, “I want to be a teacher!” For some people it’s scary, “I don’t want to be a teacher!” Some people think, “I’m not a teacher,” but are in fact teaching art classes. Or “I’m a blogger.” But blogging is teaching. Parenting is teaching.

What exactly is the TeachNow program?

We will be talking a lot more about teaching in our next session of TeachNow, which will open for enrollment on March 19th.

Want to see what it’s all about? Join me for a free sampler class on March 19th at 5pm PT/8pm ET. You’ll learn 7 immediately useful teaching tips + get two free guides, including A Quick and Fab Guide to Content Creation – no more content creation overwhelm!

Sign up for the call right here.

 

Want to Be a Better Marketer? Start by Becoming a Better Teacher

This guest post was originally published on CopyBlogger.com by Jen Louden.

++++

Some of the world’s most masterful marketers are, first and foremost, master teachers.

You’re a teacher when you write a blog post that helps solve a tricky problem your audience is facing.

You’re a teacher when you lead a webinar.

You’re a teacher when you overcome objections on a landing page. When you troubleshoot with a client on the phone. When you craft a product, make a video, give a speech.

Understanding yourself as a teacher, no matter what your business, makes your business more profitable and more fulfilling.

As an entrepreneur, you know the importance of finding a need and filling it, of knowing your market, of writing compelling copy.

Yet it’s tempting to overlook an equally important part of the recipe: how you actually teach.

  • How you develop your content and deliver it.
  • How you connect with your students.
  • How you adapt to different learning styles.
  • How you take care of yourself so you can teach without burning out.

All these are as vital as what you teach and how you get the message out.

But because many of us don’t see ourselves as teachers, we skip learning how to teach. And then we wonder why our businesses falter or our energy drains away.

Some people are natural teachers … I’m not one of them

The Woman’s Comfort Book became a bestseller when I was 29 years old.

I was instantly thrust into a teaching role. I did workshops and keynotes because I was invited to and I wanted to sell books. I had zero idea what I was doing. I flailed about. I would waste days over-preparing, then collapse when my teaching didn’t go the way I’d imagined.

And if the students didn’t rave? I was crushed. I felt so ashamed and alone in my failures.

Then I started to befriend other “famous” teachers at places like Omega and conferences, and joy! I learned the secret of “successful” teachers: most of them felt the same way.

Many teachers fear they suck, most of the time

We were all making it up as we went along. Sometimes that worked. A lot of the time: not so much.

I started researching: What makes an effective teacher? How do I get better? What do I do about those students who never talk? Or the ones who never shut up? Why am I so exhausted after teaching? How do I know if I did a good job?

Over my years studying teaching and learning, I’ve discovered several keys to sustainable, fulfilling teaching:

  • 1. Don’t try to be the expert — Be the creator of safety and context
  • Trying to be the world’s foremost expert (especially when I was the youngest one in the room) tripped me up again and again.

    Yes, you have to know your topic, but that doesn’t mean you have every answer. Truly, you can’t. Let “I don’t know” become your favorite words.

    Besides, what you know is far less important than your real job, which is fostering:

    • Safety: Helping your students feel safe enough to take in what you offer and to ask questions — they’re as afraid of not knowing as you are!
    • Context: Showing students how this learning can benefit their lives. It’s just like writing good copy — you have to sell them on why they should care.
  • 2. Nobody anoints you but you.
  • Would-be teachers often hold back and wait for someone to dump holy water on them and say, “Yes, you’re ready to teach now. You know it all!”

    At the same time, seasoned teachers can burn out when they get tired of beating themselves up for not being “legitimate” enough or knowing enough (see #1.)

    Sidestep all that mess: give yourself permission to teach. Ground yourself in what you do know, keep learning, stay humble — but stop waiting!

  • 3. Know thyself
  • It’s so tempting to think teaching is all about establishing a niche or finding that “perfect” market, and has nothing to do with who you are.

    I’d so love that to be true! But knowing yourself, warts and shining talents, and being willing to be honest with yourself will do more to increase your effectiveness than anything else you do.

    For example, I really want everyone to like me and think I’m smart. When I can face that, and not pretend it’s silly or beneath me, I am more present, supple, and able to focus on my students instead of my own neediness. It’s hard inner work, at times, but skip it and you — and your students — suffer.

  • 4. The best teachers teach as part of their own learning.
  • Of the dozens of master teachers I’ve interviewed — they teach everything from writing to meditation to 3rd grade — most make mention of this.

    It’s not only about staying on top of your topic — “sharpening the saw” by perpetually improving your skills.

    Nope. It’s way deeper than that. Their teaching is always in service to their own learning.

    They remain lifelong students. Especially in the front of the room. Teaching well is a powerful opportunity to learn. Learning is a life-long, perpetual, constant cycle for them. What they learn feeds their teaching, and vice-versa.

  • 5. Self-care really does matter.
  • As someone who has written volumes (literally!) about self-care, I find it highly adorable that this has been the hardest thing for me to learn.

    I thought teaching meant serving myself up and giving everything to everybody. When I found myself schlepping baggage at one of my own retreats, I started to rethink that.

    What do you need to feel your best when you teach? If that’s a cup of tea and Twitter turned off while you write, great. If it’s a day alone before and after an event, and (gasp!) a massage, make it so.

Teaching is a high calling to be of service (yes you can make money while being of service, but that’s another blog post) and teaching is a transmission of your energy and heart to another.

If you are called to teach, in whatever capacity, you owe it to yourself to give thought and attention to how you can best do that. You don’t have to flail and fail, I promise! Instead, learn how to teach. And then teach so you can learn.

What exactly is the TeachNow program?

We will be talking a lot more about teaching in our next session of TeachNow, which will open for enrollment on March 19th.

Want to see what it’s all about? Join me for a free sampler class on March 19th at 5pm PT/8pm ET. You’ll learn 7 immediately useful teaching tips + get two free guides, including A Quick and Fab Guide to Content Creation – no more content creation overwhelm!

Sign up for the call right here.