Learn And Lead

Learning Comes From The Direct Investment Of Others

Do you know that everything you and I know today is the result of someone else’s investment in us? I am able to write, speak, and teach about learning because of the people who have freely invested in my life in one way or another. Some people have invested in me directly through personal coaching, mentoring, and teaching. People like my father-in-law, who believed in me and personally invested in my education so I could possess the triple-crown in business education: a Finance degree, an MBA, and a CPA. He told me one day as we were sitting in his garden room talking about college and my future, “Gary, I think you’re smart enough to get your MBA and your CPA. You should think about it. Don’t let money stop you from getting an education. Once you have it, no one can take it from you.” And I was thinking to myself…what in the world is he thinking…an MBA and a CPA… Honestly, it was hard for me to get my head around that idea at that moment; however, many months later that seed sprouted into motivation to actually do it.

My grandfather is another person who consistently inspired me to be more, learn more, and do more. He was always there to encourage my business ideas and fan into flame my entrepreneurial spirit. He would say things like, “That’s a great idea! It will take some hard work, but if you put your mind to it, you can do it.”  One time I was at work and I couldn’t remember my home phone number because my wife and I had just moved to a new home. So I called my grandfather to ask him for my phone number. He told me, “Boy, I may not have as many degrees as a thermometer like you, but this much is sure, I know my own phone number…”

My mom and dad are also people who invested in me by sacrificially supporting my education in private schools so that I could be well prepared for college. My dad would always tell me, “Son, I couldn’t afford to go to college, but I want you and your sisters to go so you can have it better than me.” I was the first person in all of my family to graduate from college and then my sisters as well as my mom followed behind me.

And lastly, but certainly not least, my Pastors have invested in me even at the lowest points of my life. They helped teach me how to daily live for Christ, love my wife, and lead my family. In fact, it’s one of the reasons why I’m now in full-time ministry. I was invited into my Pastor’s small group and I just wouldn’t leave so they had to put me on staff. All kidding aside, I am so grateful for my Pastors and all the people that God has put in my life to help me learn, grow, and develop as a person and a leader.

Learning Comes From The Indirect Investment Of Others

Besides those people who have invested in me directly, there have also been others in my life who have invested in me indirectly. People like Mike Murdock who wrote the book, One-Minute Businessman’s Devotional, that helped transform my thinking about business in the kingdom of God. John Maxwell, who has helped me learn how to develop myself as a leader and also develop the leaders around me. Norman Vincent Peale, who taught me the value of always possessing a positive attitude especially as a Christ-follower. Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, who taught me how to build an organization to last through values-based convictions. And Stephen Covey, who taught me that you learn 95 percent of what you teach to others. In fact, that is one of the reasons I so much enjoy teaching others. Each time I have the opportunity to do so, I help people learn and grow and I also learn and grow at the same time. This life principle leads me to the importance of living a Learning Team Value at work and even at home.

Learning Comes From Giving As Much As It Comes From Receiving

To practically live a Learning Team Value, leaders must be servant leaders who participate in continuous training, development, and coaching.  And to do this really well, I believe you and I must learn an important kingdom principle found in Matthew 10:8, “Give as freely as you have received.” You see, each of us is a well of learning from others and as we are freely filled by the investment of others into our lives, we have the responsibility to freely give to others what we have freely received. Otherwise, you and I will become like the Dead Sea, dead and stagnate, always taking in, but never giving out. As Christ-followers, we are not designed to be takers only. No, we are designed to be givers like Jesus. However, none of us can give away what we don’t possess. Therefore, we must be life-long learners, continuously filling-up our well so that we have something to give away to others. A leader or a person that is no longer learning is a leader or person that is no longer growing. A leader or person who is no longer growing will soon have nothing new to invest into others.

So let me ask these two personal training and development questions. 1) Who are your mentors?  And, 2) who are you mentoring? If you don’t have any mentors, directly or indirectly, you are not receiving, you are not learning, and you are not growing as a leader. Furthermore, if you do not have anyone whom you are mentoring, then you are not giving away what you have freely received and you are at risk of becoming a stagnate fruitless leader.

