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The Most Essential Life Skill: Teachability

There’s one characteristic that separates the successful from the unsuccessful in every walk of life: teachability.

Those who are teachable, and remain so, usually succeed. The unteachable usually fail. I’ve seen that in business, I’ve seen it in the ministry, I’ve seen it among students, and I’ve seen it in my children.

No matter how much talent and gifting we have, if we are, or become, unteachable, we will never reach anywhere near our full potential in our careers, our callings or our relationships.

The Distinguishing Difference
Think of all the successful people you know—what is it that distinguishes them all? It’s teachability, isn’t it? Think of all the people you know that never really made the most of the gifts and opportunities God gave them. Unteachability is the common thread, isn’t it?

If there’s one thing I want to to teach my children and students, it’s teachability.

When I speak to young people or students, I can usually tell quite quickly the ones who will do well in their lives and callings … and those who won’t. Teachability makes the difference.

Teachability gets people to the top. But if you lose teachability at the top, you won’t be at the top for long.

So what does unteachabilty look like?

• Doesn’t take notes, read books or learn anything unless it’s the bare minimum or what’s essential for exam purposes.

• Doesn’t ask questions or attempt anything that might reveal ignorance or risk looking stupid.

• Doesn’t accept responsibility for failures but blames anyone and everyone else.

• Doesn’t seek or accept one-to-one personal guidance or mentoring from parents, teachers, pastors, elders, etc.

• Doesn’t listen, but talks, talks, talks about self, especially when with someone you could learn a lot from.

• Doesn’t take criticism or correction without resentment or retaliation.

• Resists moving out of personal comfort zones in work, study, ministry or relationships, but always looks for the easy and familiar route.

• Doesn’t read, listen to or learn anything that challenges existing presuppositions, practices and prejudices.

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Dr. David Murray is Professor of Old Testament and Practical Theology at Puritan Reformed Seminary. He is also Pastor of Grand Rapids Free Reformed Church. David is the author of Christians get depressed too, How Sermons Work, and Jesus on Every Page. You can read his blog at HeadHeartHand.org/blog or follow him on Twitter @davidpmurray. David is married to Shona and they have five children ranging from 4 months to 17 years old, and they love camping, fishing, boating, and skiing in the Lake Michigan area.