Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Chapter Twelve--100,000 Fully Engaged Professional Tutors, Arise!

Chapter Twelve

100,000 Fully Engaged
Professional Tutors,

What purpose then does the law serve?
It was added because of transgressions,
till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made;
and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator.
Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.
Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not!
For if there had been a law given which could have given life,
truly righteousness would have been by the law.
But the Scripture has confined all under sin,
that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ
might be given to those who believe.
But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law,
kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed.
Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ,
that we might be justified by faith.
But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free,
there is neither male nor female;
for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed,
and heirs according to the promise.

— Galatians 3:19-29 (NKJV)

Some people may be called by God to serve as full-time tutors who help others become more fruitful for Him through making breakthroughs. Other people may simply find it spiritually appealing to serve as tutors. For some retired people, such tutoring may present a heartwarming opportunity to stay mentally active and to work with younger people. For those in their working years, breakthrough tutoring may be a more appealing career for some than their alternatives. Regardless of why someone chooses to become a professional tutor, working with others to make breakthroughs is a wonderful way to experience more of God’s supernatural power and wisdom at work.
I have found that such tutoring has been even more fun and satisfying than creating my own breakthroughs. Let me explain my preference for tutoring over making breakthroughs myself by first drawing your attention to two of my favorite Bible verses, Ephesians 3:20-21 (NKJV):

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

While it’s mentally exciting to contemplate that God’s abilities are so much greater than I can ask or think, it’s spiritually, emotionally, and physically electrifying to experience His going far beyond my ability to appreciate His full capabilities. The felt differences between contemplating and experiencing God’s abilities are somewhat like the contrast between reading a magazine article about someone escaping a near-disaster from a tornado and personally having the experience. Can you imagine how intense such an escape would be?
When the Holy Spirit first directed me to lead the 400 Year Project and to demonstrate how everyone could accomplish twenty times as much while using no more resources, I knew that I was dealing with a task that was vastly beyond my poor powers to understand and to contribute. In fact, the command was so overwhelmingly beyond my awareness of possible solutions that I immediately realized my faith was being tested. However, appreciating that a spiritual test was part of God’s intention caused me to feel relaxed and peaceful because I knew that God would have to be in control for success to follow. If this project’s success was truly His will, I need only be obedient.
Having spent  fifteen of the scheduled twenty years engaged in this leadership task, I now understand that God initially set a rather low hurdle compared to what is easily achievable. He could just as easily have directed me to demonstrate ways that the whole world could accomplish 160,000 times as much … or even more … with the same resources. God obviously had a perfect awareness of my limited faith, knowing I had just enough belief in Him to feel comfortable while working on accomplishing 20 times more. He also knew that my faith was far too limited to accept working on 160,000 times more. I would have been frozen into inaction by such a seemingly impossible initial target.
I suspect that my difficulty with accepting a high initial goal didn’t bother God. As long as I was obedient to His command, He knew I could be taught little by little that it’s perfectly reasonable to accomplish many billions of times more results from the same time, money, and effort before drawing on His miraculous, supernatural powers. In the process of revealing this truth, He enormously increased all dimensions of my faith and my appreciation of His limitless love for me. What great gifts these increased understandings have been! I suspect that He has many more nice surprises waiting for me, surprises that will extend well beyond what I can imagine now … even with my much increased belief and understanding.
What’s the core lesson from my experiences with the 400 Year Project? If we are faithful to do what He asks us, He can draw us closer to Him and allow us to experience much more of what we cannot now know enough to ask, to think, or even to imagine (the words of the NIV translation for Ephesians 3:20). Why wouldn’t someone want to experience so much more of His goodness?
I believe that serving as a professional breakthrough tutor is one of the best ways to draw closer to Him. Here’s why. While creating one breakthrough feels more like escaping a near-disaster from a tornado than reading about providing a breakthrough, tutoring lots of people who make breakthroughs is more like simultaneously escaping near-disasters from dozens of tornadoes rather than evading just one tornado. Through such intense tutoring experiences, I began to see making breakthroughs as the normal way of living, rather than being satisfied with the complacency and stagnation that normally stifle human-directed activities.
People who want to tutor should first create a breakthrough and then proceed to tutor a few other people while they make their own breakthroughs. If the experiences go well, it’s time to start thinking about a tutoring career. This chapter focuses on the following important steps for developing a breakthrough tutoring career:

• Select a specialty.

• Gain knowledge needed to tutor effectively in the selected specialty.

• Attract enough learners.

• Continually improve tutoring effectiveness.

