Choosing a Mentor – Part One

Personal growth should be the number one priority of all believers who are serious about following Jesus and reaching their divine purpose in life. Since I began my walk with the Lord over 43 years ago I have had a series of mentors.

At first, I simply grabbed hold or anyone who was willing to impart information into my life. This was good as I was a young believer and gained a great deal from other more mature believers and leaders. But this was a scattershot approach. Although I learned a lot I did not achieve the traction that I had hoped for. Then I figured out that I needed to focus my growth on my areas of personal strength: relationships, communications, teaching, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. When I did that, my effectiveness in growth started to increase. Most of my early mentors were authors whose books I devoured.

Through one of my mentors I started to learn to glean from what I was studying. Resources have little value unless you can pull from them the essentials that you need. That meant learning that I didn’t have to finish a book simply because I started it. I could read only the portions that I needed and deemed important at the time. I learned how to take useful notes, gather quotes, and, most importantly, reflect on what I was learning. I often summarized what I learned and wrote follow-up points inside the front and back covers of a book that was significant and life-changing for me. And, I learned to collect, categorize, and file stories and quotes every day. I also put into practice anything I learned at my earliest opportunity.

Of course, all of that is so much easier now with a good laptop computer or a tablet. And, even today, these disciplines are still part of my daily routine. I read several books a week, I listen to podcasts and watch You Tube videos of good preaching or interviews with people I admire and can learn from. However, I also learned early in my professional life and ministry that personal growth without the benefit of personal mentors could take me only so far. If I wanted to become the leader and teacher that I desired to be – and believed that God had created and called me to become – I needed to find models who were ahead of me to learn from. Why? Because it is hard to improve when you have no one but yourself to follow. 

I have learned a lot from people I have never met or met briefly. Reading helps you to grow and gain from the experience and wisdom of others who have written books and shared their hard earned lessons with the reader. Most people who decide to grow personally find their first motors in the pages of books. That is a great place to start. For that matter, it’s a great place to continue. I am still learning from dozens of people every year that I will never meet. But at some point, you must find personal, in-person, models too. If you follow only yourself, you will find yourself going in circles.

When choosing mentors and models, you must be careful and be selective. There were these two derelicts sunning themselves on a park bench. The first guy said, “The reason I’m here is because I refused to listen to anyone.” The second guy responded, “The reason I’m here is because I listened to everyone.”

Neither course of action is helpful. You must be selective in who you choose as a mentor. From both the positive and negative experiences I haver had with mentors, I went looking for direction as to how to properly choose a mentor who would be a real benefit to me. One of my early mentors developed the following criteria to determine the ‘worthiness’ of a model for me to follow.

1> A good mentor is a worthy example

We become like the people we admire and the models we follow. For that reason, we should take great care when determining which people we ask to mentor us. They must not only display professional excellence and possess skill sets from which we can learn, they must also demonstrate character worthy of emulating.

Many athletes, celebrities, politicians, and business leaders today try to disavow being any kind of role model when others are already following them and mimicking their behaviour. They want people to separate their personal behaviour from their professional life, but such a division cannot really be made. Religious leader and author Gordon B. Hinckley advised,

“It is not wise, or even possible, to divorce private behaviour from public leadership – though there are those who have gone to great lengths to suggest that this is the only possible view of ‘enlightened’ individuals. They are wrong. They are deceived. By its very nature, true leadership carries with it the burden of being an example. Is it asking too much of any public officer, elected by his or her constituents, to stand tall and be a model before the people – not only in the ordinary aspects of leadership but in his or her behaviour? If values aren’t established and adhered to at the top, behaviour down the ranks is seriously jeopardized and undermined. Indeed, in any organization where such is the case – be it a family, a corporation, a society, or a nation – the values being neglected will in time disappear.”

As you look for role models and mentors, scrutinize their personal lives as carefully as their public performance. Your values will be influenced by theirs, so you shouldn’t be too casual who you choose to follow.

More next time….

