We were trying to sell some soap. My friend has invested in a small detergent manufacturing unit.
Yes. Detergents. It’s a huge market. With well-defined segments. We had a problem – as any MBA will tell you – of Positioning. I had told my friend the best possible route I knew; let’s find someone who knows more than we do.
We sit in the teacher’s office. He is Head of the Marketing department, in one of the best business schools in Asia (!!). Has even written a well-received textbook on Marketing itself.
He listens to our problem. Briefly.
“What makes you think I can help?” He sounds genuine in his question.
“Well, sir,” I say, “you know Marketing. So we wondered if you can help us sell this product to our –”
“If I knew how to do business, I wouldn’t be here teaching.”
Whenever I undertake any new project, my first actionable item is to find the right teachers in that field. That is my first and most exhausting activity.
It is the first thing I suggest to anyone looking to start any new project, may it be a new business, a new career, hobby etc; “Have you identified the teachers in your field?”
But in the story above, I made a mistake, didn’t I?
Yes, I did not follow the 3 steps.
The 3 Steps To Finding The Right Teacher For Any Project.
Step # 1: Attitude Adjustment
As you’ve read this far, I can assume two things about your attitude:
- You admit your own lack of sufficient knowledge. This is a very good start. The more we know, we realize we really don’t know much.
- As you are reading about ‘finding a mentor’ so you understand that it is the student’s job to find the right teacher.
But we need to further adjust our attitude.
I have grown up being told that it’s normal to doubt people’s intentions. People are out to get you. Do not give them the benefit of doubt. All are guilty until proven innocent.
We need to change this perspective.
It’s easiest for someone to teach you if that person feels respected. I will only learn if I show them respect.
And the most honest manner of showing respect, is to actually start respecting them. And that’s happening only, and only if, you start seeing the good in people.
As it happens, the world is an interesting, beautiful place. With some really awesome people. Boom-de-yada this all you want, because that’s how I choose to see this.
Be warned that sometimes, the student agrees to whatever the teacher says. Do not equate respect with unquestioned agreement.
In Pakistan, for example, it is still considered rude to disagree openly with the teacher. So if you’re from a culture that expects unquestioned following from you as a student, you’ll have a harder time adjusting. But this difference between respect and agreement must be understood.
Key takeaways from Step 1: Choose to see the good in people. Respect. And learn to differentiate between respecting and agreeing with others (disagree respectfully if you have to).
Step # 2: Seek out Doers
Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach gym.” Jack Black, in School of Rock
The above quote may be said as a joke but it is a worldwide problem. Too many teachers, unfortunately, have never even attempted to do the things they teach.
In our story, I think we made a mistake in this step. We identified teachers (a mighty good one at that). We should have identified doers instead.
For example, you want to know how to start a new business? Look for someone who has already done it, not a teacher of the Entrepreneurship class. Want to be an engineer? Go find a doer of that field, find an engineer. Ask him. Not your Mother.
For starters, your Mother, Father, siblings, friends, cousins, nosy Aunt or franky neighbor are not automatically qualified to give you advice. They will give you advice, but your decision to act on that advice should have different qualifiers.
It is worth mentioning that fearing on your behalf is one of the most common ways of showing one’s loving and caring attitude. That is OK. It feels good to be loved. But you need advice from doers. Unless your Mother is a businesswoman herself, her advice on how to run your business for example should fall on soft, nurturing, caring, deaf ears.
Key takeaways from Step 2: Do not go out looking for people who are teaching your field of choice. Instead look for people who are doing the field that you are interested in.
And when you find someone already doing it – and doing it well enough – in your field of choice, you are ready for Step 3.
Step # 3: Make Teachers
Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to make a teacher out of the doer.
Refer back to the fact that it is the student’s job to find teachers. It is now time to build upon that.
The teacher doesn’t have to actively teach, for you to be a student. As far as we are concerned, it is a one-way street. The student is the one who’s actively making this student-teacher relationship.
So you make doers your teachers, by actively learning from them.
You will be surprised that many businessmen and entrepreneurs just love to give advice. I have quite a few experiences where I was myself surprised at the amount of valuable information people love to give.
For example, at the LifeETC Community meetup, many people were more than willing to give advice on things that they have successfully done.
And now with YouTube and blogs etc, the supply of qualified advice can actually be overwhelming.
But as with most things in life, there is a flip side.
When trying to actively engage doers, beware of pretenders. Normally, they call themselves consultants or – I’m sorry to say – teachers.
Although such people can give some good advice, I consider this that 80% of the activity that yields only 20%. I am better off finding the doers who are teaching.
There is a chance that someone who is actually doing what you want to learn, and doing it well, is also teaching it. Either for free or for a fee. Truth be told, you’d be lucky to find such people. If you find them, put them in a box and don’t let them go.
Key takeaways from Step 3: It is not necessary for someone to actively teach for you to learn from them. Reach out and you’ll find some elegant surprises of people wanting to help. And if you find a doer who is also teaching, you’re golden.
Question: Do you actively seek out teachers? Any tips you’d want to share? Let me know in the comments section.
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