Learning Comes From Mentors And Mistakes

Now when it comes to having mentors in your life, some of you might be thinking to yourself that you don’t really have any mentors. I have at times thought the same thing; however, as a Christ-follower, I have come to know that believing such a thought is actually believing a lie. The truth is that you and I have the greatest, ultimate, Mentor, anyone can ever have in life. He is the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Counselor in ALL of life. John 14:15 states, “And I [Jesus] will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth” and John 14:26 states, “But when the Father sends the Advocate as My representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”

The issue for you and I is not whether or not we have a mentor or mentors. The issue is whether or not we will pursue the ultimate Mentor in our life and the other mentors that He divinely appoints in our lives. Let me encourage you. There is great benefit from pursuing the Holy Spirit as our ultimate Mentor in life as well as the human mentors that He places in our life because there are only two ways we can learn in life. We can either learn from our mentors or we can learn from our mistakes. Learning from mentors provides the opportunity to learn from revelation; whereas; learning from mistakes provides the opportunity to learn from tribulation. Let me tell you. I’ve learned both ways and I can personally testify that learning from revelation is so much better than learning from tribulation.  Although, I am glad to say that learning from both ways can produce fruit in our lives when we apply what we learn.

Learning Comes From Applying What Is Learned

In fact, I don’t believe that true genius is found in learning alone because really everyone can learn, but not everyone is a genius learner. I believe people who are truly genius learners are people who not only learn, but actually go the next step and apply what they learn. Unfortunately, far too many people never take the time to take the extra step and apply what they have learned.  In Luke 8:10, Jesus tells His disciples [His disciplined learners], “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, And hearing they may not understand.’” As disciplined learners in the kingdom of God, if you and I do not apply what we learn through revelation, then we are no better off than those who are ignorant through lack of revelation. As stated earlier, we have no excuse for not learning through revelation because we have the Holy Spirit as our ultimate Mentor to lead us, guide us, and teach us. Pursuing Him today and everyday of our lives will produce great learning and great fruit in our lives.

Learning Comes From Having A Will To Learn

As an undergraduate student in college, sadly, I must say that I did not live up to my full potential as a student. I graduated with a 2.8 GPA which was ok, but was far lower than my High Honors GPA in high school. So when I found it difficult to land a good job upon graduation, I began to consider how I might learn from my mistakes as I decided to go to graduate school and obtain an MBA. Because I did not want to make the same mistakes in graduate school as I did in undergraduate school, I set out to make straight A’s and studied how to do it. In fact, my mother-in-law gave me some cassette tapes titled, “Where There’s A Will There’s An ‘A’”. Do you know that learning takes a lot of effort, but wise learning takes so much LESS effort. Let me tell you, wise learning begins with learning from others.

Here are 5 simple things I learned from the tape series that helped me to make all A’s and just one B in graduate school.

  • Arrive to class early and stay late paying special attention to the material in the beginning and the ending of class because teachers often cover the material that will be on the test in the beginning or ending of class if they failed to cover it in the previous class or during the current class.
  • Sit in the front of the class because there are less distractions and you will learn more about the material than you will about who is wearing what and what kind of hairstyle people have.
  • Never eat a big meal before a test because the digestive process will take your physical energy that could be better used for the test. Instead eat a candy bar or drink a caffeinated soda.
  • Write special notes in the margin of your book to highlight important material for the test and read those handwritten notes before the test.
  • And here’s a bonus tip that wasn’t in the tape series, but I learned from the Ultimate Mentor, the Holy Spirit. Pray before each test for God to bring to remembrance everything studied in preparation for the test.

Learning Comes From Revelation Given Away

Do you see what I just did? I learned something that helped me to make all A’s and one B in graduate school and I freely shared it with you. I received revelation that helped me to learn and grow and I gave revelation away to help you learn and grow. I was mentored and now I am mentoring others. To live out a Learning Team Value is really that simple!

