What Teaching English to 3-Year-Olds Taught Me About How to Get Back on Track After a Business Setback

When I heard about a job teaching English to small children, it sounded like an interesting job, and probably not too difficult. But it turned out to be more than interesting... It proved to be a big challenge, but having great rewards.

You might be wondering why an international corporate coach chose to take a teaching job. Well, my own consultancy project ran into some difficulties, so I decided to take a job temporarily.

Working with children appealed to me because they are our future, and teaching them gave me an opportunity to shape the future each day.

The challenge of keeping 3-year-olds focused on a new language hit me the first day on my new job. And it became apparent that the only way to make it work was to turn their learning experience into having fun.

That's the first thing I learned, and perhaps the most important thing for me, personally:

Having fun in simple things turns out to be an effective solution.

It's perfectly normal to children, but not so obvious to adults - things go better when you're having fun.

For some reason, it hadn't occurred to me to have fun in my consulting work with corporate executives. I didn't expect to have fun, so it didn't happen very often. I expected to work hard and achieve results, so that's what happened.

One way I can have fun is to find happiness in simple things, and in noticing small steps of improvement. Noticing what is going well is key. Most of us focus on what's wrong, and it becomes a habit.

But having fun and noticing what's going well are simple things we can choose to remember every day.

Live with love. Business is all about love. It's that simple!

I also learned if I don't have love for the kids, I cannot teach them anything. Little kids are naturally loveable, but working with them in a learning environment every day gave me a new appreciation for the value of love as a motivator.

In reality, love is a tremendous motivator in business, too. Without love for your clients you are not motivated to give them your best.

You have to use some charisma.

Before I took this job teaching English to small children, I rarely smiled.

In my work with corporate CEOs and directors, I just didn't smile very often. I was always serious and sharply focused on a specific outcome. Everyday, I reflected on thought to think to myself, "Is this the way I truly want to live my life?"

Working with kids I had to smile all the time, from the beginning to the end of every class. That was truly challenging for me because I had to break my habit of seriousness, and I had to make a conscious effort to change.

My old boss once said to me "Hey Davis! Finally you can smile!" and I thought God had sent me here to make me realize that what I had seen of life was not at all a glimpse of what life actually is.

You have to accept the natural pace of improvement.

Sometimes, you can't "see" progress until ALL sticking points are removed: It's like a boat tied to a pier with a series of ropes in complicated knots. Each time you untangle a knot and free up one rope, you're actually making progress. But the boat isn't free to move until the last rope is untied.

In the same way, 3-year-olds are busy learning about life every day, so adding a new language is just one more thing for them to absorb. And they all learn at their own pace.

Teaching 3-year-olds to write their names typically takes 4 - 6 months. That's the normal time frame for them to understand and to master the skill of writing their own names.

So, why should an adult in business worry if it takes 4 - 6 months to attract the first customer or client?

I learned to accept that each child has a natural pace for improvement, and so do I.

For that reason, patience is key.

The things I've learned teaching small children to speak English have changed the way I do business. They've given me a whole new mindset.

Choosing happiness in the corporate world is not a big problem for me anymore. I feel free to express my happiness, my love, my charisma, my sense of timing and my patience in my work with corporate executives now.

I watched those 3-year-olds bounce back from failure very quickly. They did not see failure in their lives. Most adults aren't able to do that. We focus on our mistakes and we usually see them as failures.

Before I learned this lesson about patience I was easily stressed when things didn't happen the way I wanted them to happen. That made me unhappy, and it went on for years.

Now that I've taught English to these little kids I know how to be happy in life. They enjoy life. They enjoy new things. So, why not me?

One of the philosophies at our English language school was this - whether you succeed or fail you learn something. So, as a teacher, my job was to help them learn something, and ensure their end result was success.

They always succeed if they learn something. That's just one concept behind everything I do.

So, why not me? And... Why not you?

One of my friends decided to learn how to deal with her negative emotions about being laid off from her job. As a result of our work together, she was able to get a complete picture of what was required to find another job, as well as gain the ability to stay positive throughout her job hunting.

She walked away from our meeting with a fresh, new CV, grounded with impeccable personal branding. And she also understood how to creatively focus on her strengths to reinvent her career.

It's easy to see how the important skills I learned teaching English to 3-year-olds truly made a difference in her life. May they do the same for you!

By Davis Truyen, MBA, Author, Certified Professional Coach
Follow Davis Truyen on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nguyentruyen