I stumbled on Jen Louden about a year ago, while researching different classes on teaching.
I’ve found her credible and genuine and full of heart. She is an “A-lister” who doesn’t take herself too seriously and is always willing to share something that matters. She’s the best-selling author of six (count ’em!) books, including the pioneering best-sellers The Woman’s Comfort Book and The Woman’s Retreat Book. Her retreats are world-famous. She’s the proud mom of a college freshman (How did that happen?), and the creator of the beloved course TeachNow.
When she reached out to me in early February to ask if she could write a guest post for this blog, I was thrilled to say the least. In the end, I decided an interview would best suit my needs, so what follows is the result. I’m sure you’ll find Jen a wonderful addition to your cadre of mentors.
You’ve led such an interesting life and seen SO much success in all your endeavors (from writing to internet marketing to your current projects)! Why do you think you’ve been able to accomplish so much?
That’s a hysterical question, Tea. I feel I have accomplished so little. I sometimes wonder, “Where have all the years gone?” And I think the answer is… to email. I don’t want to downplay what I have done, but I want to do more – and to clone myself so I can do it faster. I love to create and work more than almost anything, so that makes it easy — I don’t have to say no to TV.
How did you end up as a teacher of teachers?
Because I suffered so much as a self-taught “self-enrichment” teacher. I always teach what I have learned the hard way. It’s my calling, I suppose. And I was literally “called” to teach — as in the phone rang — when my first book, The Woman’s Comfort Book, was published in 1992. The book hit such a cord with women – it was a word-of-mouth best-seller – that hospitals, retreat centers, and adult education centers were calling me to come teach. But the problem was, I was all of 28! – So cute, so young! And I had no idea how to teach. Plus I felt like a fraud, because I certainly wasn’t taking perfect care of myself!
So every time I taught or spoke, I’d walk away thinking, “I can’t do this ever again. Do you think I could go work in a bookstore or… ?” Then I would try something new or learn some tidbit from another teacher and think, “Maybe I can….,” and so it went.
Still, I didn’t think to support teachers until about three years ago when a dear friend, a master meditation teacher, told me his very similar story. He didn’t think he was ineffective or a fraud, but he wasn’t stepping into his brilliance as a teacher – He wasn’t doing it with all his ten toes “in.” He was hiding. I just could not believe it. It was in that moment that I heard myself say, “I want to support teachers,” and TeachNow was born.
How do we know if we’re called to teach others, too?
Because you want to teach. Because you get so excited about WordPress, bread baking, marketing, or nature journaling that you can’t stay still. Because you ache to make the world a better place through what you know. Teaching is natural – We all do it – so if you want to teach, consider yourself called.
Is there a particular quality or talent that makes someone a great teacher?
Curiosity – about your subject(s), about people, about how to make concepts “sticky,” about how the mind and heart works, about what motivates people to learn, and about what stops them from learning. And humility, because the more you teach the more you see how little you know. Embracing that is crucial. If you think you have to know it all, and you realize that you don’t, you either stop teaching (please don’t!) or you become very didactic and closed off. A great teaching talent is to let it break your heart open to your own humanity.
How is your program Teach Now different from other popular teaching programs like Copyblogger’s Teaching Sells, or Pam Slim’s Power Teaching?
Teaching Sells is a great course, but it doesn’t teach how to teach – It teaches you how to teach what sells – how to find your subject matter and content — and then how to package and sell that material. It’s also a huge course and a big investment. I started, but never completed, Pam’s Power Teaching course, but the first class was super strong on instructional design, and I can’t wait to finish the rest of the course. TeachNow is the only course I know of that covers the inner work of teaching.
We pull back the curtain on what works and doesn’t work as we teach. We talk about fears, about self-care, about thinking you need to be an expert — and we cover nuts-and-bolts stuff like focusing and organizing content, making it “sticky,” and even marketing. There is also a beautifully-organized library of 45 interviews. Master teachers like Natalie Goldberg, Elizabeth Lesser, Meg Wheatley, and Mark Nepo share their insights and favorite “how to teach” gems. It’s priceless.
What’s been the biggest learning for you as a teacher?
That I still have so much to learn! It’s that humility thing – I see and feel so strongly the mistakes I make as a teacher, and I want so much to help people. I so want people to get what they want and need! And when I see how I fall short in that, that is where I try to learn to do things differently the next time without beating myself up. Holding myself gently as I learn more!
Who do you follow online? Who are your teachers and mentors?
Tara Brach, an Insight Buddhist meditation teacher, deeply influences me. I love my friend Susan Piver’s Open Heart Project. Hiro Boga is an incredibly wise “energy alchemy” teacher. And my local yoga teacher, Jen Breen! And you Tea, you are doing such cool things with teaching on-line.
Thank you, Jen! I’m honored.
Any final words?
The world’s insane pace of change is your personal invitation to take what you love and share it in a way that lights you up, and if you are willing to do some work, can make you money, too. People need help learning and understanding so many things – so if you want to teach, trust that you can, and then… teach now!