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Although this blog is mainly about finances, getting out of debt, and maintaining your financial independence, this particular article on being teachable will be written in such a way that it can be applied to any part of your life. A person who is not teachable will never gain any ground when striving to make improvements in their lives. This fact stands true where finances are concerned. I have met many people in my life who are not teachable. They always know everything you know and more. Regardless of how many facts, figures, and examples you show them, they refuse to ever admit their shortcomings. These types of people very seldom ever make any headway in their lives. My goal in this article is to help you understand the importance of being teachable as you seek to overcome any financial difficulties (or any other problems for that matter) you find yourself struggling with at the moment.
I. Being Teachable Requires Humility
…before honour is humility.
I think that one of the most devastating deficits in most people’s lives is a lack of humility. A person who is not humble is rarely teachable, and a person who is not teachable cannot learn, and a person who cannot learn seldom makes any significant progress in life. It is when a person comes to the realization that they are empty and have nothing to offer that they truly are in a position to receive something. Regardless of how intelligent you are, how educated you are, or how experienced you are, there will always be someone who has more knowledge in some aspect than you. To illustrate, I have a lesson I purvey to my college English students on the importance of realizing that you do not know as much as you think you do.
It is extremely easy to find someone who knows something that you do not, even a two-year-old child. How, my students wonder, could a toddler know something that a college teacher does not know? By way of explanation, I have my students imagine a row of chairs in which are sitting three women. If you ask me which of the women is the child’s mother, I will more than likely have to say that I do not know. The child, on the other hand, knows exactly who his mother is. This may seem overly simplistic, but it is a good lesson to remember when you get a feeling of superiority when you have obtained knowledge that someone else does not have-even a two-year-old can make the same declaration.
II. You Must Have a Desire to Learn
The more you yearn; the more you learn. The more you learn; the more you earn.
One of the biggest drawbacks to someone learning is their lack of desire. It is understandable that in life everyone will come across something that they have no inclination to learn. I have no desire to go bungee jumping, therefore the proclivity to learn how to do it is completely nonexistent. No one has the same desires. Some people like to play the piano, others like to play the drums, and some people want nothing to do with music at all. While some find the study of math or science completely fascinating, others find no joy in it at all. We all have our own passions and longings. It would be a fairly bleak world if all of us were doing the same things. It’s these wonderful, exciting, and different things we all do that makes our world so interesting. However, there are some things that are important for us to learn, even if it does not open itself up to us in a way that will light a fire within us. The proper handling of finances fits into this category. Until a person sees its true importance, there will be no inner desire to read, study, and learn about how to get one’s finances in order.
An exercise that works well in helping one find the importance of a particular subject is to make a pros vs. cons list. If you make a list of 5-10 things that are negative concerning learning about finances, and 5-10 things that are positive about learning to get your finances in order, it will help separate out those things that are hindering you from learning to get your money and debts under control. Following is a sample pros/cons worksheet.
Cons / Pros
It can be time consuming.
It can be boring.
My spouse and I have different ideas concerning finances.
I’ll be thinking about the things I must give up.
I don’t know if I can do it.
Getting my finances in order will make my life less stressful.
Bill collectors will stop calling.
My spouse and I will be able to solve a problem together.
Think of all the things I’ll be able to afford when I have no debt.
Learning about finances will give me a sense of accomplishment.
This list is just an example, but if used effectively, you can design your own list that is customized to your personality, lifestyle, and financial situation. Ultimately, no one can encourage you to see the importance of something better than you can yourself. Reading blogs such as this one can give you some outside encouragement to help you get started, but in the end, until you force that encouragement to take up residence inside you, not much will be accomplished. With this posting, my aim is to give you the ball; whether you decide to drop it, or run with it, is solely up to you.
