Personal instruction has to be one of the fastest ways you can build skill. Immediate feedback combined with practice is crucial to successfully building mastery, and it is hard to find a better way of doing this than by being taught by a master. Although a perfect form of instruction isn’t always available, it is the best vehicle for imitating any form of excellence.
This is the second part in a four part series about modeling. In the first article, I discussed how, through imitation, you can rapidly build skills by leveraging someone who already has them. The focus of this article is on maximizing different types of instruction available to improve yourself.
Imitate Your Way to Success
When the Student is Ready…
…the teacher will appear. Although the saying has a bit of a ring to it, I don’t believe it is usually the case. I’ve found that if you want to get instruction in any area you need to be proactive about it. This could mean signing up for a course, joining an organization or going out and asking for help.
A lot of skills you can get instruction for rather inexpensively if you live in a large city. Getting a physical trainer to teach you how to get in shape, joining Toastmasters to improve speaking skills or taking a class for computer skills can be just as simple as having the funds and doing a quick internet search.
Other aspects you may want to model don’t lend themselves so easily to personal instruction or the cost may be too high compared to their value. In these cases you may have to become even more proactive and actively seek out mentors. Many people will be willing to devote time to help someone as long as they express a clear motivation to learn and accept instruction.
Whether you have paid for instruction or you have found yourself a mentor who is willing to give you feedback, there are several ways you can maximize your ability to learn.
Leave the Ego at the Door
When you come to learn something, leave the ego behind. You are trying to learn, not boost your self-image, so don’t worry about doing badly. After I give a speech at Toastmasters, I write down any suggestions the evaluator left for me and remember to incorporate them into future speeches. Getting upset that this person dared to criticize you is counterproductive.
Accept the Instruction
If you don’t follow what the instructor tells you to do, you aren’t going to get very far. Even if you feel you might have more experience then the person offering feedback (which can be the case in peer-evaluated learning such as Toastmasters) fully take in the suggestion and try to implement it.
Unless implementing the suggestion would have huge costs, try out the suggestions even if you think they might not work. I’ve made many changes to my writing style and this blog from small suggestions from readers. Some of them worked, some of them didn’t, but I got better as a result of all of them.
Define an Outcome
Without a specific outcome for what you want to learn, you aren’t likely to reach it. More importantly, without an outcome, potential mentors will probably see you as unfocused and are less likely to want to offer help. Whether you want to get in great shape, start a business or learn to dance, defining an outcome for every attempt accelerates improvement and displays a willingness to learn.
In the next article, I’ll talk about a second method to model, observation. Although few things beat instruction, carefully observing others can allow you to pick up their strategies for success.