Eagles Make Life Happen

As a leader I am often asked to disciple or mentor young people. I am open to saying “yes” to those who have a call on their lives to be part of the fivefold ministry team as seen in Ephesians 4:11-12

“And he (Jesus) gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”

However, a call is not enough. I have worked with and even travelled with young men who have a strong call of God on their life who were disasters looking for a place to happen. Others simply were of no help on the trips they took with me and actually created more work for me and damaged the reputation of my ministry that has taken decades to build. The issue is more than a call – it is their character.

So, when saying “yes” to someone wanting to be discipled, mentored, or a member of my team on an overseas trip I am much more hesitant than ever before. I need a season to come to know the person really well and to experience them in action so as to see their character and their relational abilities. 

Now, when I say “yes” to someone I am looking for what I call “an eagle.” These are people with great potential that I can then create an environment for them to flourish, reach their potential, and emerge as powerful ministers of the Gospel of the Kingdom and leaders in their own right. The have the qualities, the character, and the motivation to develop into powerful leaders or “eagles.” If they have what is required to grow and develop and blossom – and are willing to learn and relate to me and my team, then they are considered for entering a mentoring relationship with me. I am looking for “baby eagles’ who have the potential to develop into strong, mature eagles.

The ten marks of an eagle are:

      • Eagles make things happen
      • Eagles see and seize opportunities
      • Eagles influence the opinions and actions of others
      • Eagles add value to you
      • Eagles draw winners to them
      • Eagles equip other eagles to lead
      • Eagles provide ideas that help the organization or ministry
      • Eagles possess an uncommonly great attitude
      • Eagles live up to their commitments and responsibilities
      • Eagles show fierce loyalty to the organization and the leader 

So, I am much slower in saying “yes” to someone who wants to be discipled or mentored. I am much more selective as to whom I choose to invest my time and energy in. I am looking for young people with a call and with character … and the potential, with my help, to become eagles. 

Few People Want to Stretch

I have observed that most people do not want to change or to grow. They often talk a good talk but the walk is missing. They know what they should do to improve their family, their job, their financial situation, their level of satisfaction and fulfillment. But, they simply don’t do it. And, you can offer them an amazing amount of good advice based on your own life experiences and your education and knowledge and nothing changes. As a result they simply keep going around and around the same mountain all of their lives never conquering the issue or the situation. They simply never grow up and talk responsibility as an adult to grow and mature, to change, to reach their potential, to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for their life. 

Most people use only a small fraction of their ability and rarely strive to reach their full potential.  There is no motivation to grow in their lives, little to no desire to stretch and become a better person and build a better life. Sadly, a third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives, and 42 percent of college graduated similarly never read a book after college. And publisher David Godine claims that only 32 percent of the U.S. population has ever been in a bookstore. I don’t know if people are aware of the gap between where they are and where they could be, but relatively few seem to be reading books to try and close it. 

To many people are willing to settle for average in life. Is that bad? Read the description written by Edmund Gaudet, and then you decide:

      • “Average” is what the failures claim to be when their family and friends ask them why they are not more successful.
      • “Average” is the top of the bottom, the best of the worst, the bottom of the top, the worst of the best. Which of these are you?
      • “Average” means being run-of-the-mill, mediocre, insignificant, an also-ran, a nonentity.
      • Being “average”is the lazy person’s cop-out; it’s lacking the guts to take a stand in life; it’s living by default.
      • Being “average” is to take up space for no purpose; to take the trip through life, but never to pay the fare; to return no interest for God’s investment in you.
      • Being “average” is to pass one’s life away with time, rather than to pass one’s time away with life; it’s to kill time, rather than to work it to death.
      • To be “average” is to be forgotten once you pass from this life. The successful are remembered for their contributions; the failures are remembered because they tried; but the “average,” the silent majority, is just forgotten.
      • To be “average” is to commit the greatest crime one can against one’s self, humanity, and one’s God. The saddest epitaph is this: “Here lies Mr. and Ms. Average – here lies the remains of what might have been, except for their belief that they were only ‘average’.”

I cannot stand the idea of settling for average, can you? Nobody admires average. The best organizations don’t pay for average. Mediocrity is not worth shooting for. As novelist Arnold Bennet said, The real tragedy is the tragedy of the man who never in his life braces himself for his one supreme effort, who never stretches to his full capacity, never stands up to his full stature.” 

