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Having a teachable spirit is about the hunger for knowledge. You care more about learning something than what it offers you.

And the more you learn, the more you find value in everyday experiences. Your curiosity leads to a better life. 

If you stop learning, you stop growing. You find your life is lacking in discovery and new ideas. Knowledge is always the cure.

In this episode, you’ll discover how to have a teachable spirit for unlimited growth in everything you do. 

Show Highlights Include:

  • Why intelligence isn’t something you’re born with (and how to make the learning process easier). (0:58)
  • How to stop feeling like a nervous student and ask the questions that make you a lifelong learner today. (3:32)
  • The John Wooden mindset for encouraging others to learn. (4:30)
  • A Line Cook’s way to drop the excuses and make room for curiosity. 
  • Why having a teachable spirit makes the world a better place (and leaves a legacy for the world). (8:50)

Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Click here to get the first chapter of Dr. Rick’s best-selling book, Lessons From a Third Grade Dropout, for free.

Read Full Transcript

Welcome to “How You Living?” a transformative podcast featuring best-selling author, inspirational speaker and minister, Dr. Rick Rigsby—and, now, Dr. Rick.

Dr. Rigsby: Hello, friends. Thank you so very much for tuning in today. I want to talk to you about being teachable, more specifically, having a teachable spirit, a teachable attitude, and here's the reason—nobody loves a know-it-all, and when you have a teachable spirit, it erases that know-it-all kind of attitude and it thrusts you into an orbit that will give advantages to your life forever. [00:55.0]

I want to tell you something. I love the adventure associated with having a teachable spirit. Every day is exciting because every day is a day of discovery. Have you ever had a boss or a supervisor with a know-it-all attitude where creativity was limited and innovation was just out of the question? In terms of thinking, you're not allowed to go beyond the realm of your boss. This fixed mindset produces a lethargic and toxic culture of blame and excuses. The growth is limited, to say the least.

Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, wrote a brilliant book, titled Mindset: Changing the Way You Think to Fulfil Your Potential. Dweck's research challenges the belief that intelligent people are born smart or that great people come into the world great. According to Dweck, there are two types of mindsets, fixed and growth. [01:58.2]

The fixed mindset. This is where people believe their abilities are fixed, so they seek easy tasks that bolster their ego, and if things don't go their way, their confidence cracks and they refuse to adjust course. These are the folks that say things like “we've always done it this way before,” and they're not willing to learn a new way.

Conversely, a growth mindset is a mindset where people believe their abilities can be developed, that they are open to learning and tackling problems. They chart new courses. They are consistently stretching and growing and challenging themselves to be better. They realize it's not how you start that counts, but it's about learning. It's about the journey. It's about the process of discovery.

According to Dweck, people in a growth mindset don't just see challenge. They thrive on challenge. The bigger challenge, the more they stretch. Dweck adds, in the fixed mindset, everything is about the outcome. If you fail or if you're not the best, it has been a waste of time. [03:11.5]

The growth mindset allows people to value what they're doing regardless of the outcome. They're tackling problems, charting new courses, working on important issues. Maybe they haven't found a cure for cancer yet, but the search was deeply meaningful.

Friends, I believe a growth mindset is the blueprint to becoming a lifelong learner. You might say a growth mindset is the trademark for a teachable spirit. The courage to be open to new ideas, to welcome change, to entertain new possibilities, to re-imagine the familiar, all these things are rooted in our willingness to grow, our willingness to be taught, our willingness to see things in a new and different way. [04:01.8]

When you have a teachable spirit, you have a growth mindset. Our thinking shifts, according to Dweck, from a judge and be judged framework to a learn and help learn paradigm. The commitment is to growth and growth takes a lifetime.

Among my heroes, who I think really modeled this concept well, is former UCLA basketball coaching legend, John Wooden. During Wooden's 27 years at UCLA, he coached the Bruins to four undefeated seasons and a record 10 national titles. Seven of those were in consecutive seasons. But you know what? Wooden would be the first to tell you that coaching basketball paid the bills. Impacting lives was his mission, was his calling, and I believe that he impacted lives because he promoted a growth mindset and a teachable spirit. [05:09.5]

Here's one of my favorite Wooden quotes. “Live today as though you're going to die tomorrow. Learn today as though you're going to live forever.” Isn't that great?

