I remember my first rehearsal with the high school worship band at my church like it was yesterday. I had auditioned a few months back, and got to ease into the band by holding down the bass. My dream was to play electric guitar, and the day had finally come. I didn’t have a tube amp, so the worship leader told me I could borrow his Hot Rod Deluxe. I didn’t think much of it, because I was focused on dialing in my awesome metal tones on my cheap DigiTech multi effects pedal. Nevermind that we were doing a chill Hillsong tune, I was going to melt faces off with blistering distortion!
Rehearsal began, and I turned on the metal setting I had been working on all week. The worship leader was watching the rehearsal from the soundboard, and instantly he seemed to be bothered by something. I saw him frantically looking at the soundboard for a few seconds, before stopping the song entirely. He walked all the way up to the stage, to my pedalboard, turned off my beloved pedal, and turned on a Tube Screamer he let me borrow. “Try that,” he said in front of everyone.
It wasn’t easy to swallow my pride. This was my first introduction to teachability. I had the option to get frustrated, because he seemingly didn’t appreciate my preparation. But I also had an opportunity to learn from an experienced musician on how to make a tube amp sound good. Thankfully, I chose the latter.
Throughout my journey as a worship leader and musician, the one thing that has been said consistently about me is that I’m teachable. I believe being teachable has been the most helpful along this journey.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO BE TEACHABLE?
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” - Proverbs 12:1 ESV
Don’t be stupid, be teachable! It doesn’t get more blunt than that!
“So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” - 1 Cor 10:12 NIV
As musicians and creatives, it’s hard not to have an ego. It takes a certain amount of pride to think you have what it takes to make art in the first place. Now as Christians, we’re not called to be prideful divas, we’re called to be lowly, and humble servants. You’re not above reproach, and you’re not invincible.
You can learn something from everyone.
A mentor told me this one time and it stuck with me. You can truly learn at least something, from everyone. Even if you think you’re “better” than them, they still do something you can learn from. I make it a point to always talk to other guitar players about their process and mindset. How are they using pedals? What is their goal? I remember being tested with this principle by a guitar player who always sounded so country, no matter what. I was initially frustrated (it was like pulling teeth to get him to use a longer delay and a larger reverb), but he was a technically skilled player. I ended up learning some country riffs from him, and some scales and inversions I didn’t know before. Acting out this principle is also a really practical way to keep you humble. By asking for advice from your peers, you move away from competition and comparison, and you move towards teamwork and trust.
Teachability is contagious.
My chicken pickin’ guitar buddy was initially a little standoffish, but after I opened up and asked to learn from him, surprisingly, he returned the favor. He started working really hard to adapt to worship-style guitar playing, bought new pedals, and asked for my favorite settings. He went all out! Teachability is contagious. When you, as a leader, humbly ask to learn from your team, it’s hard for anyone not to follow that example!
Being teachable is an invaluable skill. It makes you and the people around you better, and more humble. Truthfully, sometimes it’s hard to get there. Here are some more practical tips on how to improve in this area.
HOW TO BECOME MORE TEACHABLE
Seek out feedback.
I heard a great example of this from a pastor friend who went to visit another church and learn from their team. One of the staff members from that church found out that he and his team had visited, and he sent a text to him the day after. He thanked him for coming to his church that weekend, and then asked if there was anything they could do better. Not only that, he gave permission to be brief, and even not to be too nice! He wanted an honest impression of how they were doing.
That’s how to get helpful feedback. Take the pressure off who you’re asking, promise them to not take it personally, and get an honest answer.
Find a mentor.
I’m a product of my mentors. Whenever someone asks how I got to where I am now, all throughout a long-winded answer are references to their investment in me. From high school till the present, wiser, older, goldy men have shaped my spiritual life, career, and life beyond measure. I am so grateful for them and their impact on me.
However, the modern age has eliminated all excuses. Developing yourself is as easy as youtubing how to have better habits. Seek out mentorship, but don’t expect to only get better by taking someone else’s time out of their day to spoon feed you what you could’ve figured out on your own. Do the hard work on your own, and then invite them into the process.
Don’t take yourself so seriously.
As an artist, it’s tempting to think of yourself higher than you ought to be. Your unique taste is what led you to create in the first place and as Christians, we’re to be servants with our art. Don’t act like you’re Van Gogh or Beyoncé! Let’s be real here.
I’ve found that when I take a step back, and not take my art so seriously, the more fun and better it gets. My gifts were never mine to begin with. Our gifts are something to be stewarded, not hoarded. I’m not defined by what I make, I’m defined by who made me. By the blood of Jesus alone, I’m pleasing to Him and that’s all that matters.
Fail a few times.
Unfortunately, this is the best way to learn. When you fail, you’re forced to deal with the reality that your ideas aren’t always best. Don’t waste these moments. You can learn the most when you fail. Don’t fail and leave with nothing, at least walk away with a well-learned lesson. When you fail, ask why. Ask others, and ask yourself. Failure is an effective teacher, don’t miss out.
Well, you made it through this article, so I guess that counts as some progress toward becoming teachable! It’s such a simple principle to understand, but it’s hard to consistently practice. Ego is an enemy that needs to be defeated over and over again. It’s easy to think you’ve “outgrown” the need to be teachable, leaving you stubborn and stagnant. We must stay humble, and be champions of each other instead of competitors. Keep asking questions. Never arrive. Always look to learn. Mentor, and be mentored. Let’s grow together, learn from each other, and be better because of it.