We must be aware of the gap that stands between us and our potential, and let the tension of that gap motivate us to keep striving to become better. 

Mentor -Mentee

If you are someone who is dedicated to personal growth, you will always be learning from many people in many places. Occasionally, you will have an opportunity to be mentored on an ongoing basis by an individual. This usually happens because you go looking for the help. Good mentors seldom find you as they are usually very busy. You need to search for one and ask them to walk along side you and mentor you.

Being mentored by someone who is successful in your area of interest has great value. However, let me give you some advice as you look for and approach a mentor. If you find a potential mentor, know that the following are your responsibility:

      • Be hungry to learn and grow
      • Be assertive and aggressive, not passive
      • Possess a teachable spirit
      • Always be prepared for the time you get with your mentor
      • Set the agenda by asking great questions
      • Demonstrate how you’ve learned from your time together
      • Be accountable for what you have learned

As someone who had mentored a lot of people, here are what I believe the responsibilities of a mentor are. My responsibility to the people I mentor is to add value. My goal is always to help them to become more than they are, not to try to make them something they’re not. These are the areas I focus on:

      • Strengths
      • Temperament
      • Track record
      • Passion 
      • Choices
      • Advice
      • Support, resources, connections
      • Game plan
      • Feedback
      • Encouragement 

For each of these areas, think about what specific contribution you can offer to the person you are mentoring.

In one case I heard of, during the start of the second meeting with the mentor, the one being mentored said:

      • Here’s what I asked
      • Here’s what you shared
      • Here’s what I did
      • Now can I ask more questions?

This situation would be a mentor’s delight. 

Every person who can help you is not necessarily the right person to help you. You must pick and choose. And so must they. Your goal should be to find a fit that is mutually beneficial for both mentor and mente

A Good Mentor

A major theme in my life is the desire to add value to people and make a difference in their lives. One of the ways this happens is in a mentoring relationship (see yesterday’s blog – “Christians Can’t Be Passive). A mentor can be a great encourager when the person they are mentoring is wanting to grow and develop in the Christian faith and in their calling. In other words, they are not passive but are willing to invest time, effort, and even money to move forward in their knowledge, understanding, and application of biblical principles. To mature as a believer and minister.

In our world today we often substitute other words for “mentor.” The most familiar and common is the word “coach.” A coach is someone who carries a valued person from where they are to where they want to be. The key is ‘they want to be.” Otherwise, as I mentioned yesterday it just ends up in frustration… like pushing a parked car with the brakes on uphill by yourself. Not interested. 

In an article called, “A Coach By Any Other Namer” Kevin Hall describes what it means to be a coach. He writes,

      • In other cultures and languages, coaches are known by many different names and titles.
      • In Japan, a “sensei” is one who has gone further down the path. In martial arts, it is the designation for master.
      • In Sanskrit, a “guru” is one with great knowledge and wisdom. “Gu” means darkness, and “ru” means light – a guru takes someone from darkness into the light.
      • In Tibet, a “lama” is one with spirituality and authority to teach. In Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama is the highest ranking leader.
      • In Italy, a “maestro” is a master teacher of music. It is short for “maestro de cappella,” meaning master of the chapel.
      • In France, a “tutor” is a private teacher. The term dates back to the fourteenth century and refers to one who served as a watchman.
      • In England, a “guide” is one who know and shows the way. It denotes the ability to see and point out the better course. 
      • In Greece,. A “mentor” is a wise and trusted advisor. In The Odyssey, Homer’s Mentor was a protective and supportive counsellor. 

All these words describe the same role: One who goes before and shows the way. No matter what word you use to describe them, coaches make a difference in others’  lives. They help them grow. They improve their potential. They increase their productivity. They are essential to helping people effect positive change. 

Andy Stanley in “The Next Generation Leader” states, “You will never maximize your potential in any area without coaching. It is impossible. You may be good. You may even be better than everyone else. But without outside input you will never be as good as you could be. We all do better when someone is watching and evaluating … Self-evaluation is helpful, but evaluation from someone else is essential.”

