Norton: Learning through serving
Years ago, I had the opportunity to caddie several times for a good friend of mine Chris. He was an awesome amateur golfer playing in the state’s mid-amateur tournaments. I refer to this as an opportunity to volunteer to serve Chris as his caddie because it gave me the opportunity to spend a few days watching and learning from the other great amateur golfers like Chris.
As I watched, I became more familiar with the rules of the game. I observed the way that fantastic golfers approach different shots and how they managed the course. I was happy to carry Chris’ bag for free because he and the other golfers were helping me to learn the game and improve my own score. During one of those seasons, I was carrying his bag for the weekend, and he won the state mid-am championship. That meant that we were paired up with some really terrific golfers, so I had the best of the best amateurs to learn from along that journey.
In my earlier career, I was also given the opportunity to be an observer in board of director’s meetings. This meant giving up evenings and sometimes weekends, but the knowledge and experience I gained was worth every hour that I invested in being among some brilliant minds for a few hours every month and for a longer meeting each quarter.
During those meetings I managed to make myself useful by serving coffee, making sure there was water in the room, and, most importantly, taking notes. I also took notice of the way these leaders asked questions, including their line of questioning, it was truly impressive. I paid attention to what they wrote down as important, and how they navigated difficult decisions to come to an agreement among nine members of the board. I was truly learning by serving.
A young man that I coach and mentor, and who lives and works with a servant’s heart, aspires to be a keynote speaker himself one day. I had an opportunity where I was delivering a keynote speech in Chicago, so I invited him to join me. I covered his travel costs, but he invested two days of his time to come and experience how corporate events like this work. He also made himself useful by handing out books and materials and collecting business cards from people he thought that I might want to meet one day. When the event was over he shared how much he had learned, and that he was grateful for the opportunity.
Two of my favorite places to serve are through my church and in my community. We are a part of a small church in our town. My wife and I both have volunteer positions within the church. Again, giving up a few hours each month is absolutely worth the investment of time as we work with others in our church, engaging and learning as they manage each of their different ministries.
In the small town that we live in, there are plenty of opportunities to learn and serve. I have coached a few young people for free, putting in the time and energy to help them improve their skills, make a hard decision, or find the right career path. Again, what I get out of the opportunity is incredible and gives me insights into how the younger generations are thinking these days. By giving of my time and serving, in return I was receiving tremendously valuable information that would help in understanding the different age groups and how they learn, what motivates them, and how they see the future.
There are so many great benefits when it comes to volunteering our time and serving other. How about you? Is there something that gets you excited about serving others? Do you live and work with a servant’s heart? I would love to hear your story at firstname.lastname@example.org and when we realize that we can learn while we serve, it really will be a better than good year.
Michael Norton is the grateful President of XINNIX, a personal and professional coach, and a consultant, trainer, encourager, and motivator to businesses of all sizes.