When I was a young mom, we had five babies in seven years and moved 11 times in 13 years. While on that journey and at my husband’s urging, I decided to go back to school and finish my Bachelor’s degree. Yes, I went back into the classroom between babies #3 and #4 to reach that personal goal. Colorado Christian University had a program designed for adults who worked full time and taking care of all those kids was a full-time job! In my class were other adults including Madeline, a 70-year-old great-grandma who wanted to finish her Bachelor’s degree. When the professor asked each of us our motivation for enrolling in this difficult, accelerated program, Madeline sweetly replied,
“I always want to keep learning and remain teachable.”
She became my hero that day.
Madeline finished the program and walked the stage with the rest of us, then she went on to publish three books—always remaining teachable.
As a veteran speaker of 2000+ paid gigs, an author of 15 published books, a spokesperson for 100+ brands, and a media veteran of 2800 interviews, I’m often asked to mentor neophytes on how to succeed in these areas. It seems that everyone (and their mama) wants to write a book, become a brand ambassador or launch a professional speaker career. That’s cool, it’s great to have dreams. Many have read that they should “go to someone who is successfully doing what you want to do.” Consequently, some will come to me. That’s not a bad thing, that’s what I did when I started out. I’ve received hundreds of requests for this kind of coaching and the requests infer a pro bono offering. This can be overwhelming.
How do you decide who to mentor when you have a limited amount of time?
My answer: they must be teachable.
I have a business and non-profit to run, a podcast to push out, a husband to flirt with, and several grandbabies to visit. Time is limited and I can’t take every meeting that I’m asked to take. How do I decide who gets a meeting and who will get the closed door answer: “I’m honored you would ask, but I regret to say that I cannot accept.”
I’m not alone, you’re probably juggling work and home, trying to find that work/ life balance that is ever illusive. You need to know what meetings to take and which ones deserve a pass. Or, you may be the person asking for the meeting—why should the experienced veteran in your field, take a meeting with you?
They need to be teachable.
Just like Madeline, are you willing to humble yourself, do the work you’re asked to do and realize that you have something to learn?
I’ve found that the least teachable people are those who feel they have nothing to learn. Some of the worst speakers I’ve ever heard are Generals, CEOs, actors, teachers, and preachers—those who speak in front of groups often. They feel that because they are already doing it, they don’t need to improve. The English teacher who is not a publishable author feels she knows her grammar, but that doesn’t mean she can write a book. The professional speaker, who can’t make the leap to media interviews because he doesn’t know how to deliver a sound bite. You get the idea.
I have several ways of vetting someone before I take a meeting. For example, I’ll send them a file on the topic they want to discuss with me, “call me after you’ve read the file and we’ll set up a time to answer your questions.” Roughly 9.5 out of 10 never read the file—BAM! I don’t take that meeting.
Or for those who want to be speakers, I’ll say, “attend a Toastmasters meeting and then we can talk.” But they don’t do the bare minimum—attend one, little meeting! In both vetting cases, the proposed mentee feels they are advanced well beyond the need to read a file or attend a meeting.
The same thing happens at conferences, when attendees have a chance to speak with the faculty to talk about their work. Occasionally, a faculty member or speaker will request more material from an attendee. According to my literary agent, Steve Laube (super agent extraordinaire) 9 out of 10 attendees never send him their info on the rare occasion he requests it. It’s a huge open door that they won’t walk through due to fear, laziness or procrastination.
After I spoke at FinCon one year on the topic of monetizing brand ambassadorships, an attendee followed up with me as I requested. She did her research, followed my advice and today, she’s a very successful brand ambassador. You can read about “The Budgetnista” and see the work she’s doing in the space—a truly teachable lady who found success.
Madeline, from my CCU class all those years ago, remains a hero of mine and I want to grow up to be like her. Towards that end, even after 25 years as a professional speaker, I remain teachable in my primary areas. I attend Shop Talk Toastmasters, and practice new material, receiving feedback from those Toastmasters. After every speech that my speaking team does with the Heroes at Home Financial Event, I get feedback on the presentation from my team. This way, I continue to learn and grow.
Are you teachable?
Are you willing to do the work?
Do you have a way to vet your time to determine what meetings you’ll take?
Have you ever been asked for a response from someone in your field of interest and what did you do?
Where ever you go and whatever you do, remaining teachable is the best way to grow and continue to find success along the journey.