What I learned because I refused to learn

“Dad, stop speaking Spanish. Speak English.”

A few weeks ago, I was hosting some guests from Europe and took them to beautiful Grouse Mountain, in Vancouver.  For those that have never been, it’s stunning.  Imagine being surrounded by panoramic views of the city, the ocean, and mountains.  I highly recommend Grouse Mountain for anyone visiting Vancouver – accessible by gondola OR the Grouse Grind hike (2830 stairs to the top) for those that want an extra reward at the top (the reward being sweaty satisfaction).  Here's a picture for you in case you want to know what the reward of doing 2830 stairs looks like.


Up on the mountain, we ate a delicious lunch. We laughed and enjoyed our rich history of forestry at the Lumberjack show.  We experienced Canada’s wildlife by seeing two grizzly bears up close (they are in a protected area so thankfully not too close!).


As I stood and watched the bears cool off in the water during the hot day, there was a family next to me. The son was about 4 years old and his father said something to him in Spanish.  The little boy was embarrassed and said to his father “dad, stop speaking Spanish!  Speak English!”


I couldn’t help but laugh.  He was so sure of himself. So sure that he was right –that he should be speaking English. It was cuteAdorable. Hilarious.


The father probably didn’t think it was so cute.


I leaned over and told the father to keep doing what he was doing.  That one day his son would appreciate it.


I know this from personal experience.


I was that little boy. Except, well, I was a little girl.  And it wasn’t Spanish for me. It was Croatian and Italian.  But otherwise, those exact words could have come out of my mouth at his age.


When I was growing up, my parents spoke Croatian to me. And I hated it.  It was at a time in my life when I didn’t want to be different. I wanted to be like everyone else.  


I didn’t think learning was cool.  But I didn’t have a choice. Croatian was what we spoke in our house and it wasn’t optional.


My parents also spoke Italian and tried teaching me.  I used to call Italian “the angry language” because it sounded like people were yelling.  (It turns out Italians are just really passionate when they speak and not, in fact, angry).


Regardless, I refused to learn it.  I missed out on learning Italian.  I rejected every opportunity to speak it and hear it.


And I regret that I was as persistent and stubborn in not learning Italian as a child because it sure would have been easier to learn it growing up.


When I grew older, I discovered what I called “the angry language,” most people called “the language of love and romance.”


Go figure.


Today, whenever we go to Italy, I learn as much as I can before I arrive. I practice any word I can. I hang on to every word I hear because I think the language is so beautiful.  I wish I could have learned when I was younger.  With my parents to teach me. With my family to practice with.  And a lifetime to improve. 


As disappointed as I am in myself about Italian, I’m super grateful my parents did NOT listen to me when it came to teaching me Croatian.  I argued learning Croatian but my parents made sure learning Croatian was mandatory. 


I’m proud that I can speak a second language (and another half language if you count the Mandarin I brush up on during trips to China).


I love that I can speak to my relatives in Croatia whenever we visit.  I treasure that I can connect with my family in such a personal way, even though they live across the world and we have grown up so differently. 


Croatian comes in handy when Troy and I travel – I’m always his personal translator in any country with similar languages (Montenegro, Czech Republic and Slovenia, so far).  And I never know when I will hear someone speaking Croatian as I travel around the world. In fact, in February, I met two Croatian gentlemen in Cuba after I heard them speaking it at a restaurant.  It’s incredible for connecting with strangers AND for practical things like asking where the bathroom is.


What I’ve learned through learning Croatian and NOT learning Italian is profound for me.  And it’s true for you too.


·      Being different is not only OK, it’s vital for many of the best things in life.  What you have seen, learned and been through in your life is what makes you special and interesting.  Our distinctive cultures are beautiful and meant to be shared.  Our mix of learning, experiences and culture makes each of us irreplaceable.   And today, I’m proud to be uniquely me!  I want you to be proud to be uniquely you too!


·      As humans, we need to push ourselves into the uncomfortable.  There are always times we want to give up.  Times we feel the learning is pointless, or isn’t worth the hassle.  But our own development is irreplaceable.  The reward always comes after we’ve pushed ourselves enough to deserve the incredible learning.  And sometimes the reward is just knowing we did it and proving we could! 


·      As a parent, as a leader, as a friend, sometimes we have to push others past an uncomfortable point.  I’m so glad my parents encouraged me to learn Croatian. I am impressed they could resist my stubborn nature and am forever appreciative of their tenacity.


Through languages – those I learned and those I didn’t – I’ve discovered that all learning is incredible.


Learning is a gift.  It is sometimes uncomfortable, challenging, and perhaps even embarrassing. 


But no learning is ever wasted or futile.


The next time you have the opportunity to learn, take it.  If you haven’t learned something new in a while, it’s never too late.  (I truly believe I will be able to speak Italian one day, hopefully sooner than later).   And please don’t be afraid to teach.  Teaching takes patience, kindness, understanding, and grace.  Even when you are met with resistance, persist.  You may not know it yet, but you will change lives.


Learn or teach others to:

·      Take beautiful pictures

·      Make incredible cocktails in a bartending class

·      Sing

·      Play piano

·      Swim

·      Manage time better

·      Cook Indian food

·      Appreciate art

·      Understand your finances


Learning and teaching will give you:

·      Confidence

·      Joy

·      Experiences

·      An open mind

·      Friendship

·      New skills

·      A conversation starter when meeting others

·      Growth

·      The “cool factor” – yes learning is cool!


Now it’s your turn. 


Go learn.  Teach.  Connect.  Grow.


Thank you to my parents for teaching me Croatian and for never giving up on me.


And know that one day, I’ll speak to you in “the language of love.”


--Lisa Michaud

Success Coach


PS.   The last “The Spark” 4-week One-on-One Coaching Package is now gone!  But, because you are such loyal readers and I love you (I really do!), I’ve decided to offer one more at the last-chance price of $500 for my readers only.  After this, the price goes up to $600.  If you’re looking to be encouraged, I’m here to support and uplift you.  If you want more learning in your life, you’ll be amazed at how much we can accomplish together in 30 days.  If you’re looking to be pushed and challenged, let’s get you kick-started to next adventure in life! 


Contact me at lisa@lisamichaud.com and mention this post to get the special pricing. I’d love to connect (for free) to see if we’re a good fit and find out what’s next for you on your learning journey.