John Maxwell states, “In my opinion, good coaches share five common characteristics. They…

      • Care fort the people they coach
      • Observe their attitudes, behaviours, and performances 
      • Align them with their strengths for peak performance
      • Communicate and give feedback about their performance
      • Help them to improve their lives and performance 

We all need at least one mentor in our lives. 

Leaders, Who Should We Mentor? – Part Four

We are looking at the qualities in a person you would like to see before agreeing to enter into a mentoring relationship with them. We have looked briefly at…

1> They make things happen

2> They see and seize opportunities

3> They influence others

4> They add value to those around them

5> They attract others (potential) leaders

6> They equip others

7> They provide inspiring ideas

8> They possess uncommonly positive attitudes

A good attitude is important to see in those you are going to mentor. It often determines how far you will be able to go in bringing them to maturity in the mentoring relationship. Never underestimate the importance of a positive attitude in those you are mentoring. When you travel in life with others, you can only go as fast as the slowest person and as far as the weakest one can travel. Having people around you with negative attitudes is like running a race with a ball and chain on your ankle. You may be able to run for a while, but you are going to get tired fast, and you certainly won’t be able to run as far as you would like.

I have learned this recently with a person that I have mentored for a number of years. Deep inside he is a very negative person. When he is really tired or frustrated this negativity comes out in a strong manner. But, it is there every day if you jus take the time to listen closely.  I thought and believed that through mentoring this tendency to being generally negative and at times strongly negative could be trained out of him. Maybe it can, but I have failed to do so. As a result, I have needed to terminate the mentoring relationship as it is not moving forward. He is not growing and developing and I am being drained emotionally and mentally.

9> They live up to their commitments

Commitment is giving the mentoring relationship everything the person has got. Commitment takes a person to a whole new level when it comes to being mentored and becoming a success in life and in ministry. 

Joe Griffith, a motivational speaker, is quoted as saying: “You cannot keep a committed person from success. Place stumbling blocks in his way, and he takes them for stepping-stones, and on them he will climb to greatness. Take away his money, and he makes spurs of his poverty to urge him on. The person who succeeds has a program; he fixes his course and adheres to it; he lays his plans and executes them; he goes straight to his goal. He is not pushed this side and that every time a difficulty is thrust in his way. If he can’t go over it, he goes through it.”

When the people you are mentoring share your level of commitment, the mentoring relationship will be a success. Commitment helps you overcome obstacles and continue moving forward on the journey no matter how tough the going gets. It is the key to success and progress in every aspect of life: marriage, business, personal development, hobbies, sports – you name it. Commitment can and does carry you a very long way when in a mentoring relationship. 

10> The last quality you should look for in people to mentor is loyalty. Although this alone does not ensure a great mentoring experience, a lack of loyalty is sure to ruin your mentoring relationship with them. Think of it this way: When you are looking for potential leaders to mentor, if someone you are considering lacks loyalty, he is disqualified. Don’t even consider trying to develop him, because in the end, he will hurt you more than help you. 

So, what does it mean for others to be loyal to you?

  • They love you unconditionally. They accept you with your strengths and weaknesses intact. They genuinely care for you, not just for what you can do for them. And they are neither trying to make you into someone you are not not putting you on a pedestal.
  • The represent you well to others. Loyal people always paint a positive picture of you with others. They may take you to task privately or hold you accountable, but they never criticize you to others.
  • They are able to laugh and cry with you as you travel together. Loyal people are willing and able to share your joys and sorrows. They make the trip less lonely.
  • They make your dream their dream. Some people will undoubtedly share the journey with you only briefly. You help one another for a while and then go your separate ways. But a few – a special few – will want to come alongside you and help you for the rest of the journey. These people make your dream their dream. They will be loyal unto death, and when they combine that loyalty with other talents and abilities, they can be some of your most valuable team members. If you find people like that, take good care of them.

The funny thing about loyalty is that the more successful you are, the more of an issue it becomes.

As you pick people to mentor, focus on people who will not only make the most of what you give in the mentoring relationship and, at the same time, help you. Pick people who will past it on. Mentoring is meant to be shared. 

Leaders, Who Should We Mentor? – Part Three

As I learned the hard way about who to mentor and who not to, I began to create a list of qualities I was looking for in those I am now willing to mentor and invest time in. So far we have looked at five in the last two days.

