We got a white Christmas.
Sure, it was ten days after Christmas…
But as we say in English, Better late than never.
Here’s what the storm looked like Monday morning.
The Monday morning snow. (For all of my Mexican, Indian and Filipino readers, it’s the white stuff outside the window.)
|Then it got interesting — the lights went out.|
It was just like camping. We lit candles. We made a fire. We went to bed early and used the extra blankets from the closet.
Then it got old.
After three days it doesn’t feel like camping, it feels like homeless. Except you’re inside your home. Very confusing.
But another hidden benefit of no electricity is no internet.
And no internet means more time to think.
And what was I thinking about?
Well, English, of course.
Since 2004 I have had many students with many jobs.
Lawyers. Accountants. Managers. Doctors. Entrepreneurs…
But there’s one type of student I’ve never had: a surfer.
Yes, living mostly in land-locked Czech Republic might explain it partly.
But I think there’s another reason: surfers don’t need my lessons.
To explain this better, I wrote a parable.
What’s a parable?
It’s a story that teaches a lesson.
Jesus told parables.
Some of his most famous parables were The Parable of the Mustard Seed, The Divided Kingdom and The Lost Sheep.
Am I saying I’m like Jesus?
No, no. Not at all.
I have more email subscribers than Jesus.
THE PARABLE OF THE DOCTOR AND THE SURFER
On the first day of English class the doctor is the first student to arrive.
He sits in the front row.
He takes out his new notebook and sharpened pencils.
He’s smart, He’s successful. He works hard.
He will master English like he mastered medicine.
At first, things go well.
He learns lots of words.
He learns lots of rules.
He gets good grades.
Meanwhile, at the back of the room, It’s a different story for the surfer.
He learns some words and forgets others.
He learns some rules and doesn’t understand others.
He takes tests, passes some and fails others.
The surfer has an average brain, has average ability, and is an average English student.
Then school ends.
The doctor and the surfer leave English class.
But their story with English is just beginning…
ONE YEAR LATER
The doctor travels to a foreign country to attend a medical conference.
English is all around him.
He listens to one lecture after another.
He understands some words, but not every word. Or if he understands every word, he doesn’t understand the whole sentence. Or it’s too fast. Or the speaker has a strange accent.
The doctor worries. He tells himself, “I must understand everything.”
He feels bad.
At dinner, a foreign colleague asks him a question, a simple question.
The doctor speaks but he forgets a word.
Then he can’t remember a rule and makes a mistake.
Again, he worries.
He tells himself, “My memory failed. I made a mistake. That’s bad.”
And he feels bad.
So what does he do? When he gets home after the conference he returns to his books. He takes more classes. He studies, tries, learns, memorizes, works…
But nothing helps.
He attends another medical conference…. he attempts more conversations… and always the same worry, the same fear, the same mistakes…
Eventually, he comes to a conclusion: the problem is not the teachers or the language or his lack of time.
The problem is him. He is bad at languages.
The surfer, on the other hand, never returns to class, never reviews his grammar book, and never studies or works or even looks like he’s trying.
Nor did he ever live in the US or UK.
Yet, he now speaks English.
The surfer with the average IQ. The average memory. Who got average grades. And who doesn’t really work that hard.
How did he do it?
THE SURFER MIND
The surfer learned English like he learned to surf.
He didn’t go to surfing school or read a surfing book.
Instead, he found friends who surf.
He went to the beach with his surfer friends.
He watched them surf.
When he was ready, he took his board and entered the water.
At first, he was afraid — the waves are much bigger when you’re in the water — but after the first wave passed under him he realized it would not kill him and it could be fun.
Every new wave that came he watched it, he felt the board, he heard the crashing water.
Sometimes he stood.
Sometimes he fell.
But he always enjoyed it.
And he always tried again.
Then one day, he rode his surf board all the way to the beach.
THE TWO MINDS
Some call them left brain and right brain.
Or Self One and Self Two.
The analytical and the creative.
Both have their uses.
We all have access to both.
The trick is knowing when to use one, when to use the other, and when to use both.
Because while your “Doctor Mind” helps you do your job, it is killing your English.
It judges and criticizes and makes you feel bad and perform worse.
Instead, you want to switch to Surfer Mind.
When you do that, you become like a musician, an athlete, or a dancer…
You stay in the present moment, you feel, and you enjoy.
And one day, you ride your own wave as far as you want…