Bruce Howes’ View from the Helm: Shop coaching – reflections on a journey 

Bruce Howes

Maximum performance in sports, as in business, almost always occurs with sound coaching.

Realize that you are never beholden to anyone or anything that is not contributing to or bettering your life. In life, as in business, realize also that it is always OK to seek higher education, or change, and to feel the need to better yourself should never bring about shame or fear. Fear is not from God, nor is it from Good.

Don’t let anyone or anything (like guilt), or worse, a misplaced sense of loyalty, keep you when your heart tells you it is time to move on. Your heart will let you know, even very subtly, if you have any doubts about your current dynamic, that’s likely a good sign that it’s time to seek change.

You Must

Understand that YOU need to be proactive and reach out when that moment occurs, don’t count on or wait for others to do that for you. Nor should you hide, “hunker down,” or feign patience if you are not learning.

Instead, seek suggestions, search solutions, be your advocate. It’s not only your money but truly your life and your opportunities that are at stake. Encouragement brings forth empowerment, and if you lack both, find a positive mentor or peer group to associate with, someone that will hold you accountable… yes accountable.

The Journey

The Japanese have a wonderful term for this journey, “Do,” roughly translated it means “the way of,” and the steps and path therein. We’re all on a path, whether we acknowledge it or not. Ideally, that path should bring you up in knowledge, confidence, and empowerment.

So, here we are. I know that in my journey in the uniquely American martial art of the rifle, I’ve consistently studied hard under one teacher, and then, when ready for the next stage, eagerly but respectfully sought out the future. Every one of those past teachers are still mentors, still friends, and very much understanding, encouraging, and respectful of my choice to continue my journey.

There is an adage, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” Trusting in that maxim permits an understanding of one’s true path. Just as the student must honor and respect his teacher, so too, the teacher must also honor and respect his student, by allowing him to advance and grow along with that path. The second part of that adage is as important as the first, but oft-forgotten: “When the student is truly ready, the teacher will DISAPPEAR.”

A Caution

The teacher that attempts to limit a student’s growth, or delay departure, (or worse, evoke fear) for another teacher for selfish reasons, does a great disservice, to the student, the art, and ultimately to himself. Fear-mongering of this nature, or blaming the student for wanting to advance, is usually indicative of a cult, of creating dependency, not a system for higher learning, and personal betterment.

The wise teacher advises and advocates for the student that they are ready to advance, and in so doing, brings both blessings and honor, not only to the student but to himself.

A student ready to advance and leave one’s teacher is not a sign of failure, but just the opposite, it is the true sign of success. Knowledge and lessons so imparted, will always cause the faithful and wise student to crave more, until he completes the cycle, and becomes a teacher himself. Sometimes that thought may frighten a weaker teacher.

A Wise Teacher

Some years back, this was most vividly taught to me when one of my instructors at a certain firearms academy placed in my hand, after an arduous day of training, a challenge coin. I’ve earned many since that day, but I remember the first one like it was yesterday. I knew instinctively what it meant, but I also knew that it was time, time to move on to the next challenge, to the next teacher.

There comes a time when one must be true to one’s self, and leave the nest, for the greater challenges and knowledge that lay beyond. The journey, for the wise student, is never-ending, and one that endures throughout life.

Fear is never your friend, but Honor always is. Never apologize for seeking your personal best.

Bruce J. Howes is owner of Atlantic Motorcar Services, Wicasset, Maine. He also works in emergency medicine as a second career, and is a nationally registered Advanced Emergency Medical Technician (A-EMT). He serves as a board member at the Maine Maritime Museum, and various local nonprofit organizations. His shop’s website,, has been selected by AutoInc. magazine as a Top 10 Website on three different occasions. He can be reached at