For most people, part-time commitments to breakthrough tutoring while keeping their regular jobs will be the right way to start selecting a specialty, to gain essential knowledge, and to begin earning some income. Such a gradual approach will encourage a tutor’s learning by reducing the influence of any arbitrary time pressures and concerns about generating enough income. Most creative tasks are best accomplished when pursued for the inherent joy they bring, and breakthrough tutoring is no exception. Let’s consider some ways to select a specialty.

Select a Tutoring Specialty

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him
who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
who once were not a people but are now the people of God,
who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.

— 1 Peter 2:9-10 (NKJV)

Some may wonder why I’m suggesting that they choose a specialty before becoming a full-time breakthrough tutor. Why not just start tutoring with anyone who is interested in having some help? I see a number of advantages to first selecting a specialty, including:

• More initial credibility with potential learners

• Attracting more learners as clients

• Less knowledge to learn

• Increased engagement with interesting subjects

• Greater effectiveness

If you doubt any of these premises, pray about your reactions and be led by what the Holy Spirit tells or shows you. I suggest seeking Divine direction in part because I don’t mean to rule out the possibility that some people will be called by God to become breakthrough tutoring generalists. The generalist role is especially appropriate for tutors who live in isolated places where other tutors are unlikely to be accessible, yet the people have many different kinds of pressing needs that require breakthroughs. Remember that as access to high-speed Internet connections becomes more widely available, such isolation will become increasingly rare.
In the early days of expanding knowledge about how to make breakthroughs, a key limitation will be having relatively few experienced tutors to serve the millions of people who will eventually wake up to the potential for creating breakthrough solutions. During such scarcities, generalist and specialist tutors will often be more productive by first assisting learners whose solutions will help the most other people. For some time to come, I believe that selecting learners with the highest potential fruitfulness will be an important aspect of such tutoring.
As long as breakthrough tutoring resources continue to be scarce, specialties will be important as a way to speed preparing more tutors. Let’s look at another issue concerning the scarcity of experienced tutors. When I first considered becoming an independent consultant, I was shocked to learn that many such professionals needed to spend fifteen to twenty-five hours a week acquiring assignments. If you are like me, you would rather invest that much time into helping someone than on selling your services.
How can you reduce marketing time? Let me make a few suggestions. In some disciplines and activities, resistance to the idea of breakthroughs will be greater than in others. I suggest you avoid the skeptical disciplines and activities unless you possess a powerful way to overcome unwarranted skepticism and resistance (such as through high-profile successes that are widely studied, approved of, and desired).
In my case as a consultant, I found that corporate finance professionals rarely believed in the potential for stock-price breakthroughs, and the disbelieving professionals felt confident that they knew all the answers about the more limited stock-price-improvement options. As a result, I learned not to allocate much time to disabusing the finance professionals of their false beliefs. The nonrandom market fluctuations that the professionals denied existed eventually affected their companies, and as a result the professionals ultimately lost their jobs. Sometimes their replacements were open to the possibility of stock-price breakthroughs. In any case, I found it was only productive to seek to create financial breakthroughs with clients who already believed such improvements were possible and who wanted to learn better methods to accomplish them. Such people remain relatively few in number. It’s not surprising that those who were proven wrong in their beliefs about financial markets rarely want to publicly proclaim that they were wrong.
In addition to selecting an area of high demand for breakthrough tutoring, it’s good to pick a specialty where there aren’t yet very many highly regarded experts. In such a less-established field, it’s easier to develop a good reputation and to attract interest from potential learners.
You may be tempted to simply pick as your specialty an aspect of the activities that you have been doing. For instance, a cost accountant might decide to work with executives and managers who have inadequate cost systems but who want build better ones more rapidly and inexpensively than usual. If you decide to help in such a way, your specialty selection will probably work out well. But don’t assume such a specialty is the best and most gratifying place for you. You might gain more satisfaction and accomplish more by tutoring about how to better allocate some other scarce resource (such as the time of uniquely capable people … music composers and inventors, for instance).
If you aren’t sure which of a few possible specialties is best, you can certainly test the waters by creating some breakthroughs and helping others to do the same in each of the various specialties that attract your attention. I promise you that one specialty will eventually grab your attention and interest more than any of the others.
After selecting a specialty, it’s time to gain any added knowledge that you need to help clients learn how to make breakthroughs. Let’s look at some of the better ways for tutors to add such knowledge.

Gain Any Knowledge Needed to Tutor Effectively

Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves
to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying,
“We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”
Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.
And the evil spirit answered and said,
“Jesus I know, and Paul I know;
but who are you?”

