hot fire forge steelDeeply committed to being a life-long learner, I was fond of the saying “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear,” and always strove to be aware of the learning opportunities in everyday situations. One day I had a wake up call: I realized, subconsciously, I was expecting my learning opportunities to come “Mr. Chips” style: a kindly person with a gentle manner would appear on my path with a pointer and chalkboard neatly listing the relevant lesson in bullet points.

No way! Some of my greatest teachers were the most irritating people I’ve met. They pushed my buttons (nicely reminding me of where my buttons were and occasionally showing me new ones), they complained, they stood in my way, they rocked my boat. And I learned and grew from each interaction.

Complaining customers are free consultants! Love ’em, listen to ’em, learn from them! It’s the quiet, unhappy customer you should pay attention to: read! It’s the partner who won’t tell you what is on his or her mind, who stays silent, who doesn’t grumble when dissatisfied: they are the ones drifting away from you, uncommitted, distancing themselves.

PS: While it is true that crisis and trouble are our greatest learning opportunities, and we learn more from failure than success. There is no need to seek them out: life will cheerfully send you all you need!

Closing quotes:

“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”  — Bill Gates; 1955–

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”  — Charles Darwin; 1809–1882

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”  — Zen proverb