III. Actively Seek Out Knowledge
It has often been said that one of the best ways to learn is to teach. I often tell my college English students that one of the most important things they can do to improve their English is to go home during the holidays, gather up a bunch of children in their neighborhood and give free English classes. I tell them to do it for free for two reasons: they can get more students, which means more opportunities and experience, and because they are doing this for themselves to improve their ‘English, not to make money. Making money will come later. (A little secret: if you have spent the last four summers teaching the neighborhood children, when you go back to open a school or training center, you will already have a crowd waiting to come to your school.). I have found that the students who heed my advice, usually do better in my classes. As I continue writing this blog (which is a form of teaching) I find myself constantly having to research; which of course leads to more learning. In preparing to write this article, I learned two new words: polymath, and opsimath. More on those later; for now we will talk about the many different ways to seek out knowledge.
As I have said before, and I’ll probably say a thousand times more – we are all different, thus we must seek out our own way (or ways) to enhance our learning. There are many ways of seeking for knowledge and answers; what works for one may not work for all. It is therefore important to find the way, or ways, that work best for you. Here I will put forth some various methods that you can use to actively seek out knowledge. I believe that many people are not learning on a regular basis because they know of only one or two ways to acquire knowledge, and those ways seem boring to them. With the admixture of ways to learn presented here, hopefully everyone will be able to find one or two that is intriguing enough that you will be able to use them to educate yourself in the area of finances and in gaining financial freedom. (Note: these methods can be used to learn anything.)
To begin with, we will begin by mentioning the two most common methods: sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture, or reading books. While these tried and true methods have helped millions on the road to learning, they are not necessarily the best fit for all. Many find these methods boring and perplexing. If you are talking about taking college courses, then you are also talking about expenses that many cannot afford. Before you decide which method you want to use to begin, or to continue learning, it is important to figure out what kind of learner you are: visual, auditory, reading/writing, or kinesthetic (commonly called the VARK model).
Visual (or spatial) learners are those who learn best when they have a physical object, or at least a picture to look at. In order to properly study and understand something, they must have something concrete to be able to visualize what is being taught. People who are visual learners tend to prefer learning through visual mediums such as projectors, white boards, computers, and the like. They usually take notes using various colors of pens; not just one color. Even when they speak, they often use words with visual aspects: picture, see, view, map, etc. Visual learners usually “have a good spatial sense, …a good sense of direction…can easily find [their] way around using maps, and…rarely get lost” (Visual).
I have many colleagues who are also English teachers. They ask me regularly for tips on teaching their own children how to speak English. One thing I recommend is that they use concrete objects: an apple for example. Instead of just teaching them the word, and translating it back and forth between English and Chinese, let them see an actual apple. Although everyone is not a spatial learner, we all have a little bit of each learning style embedded in us. We can all benefit from being able to see the item we are learning about.
In the world of learning finances, the same applies. Instead of just listening to someone talk about budgets, or reading about them in an article, spatial learners will benefit highly by having an example budget that they can look at and compare that to what they had imagined it would look like. When looking at your own finances, it is extremely beneficial to use colored pie charts or graphs to assist you in seeing what your financial situation truly looks like.
Auditory learners, as the name implies, are those who learn best through listening. They prefer hearing new information over reading or seeing visual displays. They do well in learning when they are able to repeat out loud what they have heard. They are usually good listeners; easily remembering what others have told them. Instead of taking notes, they usually record any classes they attend, and listen to it again later.
I recommend to my friends that they read often to their children. When they are young, it may not necessarily be known whether or not they are auditory learners, but reading to them will be beneficial in more than one way. If they are auditory learners, this will be a great help in their learning of English. Even if they are not, reading to them when they are young will help them develop an affinity for books and reading.
When it comes to finances, those who are auditory learners will benefit greatly from listening to newscasts, podcasts, and the like when learning to deal with money. There are many websites available that post much of their information in podcast form. Taking advantage of these sites will be a great asset to those who are auditory learners. An excellent source of auditory material concerning finances can be found at the Dave Ramsey website.
*And now, before I forget, those two words I mentioned earlier: a polymath is a person of wide-ranging knowledge or learning, and an opsimath is a person who only begins to learn later on in life. So, you can teach an old dog new tricks.