Learning Series: What Happens When You Have EI Awareness

“Many times we are our worst enemy. If we could learn to conquer ourselves, then we will have a much easier time overcoming the obstacles that are in front of us.” 
― Stephan Labossiere

In the last article in this series, I wrote about the tie-in of emotion to the ability to learn. The point-of-view that emotional obstacles block growth and learning is interesting. They don’t actually stop us from trying to learn; we can still go through the motions of going to a class and listening to discourse and trying to use that information for a particular need.


So, what happens to those students of themselves who learn to become more self-aware? What effect does it have on them and what effect does it have on their ability to learn?

Those who have had, or taken, the opportunity to recognize how they feel about different experiences have also been able to essentially evaluate whether each experience is valuable…either positively or negatively. For example, a person might work up the courage to ask her boss for a raise or promotion, only to be shot down. The rejection of the request and the emotional dejection from the failure to get the promotion is obviously negative. However, there are positive consequences that not everyone can recognize nor attain. Those more attuned to their emotions may be able to walk away with a feeling of pride after conquering the fear to work up enough courage to even ask for the promotion. That success also builds lasting confidence and can lead to larger and great feats to accomplishment. In effect, a negative and positive experience was used to produce a value statement for this person, in order to determine whether the result of the experience was worth the struggle. At this point, the brain has attached actual value to the experience.

“Through the experience of emotions, [we] come to recognize what is cognitively and affectively of value,” helping determine how and why we respond to the world around us
–(Dirkx, 2006)

Continue reading “Learning Series: What Happens When You Have EI Awareness”

How Do I Learn to Become More Aware of Emotion?

As I alluded to in the last article, the learning environment is important and must provide a “safe zone” to allow emotional content to be brought out when the moment is right. At this point trust has ensued and the walls start to come down. The student steps aside and gets out of his or her own way, so solid learning can occur. When you become aware of your awareness, it can truly be an awakening of sorts. It’s at this point, conscious or not, you begin to think about and process things differently. This leads to a different in your approaches with others and with yourself.

Mentoring can help this occur, because it is a different learning platform that provides specific benefits for specific circumstances. It is an alternative learning experience that promotes emotional intelligence improvements (one of many). It is very different than the traditional learning model we’ve all become accustomed to.

  • Individualized, customized, private vs. group classrooms and mass-audience
  • Focused on iterative assessment trust and value vs course completion certificate
  • Life-long behavioral lesson shelf-life vs. diminished value as course version or content changes
  • Transferrable skill into every facet of life and work vs. direct applicability to specific purpose
  • Pay-as-you-go and assess for value attainment vs. pay-up-front for single event

“If people are anxious, uncomfortable, or fearful, they do not learn”
–(Perry, 2006)

I’ve Got My Emotional Awareness…Now What?

Building this type of awareness is a journey, so if you’re holding your hand out for a certificate of completion, don’t bother. The good news is that when you’ve started to build this awareness, it can become a great cycle. A little struggle, a little growth. As it repeats, you as the student start to look at others differently with more recognition of what they are going through based on your own experiences. You are more attuned to their reactions to words and actions, keener to how to best approach a problem or a conversation, more prone to let or help a situation defuse before attempting to “fix” it. This is empathy in action.

If you haven’t read between the lines of the previous paragraphs to recognize what’s happening, here is my perspective on how you are transforming…

  1. You learned about yourself, and you developed an awareness that you did this.
  2. You continued the process, achieving additional awareness, regardless of the presence of negative consequences…thus a net-positive experience.
  3. Your perspectives of others changed as a result of your own growth.

“Experiencing one’s self in a conscious manner–that is, gaining self-knowledge–is an integral part of learning.”
— Joshua M. Freedman

  1. Your change in perspective led to changes in how you work with others, bringing a certain non-intimate closeness to your interactions.
  2. Your closer exchanges brought forth empathy and shared experiences developed
  3. The shared experiences formed bonds that built stronger working relationships.
  4. Those around you received benefit; comfort in your approach and success in results as you worked with them.
  5. Your thought process maturation has accelerated. You’re asking questions that you wouldn’t have thought to ask, factoring in complexities and concerns that never occurred to you before, recognizing potential obstacles before they appear to surprise you and seeking out answers that have new importance.


