John Maxwell’s new book Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn is out. I had a chance to read a pre-release copy, and if you’re a dedicated student of leadership  and life, you’ll benefit from John’s insights. I asked him to share an article with my readers, and he sent the article below. For ordering information, click here.

If You Want to Learn, Be Teachable

By John C. Maxwell

Jazz trumpeter and bandleader Louis Armstrong once said, “There are some people that if they don’t know, you can’t teach them.” Some people want to be right, even when they aren’t. And as a result, life is difficult for them. They never find the pathway of learning nor do they learn the lessons life offers to those with a teachable spirit.

Teachability is a choice. We choose whether we are open or closed to new ideas, new experiences, others’ ideas, people’s feedback, and willingness to change. In my new book, Sometimes You Win, Sometimes You Learn, I focus on how to turn loss into a learning experience. And I believe that teachability is the pathway to making that happen.

Traits of a Teachable Person

If you desire to find the pathway from failure to success, you need to cultivate the following five traits:

1. Teachable People Have an Attitude Conducive to Learning

People with a teachable spirit approach each day as an opportunity for another learning experience. Their hearts are open. Their minds are alert for something new. Their attitudes are expectant. They know that success has less to do with possessing natural talent and more to do with choosing to learn.

2. Teachable People Possess a Beginner Mind-set

When people are actually beginners, they find it easy to have a beginner’s mind-set. But maintaining that teachability becomes more difficult as you learn more and achieve some success. I try to maintain a beginner’s mind-set by keeping the following three things in mind:

1. Everyone has something to teach me.

2. Every day I have something to learn.

3. Every time I learn something, I benefit.

3. Teachable People Take Long, Hard Looks in the Mirror

Becoming and remaining teachable requires people to honestly and openly evaluate themselves on a continual basis. Any time you face a challenge, loss, or problem, one of the first things you need to ask yourself is, “Am I the cause?” If the answer is yes, then you need to be ready to make changes. Recognizing your own part in your failings, seeking solutions (no matter how painful), and working hard to put them into place leads to the ability to change, grow, and move forward in life.

4. Teachable People Encourage Others to Speak into Their Lives

Teachable people surround themselves with people who know them well and who will lovingly, yet honestly, speak into their life. However, that can be a challenge—for many reasons. First, you must be willing to develop strong enough relationships with people that you can credibly ask them to speak into your life. Second, they must be courageous and honest enough to speak freely to you. And third, you must be willing to accept their feedback and criticism without defending yourself. Otherwise, you’ll only receive it once!

5. Teachable People Learn Something New Every Day

The secret to any person’s success can be found in his or her daily agenda. People grow and improve, not by huge leaps and bounds, but by small, incremental changes. Teachable people try to leverage this truth by learning something new every day. A single day is enough to make us a little larger or a little smaller. Several single days strung together will make us a lot larger or a lot smaller. If we do that every day, day upon day, there is great power for change.

Futuristic author and speaker John Naisbitt said, “No one subject or set of subjects will serve you for a foreseeable future, let alone the rest of your life.” In other words, even if you do know something well, it won’t do everything for you. Living to your potential requires you to keep learning and expanding yourself. For that, you must have a teachable spirit. If you don’t, you will come to the end of your potential long before you come to the end of your life.


Mark Sanborn
About Mark Sanborn

Mark Sanborn, CSP, CPAE, is president of Sanborn & Associates, Inc., an idea studio dedicated to developing leaders in business and in life. Mark is an international bestselling author and noted expert on leadership, team building, customer service and change. Mark Sanborn graduated cum laude from The Ohio State University. In addition to his work as a business educator and author, Mark continues to be an active leadership practitioner. Most recently he served as the president of the National Speakers Association.

2 Responses to If You Want to Learn, Be Teachable: Guest Blog by John Maxwell
  1. […] read the full article by John Maxwell, please click here. Posted in Tips for Greater Success « Winners of Book Giveaway |Tweet this post|Follow […]

  2. […] unequipped for important tasks. But they also wield a very powerful weapon – teachability.   According to Maxwell, it increasingly becomes more difficult to be teachable when you start learning more and achieving […]


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