— Acts 19:13-15 (NKJV)

As this verse from Acts shows, you need to be credible in order to have influence. In this case, the evil spirit didn’t accept any authority from Jewish freelance exorcists and the seven sons of Sceva who hadn’t acknowledged Jesus as their Savior. I’m sure you can be more effective than such exorcists through acquiring and authentically applying relevant knowledge.
If you already work in the same or a related area, you will probably have some very good ideas concerning what knowledge to acquire. However, what should you learn if you are launching your tutoring practice with a specialty that’s relatively new to you? Let me focus on this challenge.
While tutoring people who wish to create 2,000 percent solutions, I’m often asked to work in fields that are new to me. While these experiences have been very daunting, to say the least, I’ve gained the benefit of understanding what sorts of knowledge are most likely to be helpful to specialist tutors for assisting others to make breakthroughs.
Although I’m sure I haven’t begun to run out of all the knowledge gaps that I need to fill as a generalist tutor, I suspect that I have stumbled onto a good number of such gaps. Let me share what I have experienced and draw lessons for you.
Each subject matter has its own vocabulary. That’s a good place to start learning. In my case, the issue is often complicated by working with someone for whom English is a second, third, or fourth language. In addition, the learner may know some version of English that’s quite different from the American English that I’m most accustomed to reading and writing.
If possible, I read some recent, basic books related the subject. When such books aren’t readily available or aren’t very helpful, or there is little time to prepare, I simply admit my ignorance to the person I’m tutoring and ask all the questions I can think of about what the vocabulary means. In doing so, I’ve learned to check on all recurring nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. Although I may think I know what these words mean, in the specialist context the meaning can often be much different from ordinary usage.
I humbly ask for help. I might say, “I don’t understand what you are teaching me with this sentence: [insert sentence in question here in quotes]. Can you explain in another way, please?” While learning the basics, I encourage learners to share with me photographs, drawings, diagrams, and any other visual or auditory evidence that might clarify what is being described. Providing me with such information eventually serves as a way to make the learner’s knowledge more accessible to me as well as to people who also aren’t specialists.
In addition, each discipline has its own ways of raising issues, for measuring performance, of evaluating improvements, and for reaching agreement. In many cases, such viewpoints are so ingrained that learners won’t initially be able to articulate their perspectives for you. Ask lots of questions, and be prepared to follow up with even more questions until you appreciate any finer distinctions you need to understand.
Such viewpoints are very helpful for comprehending, especially as an outsider, the ways people in a given field think. Such viewpoints will often reveal various kinds of blindness about what isn’t being considered for making improvements. You should assume that every field is only optimizing a subset of all that should be improved. Simply by appreciating what’s missing from the traditional perspectives, you can help a learner to make a lot of progress in finding better solutions. Steps one (understand the importance of measuring performance) and two (decide what to measure) of the eight-step 2,000 percent solution process are extremely helpful for informing tutors about traditional viewpoints while learners seek such information about current perspectives.
Many people who seek to make breakthroughs are woefully ignorant about what the current best practices are for their kinds of activities. As a result, you may be presented with a description of the future best practice that reflects standards surpassed decades earlier. While you are unlikely to know what the future best practice is unless you’ve looked for it yourself in your chosen specialty, you can become familiar with the most helpful methods for locating what the future best practice is and be sure that your learners have rigorously applied the methods while seeking correct answers.
When a learner is ignorant about current, future, and potential best practices in a field I know little about, I’m often bailed out by my awareness of a current or future best practice in some other activity or arena that’s roughly similar to what the learner is working on. Rather than confidently assert that I have a superior answer, I gently mention my sense of what’s going on in an area that I do know about and ask whether it might not be possible that a similar method is already in use or soon intended to be put into use in the specialty field. Sometimes I need only spend five or ten minutes performing Web searches of company announcements to find enough evidence to persuade the mistaken learner that some more beneficial method is either being developed or is already in use.
My experience has been that if I suspect that there might be a better practice available than what my learner initially identified, the learner will eventually find such an improvement after being directed to look for one. When located, the relevant practice will often be much better than the method that I originally raised as a possibility. In most cases, learners are slightly aware that others in the field are experimenting with improvements, but the learners have rarely investigated the details of such efforts. With enough encouragement, learners’ familiarities with the specialty will usually lead them to find accurate future-best-practice information.
In a few cases, I have also been introduced to new research tools and methods. Rather than try to master such resources on my own, I ask learners either to teach me or to direct me to a place where I can most easily learn to use the new resources.
For identifying ideal best practices, I have found that the general principles I describe in Appendix B of 2,000 Percent Living allow me to conceptualize such practices better than most specialists in a field can. Specialist experts are often blinded by their experience and the quantity of their knowledge into believing that much better alternatives couldn’t possibly exist.
For step seven (identify the right people and provide the right encouragement) of the eight-step 2,000 percent solution process, I need to assume that I don’t know how various tasks are typically organized and people are encouraged while making improvements in a specialty that’s new to me. I ask learners to tell me about projects and programs that have had outstanding results. I read about other successful efforts, as well. I mentally compare the methods with those that I’ve seen work well for other specialties to decide what other suggestions, if any, to make.
Perhaps the most difficult knowledge to gain concerning a given specialty is how to persuade learners to immediately repeat the first seven steps of the eight-step process. In many specialties, I have yet to experience my first success in this regard. In other areas, such as improving information technology solutions, I have had excellent success in encouraging fruitful repetitions of the process. Because of such experiences, let me encourage you to involve information technology experts with your learners as a potentially effective way to increase the likelihood of a learner rapidly repeating the first seven steps (the eighth step of the eight-step 2,000 percent solution process).
Having chosen a specialty and acquired the necessary knowledge to be highly effective, tutors need to attract enough learners. Let’s look at some of what are often the more useful ways to build a clientele.