The last item in the list of benefits is REALLY important. It’s integral and directly aligned to points when people are able to make mental jumps in their lives and careers. It’s also integral to the message this website brings, which is that when you grow in your thought process and the way in which you approach it, you afford yourself the ability to grow in your ability to learn and build personal capability. That is the difference between business analysis and business architecture.


Dirkx, J. (2006). Engaging emotions in adult learning: A Jungian perspective on emotion and transformative learning. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 109, 15-26. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

Shuck, et al., (2013). Emotions and Their Effect on Adult Learning: A Constructivist Perspective




You’ll KNOW Mentoring is Right for You When….

  1. You realize you are completing coursework and getting certified, but not fulfilled. Academic and even crash courses are built for classrooms, not individuals. You take courses that are worthwhile at the time for a specific skill and as the course is developed for the masses.

Mentoring is training customized to the individual and is equal parts listening/learning and dialog/application. It deals with emotions, emotional intelligence, personal obstacles and capabilities and personal goals and aspirations.

  1. You are ready to squirm in your chair. It is extremely uncomfortable in the early days, because you have decided to bare your soul for the benefit of very targeted guidance. This is not an easy decision, but your thought process has matured to the point that you have self-awareness and realization that you’ve probably blocked yourself unnecessarily. Way to go!

Mentoring is only productive and transformative when built on trust. You MUST be able to trust your mentor to tell he or she the things that make you vulnerable. Until you do, you cannot have the conversation about which of those items are irrational fears and which are real and need some work.

  1. You are ready to slay your dragons! You WILL meet the things in life that bring you fear, shame, embarrassment and angst. It will start as a professional conversation, but you’ll soon realize there is not a work YOU and a NOT WORK YOU, just a YOU.

Only when you are ready to talk about those things can you quantify them, add color to them, see them for what they are, understand what triggers them, understand how you typically react….and realize there is a better way.

  1. You are thoroughly engaged in the mentoring session, and constantly applying the lessons in new situations to grow away from the session. The mentoring session is great and invigorating, but it’s not where you learn. Business analysis and life lessons are learned by experience.

Mentoring provides the framework of the lessons in the sessions, but the time between session is where repetitive application in real life occurs. THAT’s where the light clicks on! You have to be ready to do some offline work reading, writing, thinking and doing.

  1. Your thought process and maturity has evolved to seek long-lasting lessons that pay dividends based on your efforts. You have realized that you are your greatest advocate and “ace-in-the-hole”.

You know now that there is a way through the most difficult obstacles that you have encountered and are able to lay out a plan of attack that is predicated on your own dedication, which builds the learning experience to position you for goal attainment. You realize that this enhanced perspective is key to learning things in different ways and applying them toward harder problems.

Is this YOU? Have you arrived? Then I want YOU to join me in applying mentoring to help achieve your success! Sign Up Now!


LEARNING SERIES: Emotional Intelligence and its Impact on Your Ability to Learn

This is Post 2 in a series about how we learn and how it’s related to mentoring. The first installment is here:

Renowned experts in Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman, Travis Bradberry and others that indicate there is a strong link between emotional intelligence and our ability to learn. Emotional intelligence employs self-awareness and introspection to allow us fully retain the learning experience, because there is a real connection to our minds through the effects we feel with our emotions. Not to mention it, through the employment of empathy, we learn to connect ourselves with others connect with them socially and learn from them.  “WHA?!” you say. “What does emotion have to do with learning? Can’t we just enable the firewall and let our nearest mobile communication device do all that..that…mushy stuff?!”

