Teachers should prepare the student for the student's future, not for the teacher's past. -Richard Hamming
If you have ever attended our Transformational Trainer course you are aware of the power of a properly constructed story. Science shows us that stories are one of the most powerful tools that a trainer can use to most effectively and efficiently deliver training material.
But these stories should not be confused with “war stories.” We all have them. And they certainly have their place – if they are relevant. Yet for many instructors, these stories serve as the foundation of everything that they teach.
Unfortunately, not only are our stories from the past (sometimes the distant past), but oftentimes our tactics, strategies, and information is also firmly rooted in the past – the instructor’s past. And, truth be told, they have little impact on the future of those that we have been entrusted to train.
Too many instructors reach a certain level of expertise and they become content with their knowledge, skills, and abilities. In law enforcement we often use the term “complacency” to refer to this state. This isn’t just a law enforcement issue. In their book, Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, Ericsson and Pool produce evidence that even doctors with 20 years of experience are likely to be a bit worse than one with 5 years of experience. And it’s because of the gradual absence of deliberate efforts to improve.
The truth is most of us hate change. We grow comfortable where we are at and with what we are doing. This feeling, though, is dangerous.
If you don’t like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less. -General Eric Shineski
Our training should never be irrelevant. The only way to ensure that this is not the case is to be a true student of your profession, to continually seek to improve. To be a true master of your craft.
One of the simplest ways of improving one’s knowledge is through reading. As Seth Godin wrote in his book, The Practice:
The reading exposes you to the state of the art. The reading helps you follow a through line of
reasoning and agree, or even better, challenge it. The reading takes effort. If you haven’t done the reading, why expect to be treated as a professional?
Would you feel comfortable going to a doctor that hasn’t read a medical journal since she was in medical school? Or to an attorney that hasn’t read any case law since law school? If not, why should our students be expected to listen to a trainer that hasn’t put in the work?
Be a professional. Improve – daily, continually, intentionally. Prepare your students for their future. You can make it better, make it safer, if you choose.