Lottie whimpered at the doorway. Her guardian looked down at her and said, “What do you want? We have got your lead, your collar, your favourite ball, and all your treats for the walk. What’s the matter?” Her guardian opened the door and yet Lottie continued to plant her bottom to the ground, still looking up at the coat rack, letting out a low whine. Her guardian walked back to the rack and scrutinized it carefully. “What am I missing?” he thought to himself. He picked up a frisbee that used to be Lottie’s favourite toy years ago but she had not shown any interest since. She immediately stood up, wagged her tail, and let out a single excited bark. “Woof!” she said.
“What? This? You have not bothered with this frisbee for ages!” her guardian exclaimed. “Well, today I am interested. Keep up, boy! You still have much to learn!” Lottie thought to herself as she happily gripped the frisbee between her teeth. She was now ready for her walk, leaving her guardian scratching his head.
Have you had the feeling that you know a lot (or should do), especially when you have just graduated or passed an exam? When you have mastered a skill and are teaching others, do you feel like you have ‘gotten it’? Perhaps it is at your work where you are excelling in what you do. You have trained hard and put in the hours and effort to perfect your craft. Others are looking towards you for support and help. Maybe it is in your relationships, you have found the balance, the technique, and/or the emotion that you and the people involved enjoy. Or perhaps as a parent or if you hold a leadership position, you feel you should know, after all, your children and subordinates are looking up to you for guidance. How can you not know things?!
When mastery happens in your life in any area, what do you do? It would make sense to keep doing what you are doing. After all, it is the winning formula, isn’t it? When you have graduated from, say, veterinary medicine, surely what is left is to practice what you have learned, helping pet guardians with their pets, right? Some may think that to be true and feel their learning has ended. They could not be further from the truth.
As one of my team members has said, “Every day is a school day.” Part of our human need for fulfillment is growth. We have to grow daily. If we don’t, no matter what we achieve, we are likely to be left with a sense that something is missing. The universe is an abundant place, full of lessons, knowledge, and wisdom. They are plainly available if you choose to seek them out or actively allow them to enter your life.
A true master understands that she (or he) must be an eternal student. When a top salsa teacher was asked what does he practice or learn now that he has been dancing for decades and what else is there to learn for someone like him, he simply answered, “The basic step”. So this experienced salsa dancer, top of his field, understands that for his mastery to persist, he has to explore and relearn the basic step again. You can find similar examples in any field where mastery is present. For example, Tiger Woods spending a year relearning his golf swings, Micheal Jordan practicing free throws, and capoeirista masters pacing their Ginga. They all go back to the basics and start from the beginning. That is why they are masters.
On a daily basis, it is easy to go into auto-pilot, to perform tasks that you are good at. It makes complete sense as those actions and deeds are proven to bring you specific and desired results. Why change something that works, right? For a vet, you go to work, conduct your consultations, give the relevant treatments, perform the designated operations and obtain the expected results. The pet is sorted, the clients happy and you have done a great job. Surely that is enough, right? Possibly. Some of you may see the catch in what I have just described. As time passes, the only way you can obtain the great results you have been getting is to learn constantly. It is never static. It is never about how many consultations you have performed, it is about how much you have learned from each consultation, from each pet, from their guardians (about the guardians, not the pet), and each treatment that sharpens your mind. It is not how many operations you have performed in the exact same way, it is about evaluating each outcome from the procedure, remembering what works and finding out why what didn’t, and adjusting the way you do the next operation that improves your craft.
Do not accept the status quo though it is the easier way. This status quo may come from your environment or within yourself. It may provide a safe avenue initially but it does not help you grow. Be more demanding of yourself for you are more than your thoughts. Be sure to craft your life into mastery, not mediocrity. Mediocrity is not commonplace or what others do. Mediocrity is not living or expressing your innermost potential. Raise your standards. When you start to adopt the mentality of learning constantly as your standard, your way of living, you will automatically enrich the lives of others and in doing so, enrich your life.
To learn constantly, you have to have an open mind. The problem is not so much developing new ideas but more of letting go of old ones. Develop no opinions when learning. You have to empty your cup (a cup is only useful when it is empty). Accept that you do not know everything and everything, every situation, and everyone has a lesson to share, but only if you are open to it.
As you learn constantly, you will find yourself closer to your inner self for learning is remembering (Socrates). When you become a perpetual student, you will naturally embrace humility. In doing so, you will find peace, fulfillment, and tranquillity in your life.
Lottie’s guardian knows he has to learn constantly to be her best guardian and her hero. What part of you is holding you back from learning constantly in your life?
“The world is a university and everyone in it is a teacher. Make sure when you wake up in the morning, you go to school.” – T.D. Jakes