Pascal was a very smart young man. He had the ability to figure things out through observation. DeAndre was smart, but often needed help learning new things. Because Pascal knew he was smart he didn’t listen to the advice of others. DeAndre, on the other hand, valued others advice because he wanted to be the best at whatever he did.
Pascal and DeAndre started playing baseball in second grade. At first, Pascal excelled because of his ability to observe and apply what he learned. DeAndre didn’t do as well, but gladly accepted the advice of his coaches and teammates and practiced what he learned. As they moved to the upper divisions DeAndre kept improving while Pascal struggled. Coaches and teammates offered Pascal advice, but he wouldn’t listen. Sometimes he’d even do the opposite of what they were telling him because he wanted to learn everything on his own.
When they reached high school DeAndre was far better than Pascal. He listened to advice and accepted instruction. Pascal disdained advice and rejected instruction. The coaches saw that Pascal had talent, but decided to cut him from the team. They wanted players who were willing to listen and grow. DeAndre is now playing baseball in college on a scholarship and continues to improve and Pascal has not played since middle-school.
Isn’t it amazing that two people with similar beginnings can have such different endings? What was the difference?
DeAndre was teachable and Pascal was not.
WHAT IS TEACHABLE
Teachable means willingness to learn by being taught. Brian Tracy says the two most common characteristics of successful people are 1) they are continual and veracious learners and 2) they practice what they learn. Every successful person I know is constantly learning. They read books, attend seminars, take classes, ask good questions, and listen well. Successful people don’t worry about not knowing something because they know they can find answers. Unsuccessful people lie about what they don’t know out of the fear of looking foolish, and limit themselves.
The following three practices will help you remain teachable.
- Know yourself
Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” He instructed his students to know themselves in every area of life. Knowing yourself takes hard work, intense contemplation and discipline. Therefore, you must remain committed to learning more about yourself even when you think you know everything about yourself. Because as Socrates also said, “True knowledge exists in knowing that you know nothing.” You must learn, learn, and learn some more.
Ways to know yourself
- Take personality profile tests
Get online and take personality profile tests. If you would like to take more extensive tests the cost is minimal, but there are many free tests you can take which will offer you in-depth explanation of your personality type and how it affects your tendencies, your habits, and your interpersonal relationships. Take as many tests as you can and examine the results.
- Ask someone you love and trust
NOTE: In this exercise, it is important for you to remain objective and to refrain from becoming defensive. Some of the things your confidant will tell you may hurt, but if you remain objective the information they share with you could catapult your knowledge of yourself.
Sit down with someone you love and trust and ask them to give an honest evaluation of you. Ask them to describe your greatest strengths and weaknesses. Ask them about your attitude, temperament, and selflessness. Ask them to evaluate you as a father, mother, friend, sibling, co-worker, and boss. If you can have a list of questions for them before you meet that will help them prepare their answers.
- Write a timeline of significant events from your life
Take a sheet of paper and write a line horizontally. Think back to your childhood and write the date of significant events, both good and bad, from your life. Examples could include: Hit my first homerun, made friends with (name), family vacation, Mom and Dad divorced, graduated high school, won championship, first boyfriend/girlfriend, moved away from home. Write anything you consider significant. After you write the timeline, get a separate sheet of paper and write how each event affected your view of yourself.
Christina Baldwin said, “Journaling is a voyage to the interior.” Journaling allows you to precisely see how you are feeling and thinking about the past, present, and future. You should carry a journal with you everywhere you go. Journaling will help you gain clarity if you are pondering an important decision, but it also gives you a great opportunity to write down creative ideas you may have for business, relationships, and leadership. Additionally, carrying a journal will increase your learning from others. If you hear a great quote or idea, jot it down in your journal. One great quote or idea can be the difference in our success.
Journaling will help you see yourself from the 3rd party perspective. You’ll begin to build a deeper relationship with yourself.
- Admit your weaknesses
Psychologist Roy Baumgardner says that 87 percent of people are overconfident in their abilities. A major reason people are overconfident is they aren’t honest with themselves. Most people are great in talking about their strengths, but are afraid to talk about weaknesses. Admitting weakness will give you freedom. Knowing your strengths will give you clarity in where you should spend your time, talents, and effort. But knowing your weaknesses will help you lean on others who are better than you in those areas of your life. For example, if you’re a salesperson and you’re not particularly good at writing proposals, you can lean on someone else to help you write proposals. If you’re a great speaker, but you’re unorganized, you can ask an organized person to help keep you organized. An ancient proverb says, “Our strengths are made perfect in weakness.” If you delegate your weaknesses to those who are strong in that area, you are perfecting your weakness and vice-versa. Additionally, you will be more effective in your strengths because you will have fewer weaknesses in your way.
Once you begin to know yourself you will be able to appreciate who you are. It will also help you make better decisions and not make rash commitments. How often do you say “yes” without knowing whether or not you’ll be effective in your commitment? Those who know themselves well only make commitments in their strength zone.
Take the time to learn about yourself and it will lead you towards better decisions and a positive self-image.
2. Increase your knowledge
An ancient proverb says, “The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.” Teachable people constantly learn new things. They see learning as an adventure into a world they’ve never seen or a place they have never visited.
Ways to increase knowledge
- Get “from” the day
How many times have you heard someone say, “I’m just trying to get through the day?” Narrow thinking like that can keep people from seeing great opportunities. Instead, we should follow the advice from the great Jim Rohn and get “from” the day. If we make it our mission to absorb everything we can from each day and not miss a chance to learn, we will learn at least one new lesson per day. That’s 365 lessons per year. Words create our world. Replace the phrase “get through the day” with “get from the day” and you’ll be astounded with the results.
