This week I heard two sporting experts share stories about those they’d been asked to teach. The first was a man from the BBC who trained commentators. He made the observation that ex-sports stars were actually better at taking instruction than those already involved in broadcasting, as they were used to being coached and were looking for direction, rather than assuming that they knew it all and had nothing to learn. The broadcaster who’d asked the question, and clearly been looking for a different kind of answer, seemed just a little put out.
The second was a top basketball coach who’d been asked to come and speak to the New England Patriots, one of the most consistently excellent American football teams of recent years. He recalled how the Patriot’s quarter back, Tom Brady, a man of extraordinary talent and experience, a player at the very top of his game, came and sat in the front row with his notebook out and wrote down every word that the coach said.
How do the best get even better? By being teachable.
Every day’s a school day, right? I’ve always liked to think so, always considered myself someone who enjoys learning and is happy to pick up little bits of trivia and information I didn’t know and pass them on to others.
But what if you’ve been in the same classroom for a very long time? Your willingness to be taught begins to wane. You’re bored. You’ve been through all this before. You know this stuff already. These newer, younger, fresher people don’t know what it’s like around here. We tried that already. It didn’t work.
I really don’t like that kind of attitude. It sucks the potential out of a conversation really fast.
The problem is I think I’m in danger of becoming one of those people.
You see I’ve sat in a couple of spaces in my life for quite a while, and I’ve begun to notice moments where these unhelpful attitudes have become my default. I don’t think I make those kinds of comments out loud (except I cringe now wondering if I might have), but I’ve definitely had moments where they’ve been threaded throughout my attitude and demeanour. I’ve become the very opposite of Tom Brady – and no one likes a know-it-all.
No one is helped by the cynic rolling their eyes. No one thinks you’re big and clever just staring out of the window at the back of class. And none of that is going to make the situation any better for you.
So this week I’m moving to plan B – Be Like Brady.
Regardless of where I am or who is in front of me, my attitude will be one of sitting up front, notebook out with pen poised, ready for the things this person has to teach me.
Because every day’s only a school day if you’re ready to learn.
*Photo credit: Calum MacAvlay