Peter Jensen: Igniting the Third Factor — Shirley Hall

When I was asked yesterday to write something for today’s blog, thoughts rushed through my mind, the first being ” Oh my gosh, what will I write about? The second – it needs to be something, profound – worldly even. The third thought was – yikes!  I can’t do it, and I have no time. Then, fear set in.All these thoughts raced by in a few seconds as I was checking my email between sessions of the OHD Staff Conference yesterday. It simultaneously occurred to me that I could simply write about my experience of attending the conference. Great! I was in a hurry to get back and hear the next speaker. But why?  Why was I in such a hurry

Well, I wanted to hear the second speaker simply because the first speaker had been so inspiring. I love learning, love listening to people speak and share about their passions. For an hour I was able to be the student with Peter Jensen, my teacher.  What inspired me about Peter Jensen’s talk? So much, and there is not enough space for many details here, so I encourage you to find out a bit more. Talk to someone who attended his talk. Or read his book, Igniting the Third Factor. (I won’t spoil it for those of you who did not have the chance to hear his lecture – I will let you find out for yourself what that “third factor” is).  In brief, he described “Igniters” as those who take on the fulfilling mandate of making others better.

What I found memorable is the way in which Peter spoke, his approach.  He spoke of people, events, life. I could relate to the stories he shared, how people felt, and therefore, I was engaged.  He spoke of the importance of getting to know yourself, becoming self- aware, to take time to learn about your limiting beliefs, (our “blocks”) and to learn to exercise self-control.  Then, take conscious action to manage yourself, understand your impact on others – (to borrow one of his many quotes “Manage yourself so others won’t have to. – John Wooden).

As he spoke, the distance between where I sat and where he stood on the stage began to shrink.  His talk became comfortable. Like sharing stories over coffee. He spoke of himself, (we got to know him as a person, just recovering from cancer) of famous people, events and situations, in a profoundly moving and meaningful way. He shared the emotional journey of how to work through adversity, and embrace it. Make it your best teacher. He spoke about how people felt (himself included) when faced with challenges. I can identify with that. I do not know what it is like to be an Olympic athlete, preparing for the Olympic Games, but I do know what it FEELS like when I think I have failed in some way, (usually  to meet my own expectations of myself).  I could relate to and identify with the feelings of those athletes, and therein was the connection, once again. The one common denominator was the shared human experience.

I will take the ideas that Peter spoke about and do my best to apply them to my life; in the classroom, with co-workers, family and friends. Peter‘s talk has inspired me to imagine more, play more, dream more. I am going to my best to “become an agent of conscious choice” around my own personal development. I hope in some small way I might inspire others to do the same.

As Peter showed us… in the end, all you have left is the person – Doug Leigh.


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Shirley Hall is a research associate at the Centre for Teaching Excellence at the University of Waterloo. When not learning about learning, she spends time with her teenage son and with her dog, learning about life.

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