Pem•si•kwa: Paddle in Cree–Montagnais–Naskapi
My journey to becoming a Life Coach
I hope you are wondering about the images of canoes and their connection with coaching because I'm very excited to tell you! I am blessed with several passions. These include all things related to canoeing and coaching. Life coaching has been a component of my professional life for over 30 years. Canoeing has been a big part of my life for even longer. Since both coaching and canoeing are long held passions it makes sense that there must be some connection. There is!
When I was in 7th grade I discovered a book in my school library called Cache Lake Country: Or, Life in the North Woods, by John J. Rowlands. This book provided both the escape I needed to get through school and the dream that inspired much of my adult life. As a pre-teen in suburban St. Louis I spent hours dreaming about being a wilderness canoe guide. Thanks to a combination of luck, timing and holding onto this passion, by my mid twenties I was living this dream as an instructor for an Outward Bound school in northern Minnesota.
It turns out that Outward Bound and coaching are more similar than not. Both emphasize personal growth, embracing challenges, grappling with fears, conscious use of metaphor and fun. Another important similarity between Outward Bound instructing and a life coaching is that both prefer to ask questions rather than offer answers.
My twin passions of coaching and paddling oddly enough took me to rabbinical school and eventually a career as a rabbi. The work of a rabbi involves several important shared elements with canoeing and coaching. A rabbi and coach both need to be good listeners. A good rabbi, like a good coach, needs to know how to ask thought provoking questions. Both also strive to evoke transformation within clients or congregants. Furthermore, a rabbi, paddler, and coach, needs to know how to work with the energy that is present.
This is where Pemiskwa - the paddle- comes into the story. Paddle is a verb and a noun. It is both a tool for propelling and the action essential to a natural harmonic kind of exploring and adventure. Without a paddle we are stuck. For many people the coach is like a paddle helping them get unstuck. This then is the story behind the name Pemsikwa and my journey to coaching.