When I am asked to mentor someone I immediately look to see if they have a teachable spirit. Currently, when someone asks if they can come with me and be a part of my team on an international apostolic trip I again look to see if they are teachable.
And, regretfully, in many cases those wanting to work with me and be mentored by me are simply not teachable. So, my answer is now no. I have to be honest and say that I have too often, in the past, simply wasted my time and effort hoping that the time with them will bring about change and that they will grow as a result of the trip they join me on.
There is only so much time available in a day and I simply don’t want to spend time with people who are not teachable. People who think they know as much as I do. Maybe they do – and, if they do, then honestly they need to look for someone smarted and more experienced than I am. But, in most cases they really are not smarter or better – they simply have a high opinion of themselves, their abilities and they knowledge. An opinion I don’t share obviously.
I also don’t want to waste my time with those who are not serious about growing and developing their gifts, their skills, and their understanding. And, people who are are not teachable and who ignore constructive criticism and valid suggestions for improvement are simply wasting my time.
I am looking for young people who are teachable. Young people who want to grow, develop, and mature in the faith and in life in general. These people are hard to find but when one comes along or you locate one they are an excellent place to invest your time. I immediately make a commitment to a person who is teachable.
You see, and I say this often, there are only three things you can do with your time – remembering that you have a limited amount of time to use and you cannot save some for later. Three things you can do with time – waste it, spend it, or invest it. I look for people with a teachable spirit so that I can invest in them and not simply waste or spend time.
Growth and change, development and maturity begins with having a teachable spirit. What does that entail? What does that look like? It means having a passion to learn, the intention to learn every day, and reflecting on what you learn so that you know how to apply what you are learning. It is a bit like gardening. A garden doesn’t spring into life on its own. It requires planning, hard work, and the right environment. A gardener must do the work: prepare the soil, plant the seeds, water the plants, then feed, mulch, and weed. It’s an intentional process, and it must occur every day.
I personally try to cultivate a growth environment and maintain a teachable spirit. I learned to do this through a man who mentored me for many years through his books and teachings…
1> I make personal growth (and thus growth in my ministry) my number-one priority.
I am conscious of my need to learn 24/7 because a day without growth is not a good day. So, in a practical way I always have a book with me. Most times a paper copy but, if not, then I have one of my two ebook readers stuffed in my pocket or the pocket of the car seat. I am never without something to read because, in any given day, I can read several decent length chapters in a book while waiting for people with whom I have an appointment or while in line waiting for an oil change or whatever.
I also have recently begun scheduling an hour a day just to read. I invest in a good and large cup of coffee, find a quiet corner in my favourite coffee shop, and bury my nose in a good book. I also have highlighters and a pen with me to mark up the book and take notes. Usually my iPad is available to computerize what I noted. If not, then I computerize what I have learned later (see point number 4)
2> I look for growth possibilities in every situation.
No matter what I am doing, whether succeeding or failing, opportunities to grow are there. The question is, do I see it and take advantage of it? I spend time in airports and on flights talking with those who are sitting near me. They often have had experiences and know things that I can learn from them firsthand. I have recently had conversations with a witch, a well-known economist, a medical research assistant, several college students, and members of several national sports teams (Russian, Kazakhstan,, Ukraine).
Of course, if you are carrying a book – even when there is no one to talk to and ask questions of – growth is always possible.
3> I ask questions that will help me to grow.
Growth does not find me. I must find it. The fastest way to find out what I don’t know is to ask questions. The best way to dig deeper and learn more is to ask question. And, we can ask people questions in person. But, we can also do so by email, text, and the various connection apps that are now available. When I can’t find someone to ask my questions of – I head to the internet, Siri, and my fairly extensive paper and electronic personal libraries…. Yes, back to books!
4> I file what I have learned.
People forget a lot of what they learn. If they want to recall it later, they can’t. Or, they can’t find it. So, when I read I mark the book up. I have symbols that tell me what to do with what I am reading – file in quotes, file in my very extensive Bible program, file in ‘ideas for a blog’ electronic file, and on the list goes. If it is an article then I photocopy it and file the paper copy… and more recently, I scan it into the computer and file it electronically.
When it is something personal that is a new insight or understanding for my personal journey in life and with Jesus, I have a paper journal that I record the thought in. One thought or insight per page. This way, when I have further time to process the insight I can jot further related thoughts and what I am learning as I process below the original entry.
I file almost everything I find and learn so that I can always regain access to it quickly.
5> I pass what I learn on to others.
Sharing something I learn reinforces growth and prompts me to make it my own. It also allows me to help others. On occasion, as I share with others, they add to my insight and thus I grow as I am helping others to grow.
I encourage you to find your own ways to remain teachable and facilitate personal learning. It will open you up to amazing new possibilities.