Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How Teachable Are You?

How do you react when somebody tries to show you a different way of doing something?
Do you take a step back and become guarded, or do you lean in and say, ‘tell me more’?
Are you open minded to others ideas and suggestions… or are you stubborn?  
Can you honestly turn to others for help with a problem? Or do you deny that anyone else could know more? Do you resist the possibility of someone else doing something better than you? 
Whether we realize it or not, our level of open mindedness (or,  what I call teachablility) will determine how much we grow. It can even improve or hinder how much we accomplish.
Here is a wonderful example. My significant other taught me how to write a book.
I’ve wanted to write books for years, and one time while we were talking, I expressed how frustrated I was about not getting the book put together. I told him how I have so many ideas and I write them all down, but somehow I can’t ever get all of the information in the same place at once and can’t seem to put it into book form.
As he sat and listened to my frustrations I wondered if he would be able to help. I doubted his ability to relate. He has not written a book, he doesn’t even write, and as a matter of fact, he rarely ever reads non-fiction.  But I listened to him and he shocked me. He actually had several solutions and strategies to help me get started writing that book.
Even though I didn’t think that he would have the slightest idea about how to approach book writing, he surprised me because of the skills he possessed as a person were actually quite relevant to the issue. Within hours I had a plan and some new ideas to try. They worked, and I felt better and more able to reach the goals that I had in mind. I was so grateful that he had shared. (And that I listened.)
Another example is, just tonight, my daughter taught me a trick for rice krispie treats. She showed me how she uses wet hands to smooth the treats into the pan. I’d never done that before. She learned it at school. I thought my way worked fine.  I used a greased spatula and it never failed me.
But, I was excited to learn a new way, because actually, rice krispie treats do sometimes get stuck to the spatula, and it is a pain to get off, then the spatula always bends and I’m afraid it will break.
I know that sometimes we feel like we are the master of our world. We might even occasionally believe we have the experience and the know how to solve all of our own problems. It’s not true. Not nearly. Not one person can do it all or solve it all. That is why there are support groups, master mind groups, books, and teams of researchers, doctors and scientists that work together creating solutions.
There isn’t one person who can do it all on his own. I believe the sooner we come to terms with that the better.
I remember when I finally figured this out. I was recently divorced and had three children at home under the age of eight. I’d always done fairly well at taking care of our household and managing life in general.
I realized during this time, that I could not do it all on my own. I might have been strong, but I certainly was not Super Woman, nor did I have the knowledge to figure it all out myself.
It is a liberating feeling when you can admit this to yourself and let go of control. It is actually easier to live and grow.
I have to say, that sometimes, I still want to think I have it under control and know it all....
Last week, I was part of a narrative performance at church. On our first night of practice on stage I choked. Yep. I froze.
Who would’ve thought that I, Amber Chapman, socialite, complete opposite of shy, previous leader and demonstrator for Partylite Gifts, volunteer teacher for fifth and sixth graders at church, froze! I couldn’t remember my lines, got scared and actually needed cuing by the drama director! OUCH.
That was a humbling and humiliating moment.
I got some advice from several caring people, and at first I was certain some of the ideas weren’t going to help.
Understandably, I was upset with myself. I’d spoken in front of 100+ people before. What happened to me up there?
It didn’t matter what happened. It mattered that, with two days left until the real performance, I get it fixed.  I was the only one who had such a flaw during practice and I needed to realize, that no matter what I thought I could do, this apparently wasn’t something that was going to come easy to me.
I had to be open minded and listen. You know what? I received a piece of advice that proved to be one of the most valuable, and not only did that person share what worked, they shared the exact same experience of thinking that they had a previous perfromance under control, when the same thing happened to them, they flopped.
Two days later the performance went off without a hitch and I was cured of stage fright!
Every person has their own list of experiences that no other person could ever know about. We must realize when we get advice or suggestions, it’s usually from someone who cares enough about us to  share.
And you can trust that they have your best interest at heart.
Don’t ever ignore someone’s help because of who they are, where you think they come from or what you think they don’t know, or WORSE, because you are stubborn, humiliated or frustrated. What they have to share just might surprise you and help you more than you expected.
Respect the time and effort someone is putting in trying to help you, because if they didn’t care, they wouldn’t waste their breath;)
"To accept good advice is but to increase one's own ability"- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
And like Jim Tressel explained in The Winners Manual and Randy Pausch said in The Last Last Lecture: When People stop trying to help you and give you advice and guidance, is when you need to worry.

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