Here's another one of my favorites. He had a very talented player named Bill Walton, and as the story goes, Walton really had a bad game. Things did not go well and Walton was just frustrated after the game.

Apparently, Coach Wooden walked up to Bill Walton and said, “It's what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Good advice. Wooden believes that when you commit to being a lifelong learner, you're learning all the time, not only in successful times, but in defeat, in difficulty. Wooden once said, “Failure is not fatal. You're not a failure until you start to blame. You can still be in the process of learning from mistakes until you deny them.” [05:09.5]

I know another man who was always learning. In fact, he didn't stop learning until the day he died, and although his education was limited, his mind was not. He taught himself how to read. He taught himself how to write. He was a line cook, just as a simple cook at a university that trained cadets for careers in the maritime industry. This required this man to sail on a training ship several months throughout every single year of his 30-year career. His job required that he traveled all throughout the world as the cadets trained to go into various aspects of the maritime business. [06:58.0]

But instead of just doing his job, this man learned about navigation. He learned how an engine room functioned. He learned the elements of sailing. He even became president of his employee association, learning parliamentary procedures and Robert's Rules of Order, and during those cruises on that draining ship, he learned about all the new places he visited from the Philippines to the Galapagos Islands, to Australia, to New Zealand.

He committed himself every day to being a lifelong learner and he passed this trait to his children. Today, my brother and I are greatly impacted by the legacy of our dad, Roger Rigsby, third-grade dropout, lifelong learner. Perhaps the greatest lesson in this area that Dad taught us was to be curious rather than certain. This has greatly assisted my brother in his job as a judge, as well as in my career as a speaker and an author. [08:08.8]

Perhaps you're caught in the “can’t” stage of life. “I can't learn because”, “I can't think because”, “I can't imagine anything different because”, or you've convinced yourself that you simply don't have time, that your life is just too busy to explore, to learn, and to grow. Friends, I firmly believe you make time to do what's important to you. The question really is, is learning important? Is it a priority for you to be a lifelong learner?

I have a brother-in-law who operates heavy equipment at a coal plant in Ohio. In between driving 100 miles to work and then 100 miles back home, he works a 12 hour shift regardless of the weather, regardless of whether it's Christmas morning or Labor Day. [09:09.3]

Despite this grueling schedule, David has not only put kids through college, but he has made time to travel the world from the villages of Italy to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Not surprisingly, David loves learning, been curious all his life. As a teenager, he wanted to learn more about the history of his family and other families of color in his area, histories that were not printed in books or articles.

He began listening to stories, interviewing relatives, talking with friends, collecting memories and heirlooms and artifacts. David's curiosity has led to the establishment of the People of Color Museum in Athens County, Ohio, a museum dedicated to the preservation of the histories of people of color in general and David's family, in particular. [10:09.8]

David's willingness to learn, David's teachable spirit, David's commitment to being a lifelong learner as produced a living historical record that traces both sides of his family from slavery to the present era, all this, because my brother-in-law, David Butcher, has an insatiable desire to learn, to grow, and to discover.

Friends, when you have a teachable spirit, life is thrilling. It's one adventure after another. Learning is exciting. Engaging our minds breathes energy into our lives. I'm encouraged every day to think, to consider making the impossible possible. To wonder, to dream, to imagine. [11:06.7]

Just imagine for a moment a better world. Imagine today being a better day. It costs nothing. There are no educational requirements, no prerequisites, simply a willingness to grow, to learn, to discover—and what great examples we've learned from today. A legendary coach who never made more than $35,000 a year coaching basketball, but impacted lives forever with his teachable spirit or a busy father whose curiosity set them on a lifelong journey to learn about his family and other families of color, and a third-grade dropout who never saw limits but lessons to learn, never saw problems but possibilities to explore. [12:02.8]

Each of these three examples would tell you that committing to being a lifelong learner is life changing and all that's left for you to do now is make a choice, beginning this very day, to be more curious than certain, to develop a growth mindset that produces a teachable spirit. Why not think on these things for just a few days?

That’s going to do it for this episode, friends. Until we meet again, this is Dr. Rick, asking the most important question I can ask, how you livin’?

Are you ready to make an impact in your world right now? Do you want to stop existing and start living your best life right now? Dr. Rick wants to give you the first chapter of his bestselling book, “Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout”, absolutely free. Just go to www.RickRigsby.com/FreeGift to get the print or audiobook right now.

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