The Importance Of Staying A Student (And How To Do So)

There’s a natural tendency for us to become complacent.

After spending a period of time acquiring the necessary skills and knowledge, we feel justified in resting our laurels. We develop a sense of competence and accomplishment. We think that we’ve arrived.

That’s a dangerous mindset to have today. The present information we have is insufficient for solving the problems of tomorrow. Not only that, it is often an obstacle to future developments because our fixed paradigms prevent us from developing new perspectives.

It’s hence important to always keep evolving. We are in an age where we’re merely one step away from being disrupted in virtually every industry. But it’s not a recent phenomenon. Even in ancient times Marcus Aurelius has remarked,“the universe is change, life is an opinion”.

But how do we make sure that we never keep improving? Complacency is an insidious virus that creeps into our life. We never notice how we’ve stagnated until it’s far too late.

It sounds difficult, but if there’s one person who knows how to keep improving, it’s Frank Shamrock.

Enter Frank Shamrock

Mixed martial arts is one of the fastest evolving sports. It incorporates the most effective techniques from every fighting style. To succeed at this sport, you must constantly adapt and respond to the latest developments.

Frank Shamrock knows that. An undefeated four-time champion, Shamrock has managed to stay on top of his game throughout his career. It’s an incredible feat when you consider how stiff the competition is in this field.

He has done that by becoming a student of the game. Shamrock does that through an elegant system he calls Plus, Minus, and Equals. As Ryan Holiday explains in Ego Is The Enemy, Shamrock believed that for a fighter to become great they need someone better they can learn from, someone lesser they can teach and someone equal that they can challenge themselves against.

This method allows him to get real and continuous feedback about he knows and what he doesn’t, from every angle. It keeps him grounded and doesn’t allow him to develop an ego. As Frank Shamrock says, “false ideas about yourself destroy you”.

Let’s break down how Shamrock does it.

PLUS: Have Someone To Learn From

“If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before.” — J Loren Norris

The most dangerous thing a person can do is believe that he already knows all that he needs to. It’s thinking that one has graduated and past the point where he still needs to learn.

Having a mentor or coach who is clearly knowledgeable prevents us from falling into that trap. It subordinates the ego because the student knows that he is not better than the master he apprentices under.

Alexander the Great had Aristotle to tutor him in governance and ethics before he established his empire. Helen Keller had Anne Sullivan who taught her how to read and write. Michael Jordan had Dean Smith and Phil Jackson to help him win at the highest level.

No matter your talent and ability, there is always a mentor or coach who can help you improve. They see the potential hidden within us, and the glaring mistakes that we gloss over.

The best part is that these mentors are everywhere. Through courses, books, and podcasts, you have access to the greatest minds from all ages. You’ll always find someone to learn from if you look hard enough.

As it is often said, “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.

MINUS: Have Someone To Teach

“No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it.”— Peter Drucker

You cannot teach without learning.

Researchers have found that students who were enlisted to tutor others recall information more accurately and apply it more effectively. The result is what has been termed the protege effect — those who learn to teach do better than those who learn without any purpose.

It makes perfect sense. You’re forced to consolidate your knowledge and think through an issue from multiple angles before you can teach someone. There is always something to learn when you have to deconstruct an idea and reformulate it for someone else.

The Minus concept is a fine accompaniment to Jim Rohn’s often quoted phrase that “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”. It recognises that you don’t always need to seek out people who are better than you because learning opportunities are everywhere.

EQUAL: Have Someone To Challenge

“The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting above average effort.” — Colin Powell

If you look at sporting achievement, you’ll notice that most records are broken at the highest levels of competition.

Competition spurs us to be the best version of ourselves. It appeals to our Darwinian instinct that only the fittest survive. It cultivates a do-or-die mentality that is extremely beneficial when adopted for short periods of time.

That’s not all. What’s worth noting is that competitors often aren’t afraid to exchange pointers as well. Competition breeds mutual respect. That makes it the starting point for future collaboration.

It’s hence important that you find your scene. Ernest Hemingway had to move to Paris in the 1920s to join a scene of expatriate writers and artists who had taken up residence in the Left Bank. That’s where all the action took place, and where his peers were. Without moving, Hemingway would never have developed the skill and connections he needed to succeed in writing.

Our best work is not done alone. We need equals who will hold us accountable and motivate us to push on even in the face of great difficulty.

Always Stay A Student

We live in a world where everyone seems to think they know enough. In many aspects, most people strive to be opinionated rather than informed.

For these people, learning stopped the moment they left school. They ignore the latest developments and are willfully ignorant. As Epictetus remarked, “it is impossible to learn that which one thinks he already knows”.

It’s fine to not know everything. Frank Shamrock’s career was built on this premise. That was his competitive advantage.He acknowledged his shortcomings and set out to fix them. He stayed a student even when he was the best in the world.

We should strive to do the same.