“I am no one special. Just a common man with common thoughts. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten. But in one respect I have succeeded as gloriously as anyone who has ever lived. I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul and for me that has always been enough.”
-The Notebook (2004)
This book isn’t what it seems.
The main title implies another reheated rant about the evils of text-choked slides, hideous color schemes, and eye-frying animations. As worthy as those topics are, they’re not why we’re here today.
And while the subtitle attempts to explain the collision of a 900-year-old grammatically-challenged Star Wars character with the world’s most popular presentation software, I’ll understand if you’re still puzzled about what awaits you in the pages ahead. So here it is:
This is a love note.
To trainers, employees, businesses, and movies.
About waste, redemption, hope, and heroes.
And it’s all for you.
If the “love” angle has turned you off, I understand. It’s not you…it’s me.
Love is fine for candlelight and midnight but a little underdressed for the florescent-and-flowchart world of work. Love is risky business, especially when talking about business. You may have been looking for something different, something less personal and more practical, like a brilliant Seth Godin tome or some Patrick Lencioni fable-based wisdom. If that’s the case, then I humbly bid you farewell.
I’d escort you over to their prodigious collections myself, or just give you a well-worn copy of their works from my own library if I could. They are just a few of the shoulders upon which I’ve stood for most of my 25-year career and have provided some of the inspiration for the book you now hold and puzzle over.
Yet and still, love is my unabashed reason for writing this book about you, to you, and for you. It’s a good bet that you are one of three types of business people at whom this book is arrowed. But more – much more – about you in a second.
Writing an entire book about training, and letting both love and movies hitch a ride, could be bargain-bin lunacy for a first-time author like me. The titles in the bookstore about the nuts and bolts of training are a baby’s handful compared to the shelf space and sales numbers that Godin and Lencioni command, and with good reason: the value of training is hard to define, the effects are tricky to measure, and the returns are difficult to quantify – but its existence is all too easy to question and crush.
So why should you keep reading?
Because at some point in your career you have been, or will be, either the trainer or the taught. You’re showcasing the expertise that made you a master of the great or small, teaching those skills to someone else, or studying new ones that will let you move in, on, up, or out. You could be doing all four at once, but your heartbeat guarantees you’re doing at least one right now. None are particularly easy on you, to be sure, but they are vital roles you must play in the life you live and the lives you’ll touch.
You also know – whether formal or informal, good or bad – training happens in the business world. What you may not know is the sheer volume of it: over $100 billion spent every year in the US alone. Training has evolved into a world unto itself, with its own gravitational field, fault lines, peaks, valleys, seasons, and shadows. But the money invested in that world has been wasted at such an astronomical rate that the dollar bills can only be measured in 1,000-mile stacks. Change must come soon to the training world in order to save it – to keep it relevant to you and your employees, and to the companies around whom it orbits.
You may love the process and profession of training, or hate it, or be torn somewhere between the two. To all of you, welcome. You’ve come to the right place. I’ve just a few final words before we go any further:
To the Trainers,
I love you. I’m one of you. And you are a freak.
At some point in your life, you realized that you were blessed with a desire to show others the right way to make, use, think about, talk about, sell, serve, lead, follow, and/or overcome objections to some gizmo or gadget or model or tool. You loved writing instructional manuals, authoring online courses, designing learning, teaching 1 or 1,000 at a time, setting an example for others to follow. Training came as easy as learning, as did your love for both.
You enjoy the thrill of public speaking and find fun, not the fear that surpasses death, on the stage at the front of the room. There’s a relationship that forms between you and the audience. Their questions and silence and laughter? You know the meaning behind all of them, hear the unspoken-but-deafening conversation between speaker and listener, and know you must be both at once to become anything at all to them.
Your manuals and tests, flipcharts and brochures, handouts and stories don’t define you, though. What does is your unstoppable itch to change the world, one person at a time.
Your time under the sun is best spent making someone else better. That is your business. That is your call.
The money isn’t why you do this. You would train for free. On too many days, if a full accounting of your time and talent were made, you probably do. But it doesn’t matter, does it? If you didn’t train and teach, those best parts of you would turn to dust.
The messy business of training – of intentionally changing another’s behavior for the good – isn’t a natural instinct for most but comes as simply as breathing for you. It’s rare and noble and freaky.
The world, and all the heroes in it, needs you more than you know and has needed you far longer than you’ve realized. Your role is hard-wired into myth and legend. You are a fundamental and unforgettable piece of literature, theater, art, and the blockbuster movies you know by heart. Our pedigree is as old and vital as civilization itself. The world demands we live up to that ancient, awesome heritage.
To you, my friend and colleague, I hope you still love the crowd and their questions. I hope you still have the patience and the drive and the heart and the hope. If so, then I offer this book as more fuel for your bright fire.
And if your own has gone dim, or died completely, then I hope you find in these pages the spark you once had. There are reasons your optimism and passion for this profession have been drowned and crushed. Some are out of your control, but others are pressed so deeply into our best practices that they will steal your success before you’ve even started. I’ll shine a light on these reasons in pages that follow. It’ll then be up to you to decide if training is still for you, because I love you enough to let you go.
Now please brace yourself. You won’t like what you’re about to read next.
(to be continued tomorrow…)