wisdom

What to learn about learning

I’ve taken a couple weeks off from the blogging world. I left South Carolina and headed to Lexington, Kentucky where my family moved this summer, and have been going back and forth between Lexington and Clarksville where I’m from. I plan to be blogging regularly from here on out.

Since I’ve been back home, the question I’ve heard over and over is this: what did you learn this summer?

That’s a pretty big question. I learned a TON this summer about a bunch of different things. The posts for the next few weeks will probably all be things I learned or processed while in Charleston, but here’s what I learned about learning this summer:

The key to learning… is to develop a posture of learning. In every situation, conversation, lunch meeting, or coffee date you go to… be open to what you might learn… then, write it down.

So many people walk around thinking they’re teachers instead of learners. They might not think about it in those terms, but that’s essentially what they’re doing. They’re so convinced that they already have the right answers that they leave no room for potential learning opportunities.

I think the most ironic place this plays out is at college. College is a place where thousands of students pay money to go learn… but so many act like they’re already qualified to teach.

Here are 2 cool principles about learning:

  • The opportunity to learn comes from the humility to admit that you have something to learn. That’s hard, because when you talk to yourself you make the best arguments in the world and know everything there is to know.
  • True wisdom requires learning. Not just because wisdom is gained through learning, but because true wisdom begins with the acknowledgement that I still have so much to learn. Isn’t it cool how that works?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and so my new goal for this school year is to write down at least one thing I’ve learned each day. I think it’ll be a discipline that will keep me in a posture of learning, which will hopefully help me grow in wisdom.

What do you think? Want to join me? Write down one thing you learn each day. Maybe the most important thing you can learn is to learn.

The power of friendship

Recently, I was sitting beside a 20 year old’s mom on a plane. The mom explained that her daughter was transferring colleges because of the friendships she had made at her first school. She was trying to make wise decisions, but her friendships at college made that very difficult.

Isn’t that interesting? Her friendships were moving her in a direction she didn’t want to go, and the only way to stop the movement… was to move. I think that reveals a powerful principle about friendship.

All friendships move you to a new place, but not all friendships move you to the right place.

If you want to make wise decisions, you’ll need to be wise in choosing your friendships. If your current friendships aren’t with wise people, eventually you’ll start moving in an unwise direction. In order to change directions, you’ll have to move away from your current friendships. That may not mean leaving the city, but it will mean changing who you spend time with.

If you continually hang out with people who don’t value what you value, eventually you’ll be forced to either change your values… or change your friendships. You can’t keep both.

And that’s what makes friendship so important. It’s powerful. It moves us. But if we’re not careful, we could get moved somewhere we don’t want to be.

The danger of being proud

When I was in 4th grade I participated in a speech contest at school. My parents worked with me on my speech, and taught me many basic, foundational principles for public speaking. Things like pausing at key times, using hand gestures effectively, making eye contact. That sort of thing.

By the time I was in high school, I had gained a reputation for being “good at speeches”. My ability to seem confident and polished in front of an audience helped me be elected Student Body President going into my senior year.

When my senior year started, I had given several important speeches to the faculty of the school, the parents of incoming freshmen, and the student body as a whole. I felt they were all important for me in my early days of presidency, and I felt I had done a good job delivering them.

Then, the third week of my senior year rolled around. I was scheduled to make an important announcement over the intercom about a big event the school was sponsoring. I had already delivered what I thought were the important speeches, and I didn’t put any time into the intercom announcement. Then…

I blew it.

I had become over-confident. Consequently, I stuttered, rambled, and choked my way through the announcement. The next day, I had to give a speech to the freshmen during a class assembly. The same thing happened again.

I remember jokingly telling the teacher in charge of student government, “I’ve lost it. I don’t know what’s happened to me.”

But now I know what happened. I had become proud. I had stopped preparing. I had stopped recognizing Who gave me my gift. I was no longer stewarding my gift well. And when that happens, you only head in one direction.

“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6 HCSB

What are you tempted to place your confidence in other than God today? What gifts are you using today that you’re tempted to take credit for? By doing so, you may just set yourself up for embarrassment.

Choice is empowerment

One of my professors at Moody is notorious for his deeply intellectual, non-sequential, difficult to follow lectures. Because he seemingly bounces all over the place, I made it my goal to take away one nugget of brilliance each lecture. He probably had a few dozen, but I’m only smart enough to grab one.

In one of his lectures while he was discussing Europe’s transition out of the Middle Ages, he made this statement:

Choice is empowerment. When the people get the choice, the people get the power.

He moved on. He never expounded.

I’ve continued to reflect on that statement ever since. It really is true. Power flows from the authority to make decisions.

How many times have you been in conversation where you voiced complaints or suggestions and someone said, “Guys, my hands are tied. I don’t have any say over that.” They don’t have power because they don’t have choice.

The tricky thing is getting choice into the hands of the right people.

Being independence day, it seemed liked a fitting time for this post. Those of us in the United States are fortunate enough to live in a country where we have choice. The challenge is using our choice to empower those who will make wise choices.

Responding to correction

Last week I got an email from a staff member at Seacoast Church where I’m doing my internship this summer. He essentially said this:

“I don’t know you very well, so don’t take this the wrong way, but you need to Tweet more and blog more. You can have influence if you do this.”

What’s interesting to me is this: he was concerned that I might take his advice the wrong way. But why would he be concerned? What he said wasn’t even that serious.

I think his concern is grounded in a consistent character flaw of my generation.

Most people my age would say they want a “mentor”. Or they want “advice” from someone older than them. But most people my age also resent correction.

The problem is, you can’t gain any wisdom from a mentor or apply any of their advice without being open to critique. The wisdom my generation is seeking is impossible to obtain because we foolishly neglect rebuke.

Solomon says it this way: “Don’t rebuke a mocker, or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.” Proverbs 9:8 HCSB

  • A mocker looks at the Seacoast guy and says, “Who are you, bro? Don’t email me and tell me what to do!”
  • A wise person looks at the Seacoast guy and says, “Thank you for caring enough to give me some correction. I’m gonna try to do that.”

It’s so hard for me at times to accept correction, because it requires that I admit that I might actually be doing something wrong or less than perfect. Yet, my reaction to correction will determine the quality of the people speaking into my life, and the quality of the advice I receive. Did you catch that?

Your reaction to correction will determine the quality of who and what speaks into your life.

Or in other words, how you respond when somebody tells you to change something about yourself will determine if you have wise people speaking into your life. Wise people, the people whose advice you actually want, aren’t going to give you advice if you’re going to be a jerk when they do. On top of that, your response will also determine how good the advice you get is. Are people going to give you the whole truth… or are they going to tame it down because of how they think you’ll respond? If you respond negatively, people aren’t going to tell you what they’re actually thinking.

If you want wisdom, you have to be open to critique. Be willing to admit you need some correction. If you don’t, there won’t be anybody good who wants to help you.