The idea of being teachable relates to humility. You submit to another, be it the author you’re reading, the employer you serve, or the professor teaching the class. You open yourself to criticism and new ways of looking at things.
It isn’t that you accept everything the person says as truth; to be teachable means to have your own ideas. You examine their words in light of what you know to be true. Some are left to simmer. You aren’t yet sure if the words are valid. Judgment is withheld.
Others resonate immediately. You like them, sometimes without knowing why. That’s all right. Accept them. They are gifts. The reason will become clear at a later date. Combine them with other bits of knowledge. They sink deep and do their work even as you do yours.
The thing about being teachable isn’t that other people’s ideas transform you, although they can do that. It’s that both the ideas and you change in the presence of each other. Neither one is left exactly the same. Something new is born with the addition of other ingredients.
Even the ideas and words you discard say something about you. The ideas and words don’t change, but you do. You learn what you really, really stand for, and that’s important in and of itself. To be teachable isn’t to mimic. It’s to be open to the world and to learn what and how you like to write. You develop a sense of taste that becomes ever more finely honed in the presence of other people’s thoughts, instructions, and words.
Image: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (Creative Commons)