When Richmond, California, native George Hanshaw graduated from high school in the mid-1980s, he was convinced he couldn’t get away from the world of education and learning fast enough. In fact, he ran screaming from it.
“I couldn’t stand high school, hated it, didn’t like teachers, none of it,” he says. “As I left, I used so many expletives about how I would never ever go back to school,” George chuckles as he explains his decision to join the Air Force upon graduation.
Fast forward more than 25 years, and the allegedly education-averse George now holds a Doctor of Psychology, with a specialization in Sport and Performance Psychology, as well as a Master of Education in Adult Education and a Bachelor of Science in Distance Education and Business Systems Analysis from others institutions. He is the director of eLearning Operations at Los Angeles Pacific University, and his twitter handle, @doctorlearner, is proof positive that you should never say never.
“Higher education often feels exclusive, but I got into this because I want everyone to be a part of that club,” he explains.
The key to unlocking his apparent latent love for knowledge was the eight years he spent in the service.
“That’s where I learned how to learn,” he says. “They teach you how to be flexible, how to think about things from a different perspective.”
Suddenly the world of higher education didn’t seem so unfathomable. While working as an aircraft technician, he attended the Community College of the Air Force. He earned his Associate of Applied Science in Electronics, completing many of his classes while stationed overseas in the Philippines.
Once George got out of the Air Force, he started working at Lockheed Martin as a technician. That is where he met Don Byron, a manager in learning and development, who ended up being his mentor into the world of efficiently teaching others how to learn.
“Don said, ‘I can teach you how to teach, but I can’t teach experience,’” George recalls, explaining how he made the transition from technician to an educator.
For nearly 20 years, George worked as a training leader in the industry, all while continuing to earn his degrees and raise a family with his wife, Ellen, who was an emergency room nurse.
The couple had a son and a daughter who were in their 20s when they decided it was time to expand the family with the adoption of not one, but three babies under the age of one. They welcomed Jacob, Justin, and Jessica into their home and hit the ground running as a bustling family of seven.
What the Hanshaw family didn’t know was that all of their lives were about to be altered even more just a few years later. When the three little ones were around five years of age, George’s oldest daughter, Samantha, nearly died at age 25 from a severe head injury and became paralyzed on her left side.
Three weeks after the injury, Samantha was sent to a rehabilitation center, but she wasn’t enthusiastic about being stuck in a care facility. She wanted to leave, so George and Ellen got straight to work on helping their daughter make that happen. The first step was getting her up and out of bed. George fashioned some makeshift ties from his clothes and tied Samantha’s legs to his.
“All we have to do is stand up, and we’re going home,” he told Samantha. She stood up and began moving in tandem with him. A few more steps and the family walked out the door with her. It was only the beginning. Samantha’s most intense rehabilitation began in earnest as George and his wife began working on helping her re-learn how to move her left side again utilizing their backyard pool.
The first day in the water was lifechanging on several levels. “I learned something big that day,” he says. “I learned the power of the mind. I was using orders just like in the Air Force, and as I would tell her what to do, she would do it.”
As George and Ellen began inventing multiple ways to engage their daughter’s brain, they unlocked a variety of methods that helped teach her how to move her left side again.
“That’s actually why I got into psychology and specifically sport and performance psychology — because I could see it working,” explains George.
As his five-year-old children watched their sister’s progress, George noticed how the power of psychology inspired and motivated them to achieve their goals as well. Recognizing that and how effective imagery and visualization was helping his daughter, he realized there was something big going on in the field, and he wanted to know more.
That’s when George (the now big fan of constant learning) decided to enroll in the doctorate program.
While finishing up his doctorate, George was unexpectedly laid off from Lockheed Martin after almost 20 years with the company. However, with a variety of life plans and goals in the works, George took it all in stride.
As an avid sports enthusiast, he utilized the downtime to complete his degree and fulfill another dream of his by opening up his own Tae Kwon Do studio. The studio was the perfect opportunity to put the tools he had learned about sport psychology into practice every day. George counts being able to positively affect so many lives there as one of his proudest accomplishments in life.
Today, in addition to his many other ventures, George works as a performance consultant for youth and professional athletes. He’s able to use the tools of psychology to give his clients the edge they’re looking for, both on and off the field.
He acknowledges navigating school as an adult with three elementary school-aged kids wasn’t easy, but it was doable.
“One lesson I learned was that good enough was OK,” he explains. “I didn’t have to earn an A, because good grades weren’t my end game. I needed to graduate to do what I loved. And if earning a B on a paper so I could spend more time with my kids was the way to reach that outcome, that was just fine.”
Of course, reaching his goal wasn’t something that came without planning and effort — or challenges. But George views all of the ups and downs as a gift.
“Always have your end outcome pictured in your head, what it will feel like to graduate, what you’re going to do with your degree once you do graduate,” he suggests. “And whenever a bump in the road comes up, just say ‘thank you’ and be happy for the opportunity to do something to get past it.”