“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
~ Buddha Siddhartha Guatama Shakyamuni
Where do these teachers come from? The proverb seems to place responsibility for “appearing” on the teacher. It’s as if teachers were limited resources, sitting on the sidelines of life just waiting for students. My take is that “teachers” are an unlimited resource, with dozens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of teachers for each one of us.
In his groundbreaking 1976 book How to Run Your Own Life, Jut Meininger used the metaphor of a Martian (M) to show us that everything we humans think comes from our filtered Knower/Judgers and is not an accurate depiction of reality. The book is a dialogue between M and Earth Person (EP), with the naïve M challenging each K/J precept EP uses to run his life…all the “shoulds” contributing to his dysfunction.
Here’s how it opens:
EP: (Looking up suddenly) Hello! Who are you?
M: I’m a Martian.
EP: (Frowning) What are you doing here?
M: I’ve always been with you.
EP: Aw cut it out. You don’t really expect me to believe that, do you?
M: Believe me or not. That’s your choice.
EP: (Stubbornly) Then how come I haven’t seen you before?
M: You haven’t been ready.
EP: What do you mean by that?
M: You’re at a point in your life where what you’ve been taught and what you’ve been aware of aren’t enough. You want more out of life than you know how to get.
EP: (More puzzled than defensive) But I still don’t understand why I see you all of a sudden.
M: It’s because you’ve started looking. You’ve started seeing things of value. You’re lucky! Most people limit themselves to seeing things that aren’t of any value to them.
When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
What Meininger tells us here is that this education process doesn’t launch because the teacher shows up. It starts because the student opens up. The teachers (data, wisdom, information, other interpretation, horizons) are always there. We just have difficulty seeing them.
Let’s look at an example from the business world. A fairly common executive behavior in small businesses today is the “management” mentality. Our K/Js have been trained to believe that we “manage” our businesses, our challenges, and our people, or that we ourselves are managed by others. The term “manage” has some K/J baggage around “taking charge,” “doing it my way,” and heads rolling when mistakes are made.
With abundant data (the “teacher” if you will) telling us that the best-run companies nurture creativity, risk-taking, and learning from mistakes, these executives (potential students) still do not “see” a benefit to trying new ways of directing their organizations. They reach a certain level of productivity (with which they appear to be satisfied) and go or grow no further.
Public organizations might have this management mentality too, but when it puts productivity at risk, stakeholders become dissatisfied with the status quo and demand improved performance.
At this point, the executives become ready students. Lo and behold, they find that the information, classes, coaches, networks, etc. were there all along. They just never saw them because they had no internal need or desire to see them.
Meininger’s book is titled How to Run Your Own Life because he shows the reader how we students get channeled into our own myopic K/J rules of life that are usually written for us by others. For the most part we are ignorant of all the teachers around us who can:
- Help with our relationships
- Make us more money
- Make us happier
- Change our lives for the better
- End the struggles
- Break us out of mediocrity
Are you ready to be a student? Can you regularly set aside some of your K/J rules of life and let in new data? Can you be in your Learner/Researcher persona without being in crisis mode? Teachers abound. Be ready. All the time.