Season 2 Episode 21

Hello, this is Sean. Welcome back to Ethos English, the podcast for advanced English learners and the people who teach them in just a few minutes a week, you’ll boost your vocabulary and become a more confident English speaker. Want to learn more? Head over to and sign up for my monthly newsletter. Which includes a fun Quizlet flash card set covering all the key vocabulary from each episode. And don’t worry if you miss anything during the show, because at the end of every episode I provide clear definitions and real life examples to help you truly understand and apply your new vocabulary. So let’s get started.

At the beginning of April, I started a coaching training programme, which is part of the reason I haven’t been able to release any episodes over the past couple of weeks. Today, we’re going to begin with the idea of taking a leap of faith. According to Longman, it’s “something you do, even though it involves a risk of hoping that it will have a good result, whereas Cambridge defines it as “an act of believing something that is not easily believed,” and it provides the following example.

It took a big leap of faith to decide to quit my job and try something new.

In this case, I think I prefer the Cambridge definition, an act of believing something that is not easily believed. It’s an effort. It takes time to consider, and today I’m going to be telling you about this recent leap of faith of mine that I’ve taken over the last couple of weeks. So I’ve always been interested in psychology. Going back as far as my teenage years back when I was 15 or 16, I started taking an interest in psychoanalysis specifically and Carl Gustav Jung.

Thanks to a couple of novels I read such as [the Deptford Trilogy by ] Robertson Davies, a Canadian writer who mentioned Jung’s ideas in his books, and sometimes I joke with my students that if I were younger I’d go back, go back to university that is, and become a psychologist, and I’ve repeated this line so many times to my students that I think recently. I just started realising that I had to take this seriously, I had to take this interest of mine more seriously.

So I got in touch with a friend of mine about a month ago. He’s a doctor and he retrained to work as a health coach and I got in touch with him because I figured he might know someone reputable, someone who was worth working with and he recommended a coaching programme to me that he’d done, I think last year, and his comments assuaged my fears, that is, they relieved my fears. I had some doubts, obviously. I was worried because I know there are a lot of charlatans out there, that is people who pretend to have skills or knowledge that they don’t have, especially in medicine.

Now, chances are you’ve seen loads of charlatans in action on YouTube. So these are people who claim to be able to solve your problems with very little effort, very little time and. All you have to do is follow their methods and maybe pay them an exorbitant amount of money. So I was sceptical about being able to go through a short training programme and learn the skills to help people in difficult moments of their lives. After all, my thinking was it usually takes people years and years of formal study to become a psychologist, for example. So I was a bit sceptical and I still have my scepticism, but in the end I decided to keep an open mind and try out this coaching training programme and it’s been 2 weeks. And we’ve already had a couple of intense weekend sessions, long, full day sessions, and now that I’m two weeks into the course, I can safely say that I don’t regret my leap of faith, not one bit.

I’m already learning a lot by practising coaching with the other trainees on the course and I’m realising that there are lots of transferable skills from teaching so I’m realising I’m not starting from zero at 43, at the age of 43, and that’s a relief. So today I want to share with you some ideas from a recent unit that I’ve been working on in this coaching programme and I think you’ll find it really useful. So it’s taken from a video, a talk called “9 Lies About Work”. It’s a talk by a guy by the name of Marcus Buckingham, and you’ll find, as always, the link in the show notes.

In this video he talks about a number of things and one of the things that he does, and this is what I’m going to focus on today, I’m not going to explain the whole video. The talk is about an hour long and I highly recommend it if you find today’s episode interesting, it’s well worth watching the entire talk by Marcus Buckingham, so I’m going to focus on one of his points, which is around the idea of the well-rounded person.

A well-rounded person, according to Longman, is “someone who has a range of interests and skills and a variety of experience.” And you might say, well, what’s objectionable about that, Sean, that is what’s wrong with the idea of a well-rounded person? Isn’t that what we all aspire to be – well-rounded people? Well, according to Marcus Buckingham, there are actually really good reasons why trying to be well-rounded might get in the way of us being fulfilled in our lives and I’m going to explain why.