The five we saw and spoke about were…

1> They make things happen

2> They see and seize opportunities

3> They influence others

4> They add value to those around them

5> They attract others (potential) leaders

Let’s continue…

6> They equip others

It is one thing to attract other people to you and have them join you as you journey together in life and in ministry. It is another to equip them with a road map for the trip. The best people always give others more than an invitation – they provide the means to get them there. They equip people with the skills and knowledge, information and vision that they need to move forward and become all that they can be. 

Think about this as you search for potential people to mentor – especially if you are a leader who should be mentoring younger leaders. A person with charisma alone can draw others to themselves, yet they may not be able to persuade them to join in the ministry that the Lord has given to them. However, a leader who is an equipper can empower and equip with skills and knowledge those they are mentoring so that together they can fulfill God’s call on the ministry and the Church. 

Ephesians 4:11-12 states: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…”

7> They provide inspiring ideas

Nineteenth-century author-playwright Victor Hugo observed, “There’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Ideas are the greatest resource a person could ever have. And, when looking for someone to invest in and mentor, it is good to look for someone who is a creative person. 

A creative person is someone who can add to your church or ministry as they are being mentored by you. So, they are contributing to and not just drawing from you and your ministry. And, a team that generates creative ideas has a better opportunity to reach the vision and mission of your organization and ministry.

When working with and mentoring creative people, it is good to remember:

  • The only truly bad ideas are those that die without giving rise to other ideas
  • If you want good ideas, you need a lot of ideas
  • It doesn’t matter if “it ain’t broke.” It probably still can use fixing
  • Great ideas are nothing more then the restructuring of what you already know
  • When all your ideas are added together, the sum should represent your breakthrough

You are capable of generating good ideas – probably better able than you think. But you can never have too many good ideas, so invite those you are mentoring to think out loud with you and join you in the creative process. And, when you find someone to mentor with whom you have natural chemistry, the kind that inspires each of you to greatness, you will find that you always have more ideas than time to carry them out. 

More next time…

Leaders, Who Should We Mentor? – Part Two

Over the many years that I have mentored I have certainly made a lot of mistakes. One of the main ones was in my choices of who to enter into a mentoring relationship with. As a result, I believe I have wasted a lot of my time working with young men who simply did not want to pay the price to grow and develop. And, some who spent more time trying to impress me with all that they knew (as little as it really was) instead of listening, receiving and learning. As a result, I have developed a list of what I now look for in a person before I invite them into a mentoring relationship or before saying yes if they have asked me to mentor them.

1> They make things happen

2> They see and seize opportunities

3> They influence others

We covered these yesterday in the daily blog. Let’s move on from there…

4> They add value to those around them

Every person around you has an effect on you and your ability to fulfill your vision. You have probably noticed this before. Some people seem to hinder you, always taking more from you than they give in return. Others add value to you, improving everything you do. When they come along side you, synergy develops that takes both of you to a new level. 

There are probably people in your life with whom you experience synergy. You inspire and take each other to higher levels. Can you think of anyone better to take on as someone to mentor. They need you to move forward and move higher and, as you work with and mentor them, they will also add value to you as their mentor. You will be on the journey of life together.

5> They attract others (potential) leaders

As you look for potential leaders to mentor and develop, you need to realize that there are really two kinds of leaders: those who attract followers and those who attract other leaders. People who attract and team up only with followers will never be able to do anything beyond what they can personally touch or supervise. For each person they interact with, they are influencing only one person – a follower. But people who attract leaders influence many other people through their interaction. Their team can be incredible, especially if the leaders they recruit also attract other leaders.