“Afterwards there was less cynicism – people had gained an understanding of colleagues differences.”  – FIT Emotional Intelligence

Let’s say that you are someone who is essentially very positive, an always glass-is-half-full kind of person. You might approach a situation in which you don’t know something as a great opportunity to learn something new, to grow or to gain awareness. Your coworker or friend, on the other hand, struggles. He or she feels overwhelmed not only with what is not known, but also how much there is to know. There is a sense of dread and a never-ending fear of falling further behind. If you each take on a learning task, there is an immediate point in which your mental state sets the stage, in part, on your ability to absorb information and actively put it to good use.

Pain, fear, happiness all play a part in our ability to learn. Think about those self-deprecating blockades we install in our way, “I’m never going to be able to figure this out,” or “This is way over my head,” or “I’ve never done this before.” Those voices are in almost everyone and have effect in the ability we have to learn. Many of us don’t even recognize the devil on shoulder, because the little gnome has been there for so long, self-sabotaging our progress and ability to change.

It stands to reason that before we can remove the negative obstacle to our own learning, we have to become aware of its presence. Emotional intelligence may help us to hear that voice as an alien or unwanted presence, because it essentially disrupts the normal state of self-awareness. Just like the fact that some of us see or hear better than others, there are some people more attuned to self-awareness of emotions more than others. Fear not, though. Emotional intelligence is something that can be improved upon with attention and some repetition. While, I’m not going to discuss that part here, you can read a fantastic article that I’ve found produces great results with some practice. The important take-away is that we can set a healthier stage for learning by being mindful and aware of ourselves and our tendencies. This helps us connect with others, because our social walls come down some to allow other experiences (and other people) in.

“Knowing others and knowing oneself, in one hundred battles no danger. Not knowing the other and knowing oneself, one victory for one loss. Not knowing the other and not knowing oneself, in every battle certain defeat.” 

–Sun Tzu, The Art of War  

When I mentor someone, I invariably work with someone who is a highly-skilled professional, or a highly-capable individual. In both instances, I have found that the individual is perfectly capable of successfully completing a specific activity that has come up in a session, and that the mentee believes that it is a “blocking” item to their growth. These people are fully competent and capable and smart as whips, yet they ask for help in struggles that prevent them from realizing success. How is this possible?

I’m not an expert on emotional intelligence, and in fact am still in the “WOW!” phase of learning it. It amazes me that this is just recently gaining so much traction, because it is so important to understanding how to get the hell out of our own way. When I mentor others, I have found that the learning we do in a mentoring session is electrically charged with things that aren’t on any agenda. Investigation into handling a difficult customer, managing up to a supervisor, tackling new domains or achieving vision goals are all able to be achieved by the person writing the agenda. The struggle is the person’s emotion tied to the item, which effectively either halts a person in their tracks or clouds their judgment of their own ability. Something trigger an emotional response. Bringing it up in the mentoring further re-triggers it, so it’s not uncommon to set the written objective aside, while we speak about why achieving it is perceived as unreachable. This can be tough stuff to discuss, most especially when it wasn’t planned for and two people are treading on “trust boundaries” in talking about it with one another.

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind.”
— William James

This is one of the reasons mentoring is such a special learning experience, as well as extremely powerful. We spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on academic and corporate education that provides knowledge and certificates to indicate we have accomplished something.

Few of us, though, invest in learning about why we struggle to do the things we really have a hard time with. The mentoring environment provides a safe haven, or “safe zone”, as I have referred to in other writings. This is critical to allowing the mentee to get some raw emotion out onto the table so it can be dealt with.

“Emotion, which is suffering, ceases to be suffering as soon as we have a clear picture of it.”
— Benedict Spinoza

Only when there is trust between mentee and mentor can this occur, because there is recognition that great damage can occur without it. The experience that comes of this can be a huge leap forward in personal growth, and that is when the door opens wide to learning.

I’ve learned, too, that I am a student of my own recommendations. As a mentor, I learn by teaching and actually have to stop in the middle of doing so to remind myself of the need to listen and absorb.

Next post, I’m going to hit you with another stage gate of emotional intelligence and learning. What Happens When Strong Emotional Intelligence Encounters a Watershed Moment in Self-Awareness?

