Are you a student or spectator?
This could one of the best questions you could ever ask yourself? It was a question that was posed to me many years ago. There are so many people I have meet believing they were students while living the life of a spectator. They stayed on the sidelines, never really getting involved. Never asking questions, adding comments to conversations or taking any risk. There are listeners and then there are great listeners. Listeners sit back and hear what is being said and doing nothing to risk being seen in a lesser light. Great listeners ask questioners, the better more active listeners ask the best questions. They use body language to show they are totally involved in the conversation. They repeat phrases and ask related questions to make sure they have not just heard what was said but understand what is being communicated, these are the hallmarks of great active listeners. To read Sun Tzu is the equivalent to being a listener. To be a good listener, you have to be active. Asking questions, challenging the words and ideas, attempting to use them to better your life. The next step is to test the understanding in real life situations.
Brandi Chastain, American retired soccer player, two-time FIFA Women's World Cup champion, two-time Olympic gold-medallist, coach, and sports broadcaster has this comment for us to ponder. “Ultimately what I tell the kids is: coaches can give you information, they can give you guidelines, and they can put you in a position. But the only person who can truly make you better is you”. In other words, get out there and get active!
A spectator simply wants to be entertained and if they actually learn anything that is a bonus. A student primarily wants to learn. Smart students learn how to be entertained by what and how they are learning. There are those who will watch a documentary to be entertained, be part of those who watch to actually learn something. Sun Tzu, himself, tells us to study and in some cases what to study. He specifically mentions four subjects to study: moods, circumstances, well-being of men and the six principles connected with Earth.
Og Mandino said “Take the attitude of a student, never be too big to ask questions, and never know too much to learn something new”. Too many let the fear of being embarrassed to silence their questions or their involvement of the learning experience. Many teachers have told me directly that if I have a question, guaranteed there will be others thinking that exact same question. So what is there to be embarrassed about? Sure there will be others who already understand or know more, however there also be others who do not understand and know less then you. Other teachers have also repeated asked me, am I willing others, strangers, to determine what I learn?
“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn”. What a great quote from Benjamin Franklin. This lines up great with this other ancient quote, give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for life. Again, the message is active not passive. Benjamin Franklin at the beginning of his comment lays out clearly what happens with passive learning. You forget. The end of his quote demands action. You can’t be involve if you are imitating a couch potato.
The more senses, sight, touch, audio, taste and smell, you can bring to your leaning habits the better you will learn. So for example, when reading the Art of War, read it out loud. Have some white noise music playing in the background to block out all other distracting noises. Choose a publication that has images that you can associate with passages or chapters. Connect a passage with a memory that has great significance to you. There are specific passages that I when I read the book for the first time that instantly popped into my mind. These passages I learnt instantly and have never struggled to understand them. To make the most of this, I concentrated on passages just before and after so I could understand them as well. This does not work for everyone, but if it works for me, I have no doubt it will work for others.
“A wise man can learn more from a foolish question than a fool can learn from a wise answer”. Bruce Lee, one of the renowned action men of all time. Bruce Lee did not say a foolish question makes you a fool. Sometimes if you ask a foolish question, you put yourself in a situation where your learning curve steepens greatly. Sure it can be tough and temporarily embarrassing. The result is that you will learn and be better for the experience. A foolish question, a foolish act. Both can be precursors to a life changing learning experience. The choice is to hold onto the embarrassment or to the learning experience. Life is full of choices.
“To learn to succeed, you must first learn to fail.” Michael Jordan “I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”
Now if we combine this quote “Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them” from Henry Ford with this one “It may seem difficult at first, but everything is difficult at first” from Miyamoto Musashi, we highlight the most significant difference between students and spectators. Students are willing to deal with difficulties and deal with directly and not look for ways around them. Spectators want others to do the solving or learning for them.
Learning is difficult. It is the DNA of learning. This is why learning should be a habit not an accident or an occasional whim.
Spectators are more likely to be drawn of course by the flashy posers. Learning or reaching a deeper or better understanding of the thirteen chapters is not like a get rich quick program. Spectators want to be entertained. Students want to be taught or guided in their quest for understanding. It can be a hard boring slog, however the payoff is spectacular.
In closing I leave you with this thought. Whether you believe you are a student or spectator, in fact you are a player. What you do all day every day is dealt with in the book. Everything!!!! From getting out of bed, dealing with people, making decisions and planning for you future. It can all be improved by reading this book. Being a student, while not being a first choice of most people can bring rewards that are profound and life changing. For the better. Whether you would rather be a spectator in the stands rather than a student with their nose buried in a book, the reality is every one is a player. We live our lives every day. The choice we make every day is do we want a better life?