Besides the obvious factor of influence, there are other significant differences between people who attract followers and people who attract leaders, Here are a few:

LEADERS WHO ATTRACT FOLLOWERS…                    LEADERS WHO ATTRACT LEADERS…

Need to be needed                                                                   What to be succeeded

Want recognition                                                                     Want to reproduce themselves

Focus on others’ weaknesses                                                  Focus on others’ strengths

Want to hold on to power                                                        Want to share power

Spend their time with others                                                   Invest their time in others

Are good leaders                                                                         Are great leaders

Experience some success                                                          Experience incredible success

As you look for people to join you on your journey so you can mentor them, look for leaders who attract other leaders. That will enable you to multiply your influence. But also know this – in the long run, you can only lead and mentor people whose leadership ability is less than or equal to your own. To keep attracting better and better leaders to mentor, you will have to keep developing your own leadership abilities. In that way, you and your mentorees will continue growing not only in potential, but also in effectiveness. 

More tomorrow….

Leaders, Who Should We Mentor? – Part One

Over the years I have mentored a good number of young men who have successfully moved into leadership positions and become influential in the Kingdom. It is always rewarding to see young men grow, develop, mature, and begin to make a difference in the world. 

Many young people ask if I would mentor them. Recently I have even had several older men who already have a profession (lawyers) ask me to mentor them in spiritual things. In the past I would simply give a blanket and immediate yes. Why? Because I love to invest in people and see the Kingdom receive a return on the time and effort I have invested. 

However, many of the young people I agreed to mentor in the past simply never put the effort into learning, growing, and maturing. They want to be connected to me and the ministry; they want to travel with me; they want me to be available to them if and when they should have a question. But, they are not entering into the available mentoring relationship. The key word is ‘relationship.” 

We mentor within an established relationship. And we are to mentor those who have proved themselves and thus have the obvious potential to give the mentor and the Kingdom a return on their investment. Mentoring is more than simply having me ‘available’ when they need me, hanging around and being with me when I am in their area, and being part of the ministry team. It is intentional, relational, and requires regular personal contact and involvement. 

So, I recently have narrowed down what I look for in a person whom I might consider as someone to mentor and thus entering into a mentoring relationship with. This has certainly narrowed down the number of people I would say I was mentoring. And, eliminated a lot of coffees which were, in many ways, a nice social entity but really a waste of my time at this season in my life.

When deciding to mentor someone I am looking for:

1> Someone who makes things happen

I pay less attention to what people are saying and more attention to what they do. As I watch what people do I quickly note those who are making things happen in their life and focus on them. These people don’t wait for someone to give them resources – they go out and find them. They don’t wait for someone to give them an opportunity – they create opportunities even when none existed. They never make excuses – they simply work hard and find a way to make things happen.

2> They see and seize opportunities

Many people are able to recognize an opportunity after it has already passed them by. But seeing opportunities coming, that’s a different matter. Opportunities are seldom labeled. So, someone worth mentoring is someone who has learned what an opportunity looks like and how to seize them. The best people to mentor are those who make it their personal responsibility to go out and find new opportunities.

I travel a lot. And, when I arrive at my destination someone is suppose to be there to pick me up. Most times I have never met the person and they don’t know me. There are two ways you can go about picking up someone you don’t know from the airport. 

One way is to make a sign with the name of the person you’re expecting, stand near the baggage claim area, hold up the sign, and wait for the person to find you. If he sees you, great. If he doesn’t, you keep waiting. 

The other way is to find out what the person looks like, position yourself strategically near the right gate, and search for him until you find him. 

There is a world of difference between the two approaches. And, the person you should mentor is the one who goes looking – not the one who stands and waits. 

3> They influence others

Everything rises and falls on leadership. That’s true because a person’s ability to make things happen in and through others depends entirely on his or her ability to lead them. Without leadership there is no teamwork and people go their own way. A leader needs to know where they are going and has the ability to influence others to come with them on the journey.

So, when thinking about influencers (leaders) – those you would do well to mentor – you need to look at:

A> Who is currently influencing them? You can tell a lot about who they will influence and how they will go about doing it by knowing who their heroes and mentors are.

B> Who they currently influence? You’ll be able to judge their current level of leadership effectiveness by who they are currently influencing.

C> Is their influence increasing or decreasing? You can tell whether a person is a past leader or a potential leader by examining which direction the level of influence is going.

To be a good judge of potential leaders, don’t just see the person – see all the people that person currently influences. The greater the influence, the greater the leadership potential and the ability to get others to work together. That’s the person you want to mentor. 

More next time…

Looking For a Teachable Spirit

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.