Buckingham’s thesis is that at work and at school, we’re often painfully aware of our shortcomings, that is our limitations. And yet, research into how the brain learns suggests that the ideal strategy for us to grow and develop as people is to focus on our strengths, not on our shortcomings. And today, we’re going to be looking at a sports anecdote and I apologise. I’m not a sports person. I’ve never been into watching sports on TV, especially team sports. But this anecdote is just too good to pass up.

We’re going to be talking about Lionel Messi, who until recently played for the Barça Football Club. He was recruited at a very young age, I think in his early teens, and he was brought over from Argentina to train with Barça here in Catalonia, in Spain. And The thing is they noticed that he had a pronounced preference for using his left foot, which is unusual, and he hardly ever used his right foot to score. But try as they might, they couldn’t train this out of him. And they were really insistent that he had to stop playing that way because his trainers thought that a good football player couldn’t focus on their right, or rather their left leg. And at the age of 15, he was already kind of burning out and getting stressed out by this very intense training. And he was ready to quit. So what did they do? His trainers realised that they needed to change their strategy, and so they let Messi play his own idiosyncratic way, that is, his own unusual way that was typical of him and then Marcus Buckingham in his talk gives us the example of a famous match that apparently has gone down in sports history, that is, football history.

It was back in 2015, the Copa del Rey, and you can actually watch this in his talk or you can find it on YouTube as well. It’s a specific goal he scored against the team, Atlético Bilbao. It’s really worth watching the clip, and according to Buckingham, many people consider this Messi’s most impressive goal ever, the most impressive goal of his entire career. And when you watch it you see him crossing the pitch and scoring and. Apparently he touches the ball with his left foot 19 times and his right foot only touches it twice.

So there’s this huge disproportion between his two legs. And what’s the? What’s the importance of this? If you don’t follow football, maybe it seems completely trivial. Well, as Marcus Buckingham points out, if we were to design the ideal football player, it wouldn’t be Messi. We would not design a football player who touches the ball 19 times with his left foot and only twice with his right. And yet here we have this video proof of his genius. Messi was able to become a legend when his team stopped trying to force him to be well-rounded, to be average. He was allowed to be himself.

I think maybe you get the point now why this anecdote is important for those of us who are not football players or even athletes. Now my question to you is. Are you focusing on your strengths or are you getting distracted by your weaknesses? Are you in an environment where you’re being told to be well-rounded and average?

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode and in the coming weeks I’ll be sharing more insights with you about my coaching training. I hope you found this interesting, so let’s go over today’s vocabulary.

a leap of faith
Longman: something you do even though it involves a risk, hoping that it will have a good result
Cambridge: an act of believing something that is not easily believed:
It took a big leap of faith to decide to quit my job and try something new.

make an unpleasant feeling less painful or severe SYN relieve
The doctor assuaged my fears about the procedure and assured me the risks were low.

someone who pretends to have special skills or knowledge – used to show disapproval
Some people said that he was one of the greatest philosophers who ever lived; others claimed he was a charlatan.

a thing of the past
something that no longer happens:
Giving up your seat to an older person seems to be a thing of the past.

be well-rounded
a well-rounded person has a range of interests and skills and a variety of experience
She describes herself as a “well-rounded individual” who works hard but has a varied social life.

very – used to emphasise a bad or harmful quality that someone or something has
As a teenager, I was painfully shy.
The road to peace is a painfully slow process.
We are only too painfully aware of the damage his actions have caused.

a fault or weakness that makes someone or something less successful or effective than they should be
My father had some shortcomings as a businessman, but he was a good father.

try as I might

=although I tried hard
Try as I might, I couldn’t work out the answer.
Try as they might, the police were unable to find the murderer.

having strange or unusual habits, ways of behaving, or features
The film, three hours long, is directed in his usual idiosyncratic style.

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