This is what the Bible says about being a wise learner and learning from revelation. Proverbs 9:9-12 states, “Instruct the wise, and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous, and they will learn even more. Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment. Wisdom will multiply your days and add years to your life. If you become wise, you will be the one to benefit. If you scorn wisdom, you will be the one to suffer.” This is great wisdom for you and I today.

Learning Comes From Being An Uncommon Mentor

How many of you would like to be an uncommon mentor capable of instructing the wise so that they will become even wiser?  Being an uncommon mentor is not easy because an uncommon mentor will risk the approval others to see their potential fulfilled.  I like this quote from Coach Tony Dungy that I recently read: “I wasn’t there to be their Boss. I was there to help the players get better.” That’s what an uncommon mentor does. Uncommon mentors are not in your life to be your best friend. They are there to help you get better and fulfill your potential in life.

According to Mike Murdock, there is a big difference between a best friend and an uncommon mentor.

  •  A Best Friend loves you the way you are.
  • An Uncommon Mentor loves you too much to leave you the way you are.
  • A Best Friend is comfortable with your past.
  • An Uncommon Mentor is comfortable with your future.
  • A Best Friend ignores your weakness.
  • An Uncommon Mentor removes your weakness.
  • A Best Friend is your cheerleader.
  • An Uncommon Mentor is your coach.
  • A Best Friend sees what you do right.
  • An Uncommon Mentor sees what you do wrong.

Learning Comes From Being An Uncommon Protégé

In the pursuit of learning, an Uncommon Protégé will pay any price to stay in the presence of an Uncommon Mentor and learn from them. And when they do, great blessing, favor, and anointing from the Uncommon Mentor is transferred to the Uncommon Protégé. This type of transference is seen in the Bible story about Elijah (an Uncommon Mentor) and Elisha (an Uncommon Protégé).

2 Kings 2:2-10 records the account stating, “Then Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to Bethel.’ But Elisha said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!’ So they went down to Bethel. Now the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?’ And he said, ‘Yes, I know; keep silent!’

Then Elijah said to him, ‘Elisha, stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to Jericho.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!’ So they came to Jericho. Now the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho came to Elisha and said to him, ‘Do you know that the Lord will take away your master from over you today?’ So he answered, ‘Yes, I know; keep silent!’

Then Elijah said to him, ‘Stay here, please, for the Lord has sent me on to the Jordan.’ But he said, ‘As the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, I will not leave you!’ So the two of them went on. And fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood facing them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan. Now Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water; and it was divided this way and that, so that the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

And so it was, when they had crossed over, that Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Ask! What may I do for you, before I am taken away from you?’ Elisha said, ‘Please let a double portion of your spirit be upon me.’ So he said, ‘You have asked a hard thing. Nevertheless, if you see me when I am taken from you, it shall be so for you; but if not, it shall not be so.’”

In reading this story, why do you think the other prophets didn’t pursue Elijah like Elisha did? I believe it’s because they thought they already knew everything and didn’t need to pursue Elijah. In each of the cities, the other prophets told Elisha (all paraphrased by me for emphasis), “Hey man, what are you doing following that old man around…don’t you know that the Lord is going to take him away today? Why are you wasting your time with an ‘old-timer’ like that?”

The reason is that Elisha wanted a double portion of Elijah’s anointing and would do anything to stay in Elijah’s presence and learn from him. As a result, the Lord honored his pursuit and gave Elisha a double portion of Elijah’s anointing.

In living out a Learning Team Value, you and I must NOT be protégés like the other prophets in this Old Testament story. We must be Uncommon Protégés like Elisha and do whatever it takes to be in the presence of Uncommon Mentors and learn from them. And when the double portion anointing of the Uncommon Mentor transfers to us, we must then become an Uncommon Mentor to someone else. This is what it means to be servant leaders who participate in continuous training, development, and coaching.

To His glory, have a blessed “Make It Happen” day!

Learning: The Greatest Growth Factor For Leaders Copyright 2013, Gary J. Borgstede.  You have permission to reprint the leadership article, Learning: The Greatest Growth Factor For Leaders, in its entirety only, and forward to your colleagues and friends, provided the copyright notice remains part of the reprint and transmission.  All other rights reserved.