Looking for a Qualified Teacher or Credible Mentor?
4 Things to Consider:

Don't Insulate Yourself from Developmental Feedback (constructive criticism). Be Brave. Seek it out.

Recently, in a post entitled “Want to improve? Give people permission to tell you the truth.”

I wrote:

“As scary as it is, if you REALLY want to improve, seek developmental feedback.

But NOT from just anyone.

Ask people you trust.
Ask people who have experience in your industry or craft – either firsthand or through extensive observation.
Ask people who have no vested interest in the outcome of your decisions…

…Ask for suggestions. Find qualified teachers and credible mentors.”

If you’ve decided to be brave and seek out developmental feedback from “qualified teachers and credible mentors” your first step is to:

1. Define “qualified” and “credible” so you can identify those people.

In my experience, “qualified” can be interpreted to mean that someone has a degree or certification or some sort of credential they’ve earned through a structured educational or training program. But much too often, that degree or certification represents completion in that program and not necessarily COMPETENCE. I’ve personally gotten more than a few clients because the “credentialed” person couldn’t actually DO the work.

(Sometimes a certification is necessary to meet eligibility requirements, but I stopped getting certifications to enhance my credibility a few decades ago when I recognized that, in many cases, anyone could become certified if they paid for it. I chose instead to diligently pursue competence, strive for excellence, demonstrate a strong work ethic and genuinely care about the needs and success of my clients, which resulted in a solid reputation and a client base built by referrals.)

So, if a credential isn’t a dependable measure of qualified or credible, then what should you look for in a mentor?

Someone who is doing what you want to learn to do – and is doing it well.

These are the people you want to emulate. Research their credentials, find out where they obtained their education and training and who their teachers were. Check out their websites, their Linkedin and any other social media presence they may have. Look for articles they’ve written or interviews they’ve given. If you discover they’ve quoted a book, read it. What they’ve done and experienced has helped them get to where they are today and there’s value in that information. After you’ve learned all you can about them on your own, consider reaching out to them personally.

2. In a career search, one way to find good advice would be through something called an Informational Interview.

An informational interview is different than a job interview in that there’s no specific job opportunity available. Rather, the conversation centers around learning about a particular field or career or even a company, so the interviewer can gain a better understanding of best practices and potential pitfalls. Usually, the interviewer comes away from an informational interview with some solid advice from someone who is or has been where they want to go. Approaching someone to interview can be scary, but you would be surprised at how often a complete stranger is willing to give you a few minutes of their time to give you insight into their chosen profession and tell you about their journey.

For more information about how to prepare and conduct an informational interview, check out What Color Is Your Parachute? 2019: A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers by Richard N. Bolles.

3. Identify good teachers by identifying their students.

Finding a good teacher can be tricky. Forget about advertisements. They are often written by someone about themselves and who would ever say anything negative about themselves when they are advertising their own services? Instead, seek out (a) word of mouth referrals, (b) search for social media comments and reviews by their clients (and former clients) and most importantly (c) look at their students, especially long-time students. You would never intentionally get a haircut from someone if you knew all their clients had terrible haircuts. The same mentality applies when it comes to evaluating a teacher.

For instance, I’ve taken voice lessons on and off for decades. I found my current vocal coach because I heard someone sing and thought “Wow! I want to learn to do THAT!” I was drawn to excellence in a student’s performance and I wanted to know who their teacher was – I NEEDED to know who their teacher was.

If you are considering a teacher and none of their students are doing what you want to learn and doing it well, it could be that none of their students are talented or teachable, but the odds of that are slim. If you can’t find a single student of theirs who is demonstrating excellence, or at least growth, my personal advice is to find another teacher. If you still decide you want to work with them, don’t commit to a long-term student/teacher relationship with them immediately. A few lessons or classes during a trial period should tell you whether you are a good fit.

A Caveat:

If your teacher only ever gives you positive feedback, don’t settle for it. Compliments may make you FEEL better, but it won’t help you GET better. After all, if you were perfect, you wouldn’t need their help. Ask them directly to TELL you what weaknesses they see you struggle with and what you need to work on.

4.

Finally, if your teacher runs out of developmental feedback (constructive criticism), YOU’VE OUTGROWN THEM. It’s time to move on and find another teacher who will challenge you.