- Read (at least) one book per month
When you read material to increase your knowledge, you will open brain synapses you’ve never tapped into. An average non-fiction book is around 25,000 to 50,000 words. If you read at least one book per month you will have increased your word count by 600,000 words per year. Studies have shown the difference between those who make over six figures in income and those who make the average median salary is the difference in the usage of 3,500 words. By reading more you will have greater control over your language, which will increase your communication skills, which will increase your effectiveness, which will increase your value to your organization. Don’t neglect to read.
- Listen to inspiring material
Zig Ziglar used to say each person should turn their care into a university. The average commute to work is 22 minutes, which is 44 minutes both ways. If a person listens to educational material on their commute to and from work just 2 days per week, that would equal nearly 6 hours of learning per month. In 5 months this would be equal to the learning time you would get from a college course. You can listen to podcasts, books on C.D., and even recorded college classes. If you invest 2 commutes per week to learning you will increase your knowledge exponentially.
- Take a class or get a certification
Formal education is valuable because you are tested. Reading, studying, and listening to educational material is excellent, but testing ensures you have retained what you have learned. Testing challenges us to stretch ourselves and even cram knowledge to achieve a high mark. Put yourself in a situation where you will be tested.
- Write about what you have learned
G.K. Chesterton said, “Reading makes a learned man, writing makes a precise man.” Like testing, writing forces you to become precise in what you know. An old saying is “the devil is in the details.” If you’ve ever painted you understand how true this is. A couple years ago my wife and I painted our living room. We used rollers and large paint brushes for the major portions of our walls, but we painted the door and window frames with small brushes to be precise. The results were beautiful. The detail work took us much longer than the rest of the room, but had we used rollers around the edges the project would have looked shoddy. Learning, especially about new topics, can be liked using rollers on a wall. Writing is like using a smaller brush to fill in the details of what you have learned.
To remain teachable, continue to increase your knowledge. But don’t stop there, act. It is the application of your education of our education that makes the biggest difference in your world. Put what you learn into practice and knowledge will become understanding. Once you have practiced something long enough, you will gain wisdom. And wisdom won’t disappoint.
Testing challenges us to stretch ourselves and even cram knowledge to achieve a high mark. Put yourself in a situation where you will be tested.
3. Stay Humble
It amazes me how quickly people forget where they came from once they’ve reached success. The old phrase “I picked myself up by my bootstraps” is irritating. Regardless of the blood, sweat and tears someone spills to have success, they have had help. Humility is the modest view of one’s own importance. Everyone is important. Everyone has unique gifts, talents, and abilities. But without the help of character, circumstances, and people, success is unattainable.
Ways to remain humble
- Remember where you came from
As you grow in success and confidence, be sure to reflect on where you came from. Think about the time, effort, and sacrifice it took to reach your station in life. Michelangelo said, “If people knew how hard it was to gain my mastery, they would not think it was so wonderful after all.” In addition to keeping you humble, your history can serve as an inspiration to others who want to reach your level of success. Sharing our story with others allows you to serve others in their journey.
- Go to the library
If you’re struggling with feeling prideful, take a trip to a public library. Walk through the aisles and look at the all the books you haven’t read and all the things you don’t know. It is humbling. Open a few of the books and read a few paragraphs. Allow the atmosphere to inspire you towards learning. Think about what you could learn if you would read, study, and teach the information contained in the library. No matter how much you have learned, the library will remind you that there is so much more to learn.
- Laugh out loud at your mistakes
John Maxwell once said, “Be sure to laugh at yourself because someone else already is.” Some people take themselves way too seriously. Laughter brings levity to our lives like nothing else. Prideful people fancy themselves too important to laugh about mistakes. To prideful people, mistakes are to be corrected, not taken lightly. Humble people celebrate mistakes because they see mistakes as a sign of progress. Morihei Ueshiba said, “Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something new.” I’m not suggesting you don’t correct your mistakes. I’m suggesting that you use mistakes to humbly remind yourself you’re not perfect. Laughing is a better method than chastisement. Laughter is the best medicine for mistakes.
- Be a kid
When I play with my kids I get to be a superhero, a knight, a prince, and sometimes “the bad guy.” Kids use their imagination; they enjoy life, and believe the impossible is possible. Prideful people don’t allow themselves to engage in childish behavior because they believe it makes them look weak or foolish. Humble people do not base their actions on how they look, but on how their actions will create freedom for themselves and those around them. Childish behavior is not appropriate for every circumstance; it must be tempered. But, beware if you start acting more like Captain Hook instead of Peter Pan.
- Change your expectations of others
People limit their happiness, production, and beliefs based on the actions of others. One of the many faces of pride is superiority. Prideful people have unrealistic expectations of others. They believe others should live up to their expectations even when others don’t know what their expectations are. Humble people, on the other hand, place high expectations on themselves, but give others grace. By changing your expectations of others, you focus on things you can control and don’t allow others to control how you feel. This will give you the privilege of enjoying people without judgement.
Great leadership begins with a teachable spirit. There are so many books we haven’t read, people we haven’t met, experiences we haven’t shared, and lessons we haven’t learned. When we remain teachable we invite wisdom to teach us all it can. And it will. If we allow ourselves to learn we will begin to get from the day, instead of getting through the day. We will learn more about ourselves and we will release others from our judgement. Being teachable will give you a childlike attitude which will allow you to be vulnerable and free, which will in turn inspire others.
Never forget this saying by Aldous Huxley, “Experience only teaches the teachable.” Remind yourself daily to learn something new. In continual learning, you will experience a life of discovery, humility, and positive self-image.