As a coach, do you look at the negative or the positive?

Most of us tend to look at what needs to be fixed, ostensibly that’s what we are there for. When you look at how great things are, it really adds another dimension to life, living and learning. The best argument for this philosophy is: when you look at the brighter side, you are looking into the light as opposed to into the darkness.

downloadWhen I was a student at John Hopkin’s University, I wanted to join a poetry writing course taught by Professor Elliot Coleman. To be accepted into the course, first I had to show Coleman a sample of my poetry. Fearing criticism, I procrastinated.

When at last I braved an appointment with him and let him read my poems, I was astonished at his response: he told me what he liked about them. I left his office buoyed and inspired. That very week I wrote a poem that broke new ground for me.

When my poems were discussed in class, I often felt that Coleman understood my purposes better than I did. I always left class inspired and able to improve what I had written.

One week, I lingered in Professor Coleman’s classroom after the class session had ended. All had left the room except two other students, on whom I was eavesdropping.

One of the students was attacking a poem that the other had written. At bay, the author of the poem defended himself: “Well, Elliot Coleman likes this poem!”

The other, arching for the kill, hissed, “So? Elliot Coleman likes everything!”

In that moment I understood two things. Of course, I understood what the attacker meant: if I like everything equally, my judgement is meaningless.

But I also understood what the attacker did not. Elliot Coleman did not praise indiscriminately. On the contrary, his great gift was his ability to find what there was to like in every poem he read.