Want to improve? Give people permission to tell you the truth.
(And don’t punish them for it)

Give the people you trust permission to tell you the truth

Do you want to improve?

To get better at what you do?

If the only feedback you are receiving about the

work you are doing…
the risks you are taking…
the things you are creating…

is positive, consider that for a minute.

Is that what you want? Is that what you need?

How do you tell the difference between someone who’s being nice
and someone who’s telling the truth?

If you NEVER hear negative – or even neutral – feedback how do you know what you need to improve?

If you’ve been the victim of 100% positive feedback…
If you are a member of a group of people pleasing back patters…
If you ask counterfeit questions, like “Wasn’t that GREAT?!” when you ask someone for their opinion…

Consider the possibility that you have a subjective and unrealistic opinion of your finished product – whatever it is.

Consider the statistical improbability that you are doing everything so well what there’s absolutely no room for improvement.

As scary as it is, if you REALLY want to improve, seek developmental feedback.

But NOT from just anyone.

Ask people you trust.
Ask people who have experience in your industry or craft – either firsthand or through extensive observation.
Ask people who have no vested interest in the outcome of your decisions.

If they believe you are sincere in the asking…
If they have the courage to tell you the truth…

and the feedback isn’t 100% affirmation and praise,

DON’T PUNISH THEM FOR IT.

DON’T argue.
DON’T shut down.
DON’T assume they are wrong.
DON’T dismiss them as a credible resource.
DON’T dismiss the feedback.
DON’T ASSUME THEY DON’T LIKE YOU.

Consider. Search their words for all possible truth. If you’re really brave, seek out a second opinion – again – giving them permission to tell you the truth.

Ask for suggestions. Find qualified teachers and credible mentors. Set realistic long and short-term goals for improvement. Work toward them. Consistently.

Improvement is rarely easy. But in the end, the hard is what makes it great.

The lying tempter would persuade.

Maybe it’s the chaos in my house.

or the chaos of the last year and a half.

or the abundance of time I’ve had to think about the chaos of the last year and a half while I’m attending to the mindless task of shoveling the chaos in my house…

maybe I’m just tired.

or hormonal. I’ve had a hysterectomy, so for all I know I’m on my period and don’t even know it.

But, today is one of those days where I’m haunted and grieved by voices.

Condescending voices of marginalization and mediocrity.

The voices that told me I don’t have to work as hard as I do, because less is “just fine.” As if the voices didn’t realize that the unnecessary extra time I took and the unneeded effort I expended led to a result they just described as “fine.” As if it didn’t occur to them that less effort and time would knock “fine” down to…less than fine. And worst of all, by continuing to tell me I don’t have to work so hard the voices continued to let me know time and time again how little they know me or how little respect they have for my determination to give my best.

And now, “fine” saturates the air I breathe.

The voices that told me I shouldn’t work as hard as I do, because it makes other people look bad.

And now I’m gone. And it turns out I wasn’t the reason someone else wasn’t succeeding. I actually wasn’t hogging their opportunities and stealing their affirmation. They are still contributing the minimum and spewing bitterness because they think they are entitled to more opportunities even though they continue to prove they can’t be depended upon.

The voices that politely asked me to step back. Say less. Do less. Give less. and be less. And “respect” the leadership of someone I thought I was collaborating with. Because my unfettered contribution made other people jealous. and angry. and sarcastically hateful.

And now, I’m mired in the mindset that everything I have to offer is too much. Unwanted. The constant monitoring for those boundaries holds me back from offering anything outside of one-on-one conversations. The fear of overloading someone with too much of me keeps my head out of the clouds, my feet planted firmly on the ground and my eyes focused on the 1st mile responsibility of caring for my family. And re-flooring and painting my house, all the while secretly hoping it really IS #thehomeprojectthatneverends.

The voices that flippantly dismissed my interest in returning to school because I don’t “need” any more education. As if ANYone, ever “NEEDS” a formal education. As if the desire to learn isn’t enough reason to seek knowledge and understanding.