1 How to Increase Your Emotional Intelligence ― 6 Essentials
Preston Ni M.S.B.A. Psychology Today. October 2014. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/communication-success/201410/how-increase-your-emotional-intelligence-6-essentials


LEARNING SERIES: How We Learn…and Unlearn…is a Complicated Matter

We have all learned to execute tasks in specific ways from training, from education or from experience. The amalgamation of those methods has provided us a core routine to do each thing in life (personal and work) that we frequently perform.

Do something long enough and you eventually learn something more than when you started day one. Over time and repetition, we might figure out natural ways to streamline for effectiveness The result may or may not be the best way with regard to quality, but we did wander from the original method toward learning a different way to accomplish the same goal. Generally, only with strong enforcement and repetitive training do we maintain protocol, because there is stated reason not to deviate from the norm, and even that is not a guarantee.

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Just this week, I read two articles in the news that reported on breaks in protocol that led to disastrous consequences. The http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/19/politics/us-air-force-plane-crash-afghanistan/ was a report from the military that cited human error in the crash of a cargo aircraft that killed 13 people. The pilot of the aircraft, while it was on the ground, jammed an object behind the yoke (steering stick) to keep the wing flaps up so a truck could maneuver underneath for maintenance. When the plane went to take off, the object remained behind the yoke and caused the crash. The second was a mauling of an expert and experienced zookeeper by one of her tigers, because she had neglected to follow the procedural steps designed to keep her safe.

This got me to thinking about how we learn and how we don’t. Learning can be either a passive or active activity. When we have decided to undertake something new or to enhance current understanding through exploring and/or education, that can be considered an active effort. We sit with someone else to observe and ask questions, we sign up for a class, we read a book to bring further enlightenment. However, learning can also be a passive experience, such as when we absorb external input without any purposeful action meant to do so. We, as complex thinkers, can also passively figure out other ways to accomplish tasks by combining elements in our environment. What about how we Unlearn? How is that we as people can have things beat into our heads, often at thousands of dollars at our own expense, only to effectively say, “Screw it! I much prefer this idiotic method that I just thought about!”? We don’t typically go out and take courses to remove knowledge from our brains, but the effect is strikingly similar.

The pilot mentioned in the above story passively combined an aircraft, a flap, spatial constraints, a need to remove the constraints for a period of time, the lack of intent to be burdened with constraint removal over that period of time, and availability of a tool to facilitate accomplishment of that goal. What’s of even more interest is that in seconds, in an environment that is maintains operational and organizational effectiveness based on structured regimen and protocol, the pilot’s thought process simply overrode all that training.

And THIS got me to thinking about the underlying intelligence of learning. In the work place, we encounter both passive and active learning opportunities. Organizational training programs are a great example. We are provided options to seek out training to enhance skill or capability for fulfillment and advancement, but we are often not outright ordered to take those courses. Conversely, when it comes to the obligatory compliance training course, there is no question that we are active ordered to attend. So, what is the difference in thought for a person that attends to the mandated compliance course and walks away with retained knowledge from a person who walks away with a check mark in the course completion box? How come one person falls asleep while another ponders what circumstances led to the need to develop a response that trained resources in advance?

Is it maturity? Is it topical interest? Is it recognized value?

It might be something called Emotional Intelligence (EI).

e·mo·tion·al in·tel·li·gence

the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one's emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
"emotional intelligence is the key to both personal and professional success"

In a forthcoming post, I’ll discuss some of the things that hinder and help us learn and how this general topic relates so importantly to mentoring.

In the meantime, here’s some things to keep your brain busy. Keep these questions in the back of your head as you go through your work and home life. What do you come up with at the end of each day?

  1. How does state of mind impact training effectiveness and adoption?
  2. How can a person simply eradicate training or good judgment from thought?
  3. Why does taught knowledge not always “stick”?
  4. What is it in experiential learning that cements the lesson?
  5. How can we empower ourselves to learn, and then again by applying the learning?