And then there’s little voice that can’t help but wonder if pursing another degree might be an excellent two year distraction…

Even so I continue to learn. But share less of the lessons, gauging who actually might LIKE to engage in a discussion about the things that get me thinking by tentatively testing and retreating in conversation, facebook and the rare blog post. Confirmed in my square-pegness again and again by the facebook stats that indicate people view one of my amusing family dialogs or a home project progress report 3 to 4 times more than they ever view anything I post about something I’m learning.

The voices that let me know I read too much (and am out of touch because I don’t watch enough TV). As if someone else’s desire to only read fiction – or not read at all – and quote platitudes or pinterest eCards means that my desire to read non-fiction and quote scripture is evidence that I just need to chill out and “enjoy life” more. Because reading non-fiction couldn’t possibly be enjoyable.

Even so, I continue to read. and learn. and think. Because I love it.

The voices that assure me it’s not necessary to share the hope of Christ at every opportunity because a more acceptable and more comfortable alternative is to “rub off on people.” Because evangelism is a process. of passive osmosis. Because too many people think evangelism is telling someone ELSE how you think they should live instead of telling someone how God is working in the life YOU live.

And yet people are DYING every day. DYING. And we may not get that second or subsequent opportunity to allow our autopilot passing presence or casual words in someone’s life to be the kind of intentional witness for Christ that the most important relationship of our life deserves. We share posts about kids, dogs, kittens and pinterest exponentially more than we ever share something Christ has taught us or how He’s moving in our lives every day, no matter how small.

The voices that explain my writing is too “intellectual,” that I use too many rarely used words like “unfettered” and “mired” or that I tend to “drone on.” (The owners of those voices have already clicked away. If they even started reading at all.)

And now, more often than not, I have the attention span of a gnat when I sit down in front of my brand new computer. With the rare exception of this post – which at this point exceeds the recommended maximum attention keeping word count – I have no inclination to write anything longer than a facebook update or anything that takes more than 30 or 60 seconds to digest. When I think about anything I might have to say, the only word that consistently comes to mind is “meh.”

The voices that suggest I consider the possibility my dream was bigger than God’s will for me. I should be grateful. Compared to all the problems and suffering in the world, the loss of my dream is not a tragedy. There are plenty of other things I could do with my time. “There’s nothing wrong with living a simpler life, you know.” Because dreams devalue anyone living this “simpler life?”

And now I find myself searching for that unselfish place of devotion and delight in Christ that fuels me with passion and a determination to be a good steward of the gifts I’ve been blessed with while at the same time, being held back by the relentless thought that as long as I continue to grieve whenever I think of never leading worship again or of not writing a book or never again speaking about my faith while holding a microphone, it’s evidence that I love the dream more than the dream-giver and I need to climb out of my big britches until a “ministry” of one-on-one every day relational evangelism doesn’t feel like less.

And then there’s the voice that belongs to the person who sifted through every nuance of every other voice, meticulously looking for truth, no matter how hard to face. The voice that wields the sharpest sword and cuts the deepest.

mine.

Most days, the Voice of Truth is louder than all of these voices.

The Voice of Truth tells me that these words are meant to oppress me. To feed me the lie that the words spoken by these voices are more powerful than the blood of Christ and the strength available to me through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Ace Ventura Recognizing the Voice of TruthThe Voice of Truth tells me that Satan is far more effective in derailing me through the casual words of Christians than he ever would be through a direct attack from an anti-theist who thoughtfully planned out a full frontal assault.

The Voice of Truth tells me that these are the voices of flawed humans, not a perfect God. Careless knee-jerk reaction words, spoken without a pause for thoughts of the message they are sending or of long term consequences or – more importantly – especially when it comes to instruction and advice – spoken without a pause for prayer.

Voices of those searching for something or someone to blame, not words of personal responsibility.

If you’re wondering if one of these voices was yours, ask yourself why you’re wondering that, and regardless of whether the answer is yes or no, I pray that you click away from this post with an awareness of the powerful impact of the words you speak, the decisions you make and the reasons behind them.

I don’t blame any of the voices. Not anymore. I’ve come to realize that any influence they had on me, I allowed. Any limitations that were placed on me, I accepted.

Any words spoken, I listened.

Besides, these voices are secondary. I’m still working through much deeper spiritual pruning and growth.

My constant prayer these days is to know God MORE.

and today, I’m praying for wisdom and discernment to recognize and block out any voice opposed to the Voice of Truth.

especially mine.