Attract Enough Learners

And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months,
reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God.
But when some were hardened and did not believe,
but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude,
he departed from them and withdrew the disciples,
reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus.
And this continued for two years,
so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus,
both Jews and Greeks.

— Acts 19:8-10 (NKJV)

Acts describes part of the Apostle Paul’s many efforts to teach the Gospel to those in Asia who had not yet heard It. Traditionally, Jews had studied Scripture at the temple in Jerusalem and in synagogues while outside of Israel and Judah. In Greek and Roman territories, formal schools of pagan and secular philosophy often existed. We should not be surprised that Paul was able to broadly share the Gospel by emphasizing both kinds of Asian venues.
Similarly today, those who want to learn how to make breakthroughs will be more highly concentrated in some places and in certain kinds of learning programs and personal activities than in others. It’s important to go where the right sort of eager learners are already congregating to expand their capabilities and to avoid spending time in the places where people are solely committed to the wrong sorts of improvements and methods.
Here’s an example. My tutoring progress might have been near zero if I hadn’t become a member of the Rushmore University faculty. The university’s professors provide online one-on-one tutoring to students who apply great books to solving practical business and organizational problems, a method of teaching that I hadn’t used before joining Rushmore. No other teaching method could possibly have provided me with as much opportunity to gain experience with helping others develop and apply breakthroughs in so many different specialties and cultures.
I have also been blessed that most of my Rushmore students have been highly motivated, intelligent, mid-career professionals and entrepreneurs. Such learners brought their own enormous resources to breakthrough creation.
Here’s another benefit to the Rushmore connection: My students have often been actively witnessing, born-again Christians who wanted to make faith-based or humanitarian-oriented breakthroughs. As a result, the Lord has provided me with many great opportunities to see how working on His purposes could encourage and enable learners to do more. In the process, I was also blessed to see His infinite knowledge and power applied to improve breakthrough-related learning and implementations.
While I wish that Rushmore had enough students to permit all those who want to become professional tutors to teach there, unfortunately that’s not the case. I have not tried to test the waters at many other universities, but I suspect that the experiences I’ve had with a few universities will be typical of what many tutors may encounter: The universities I contacted only wanted people to teach the established curriculum in the traditional ways. Making breakthroughs wasn’t in their curricula, and no one was looking to add the subject.
At the same time, I’ve occasionally received feelers from students at various business schools about speaking to their extracurricular organizations. To the extent that any doors are open at universities, looking for such speaking invitations from students is a viable way to touch academic communities. While students at a university that doesn’t teach how to make breakthroughs won’t buy any tutoring while they are in school, many such students will have substantial individual learning budgets that can be used for tutoring once they start working.
Entrepreneurs are much more likely to engage me as an independent tutor than people from any other background or activity. I cannot account for this occurrence except perhaps by noting that entrepreneurs are more accustomed than most people to imagining what doesn’t yet exist and to making independent decisions that challenge traditional methods. If your type of tutoring will be helpful to entrepreneurs, I encourage you to speak to organizations that include many of them.
Similarly, you will probably find that some backgrounds are more predictive of client potential than others. Investigate the interest level for all kinds of backgrounds, and do a lot more with people whose backgrounds suggest that they are most likely to become breakthrough learners who hire you.
I also believe that many more people will want help learning how to deal with just specific aspects of creating breakthroughs than will want to engage you to tutor them on every aspect. As a result, you will probably find it helpful to break your service offerings into subsets of the various breakthrough-creating activities.
For instance, many people are fascinated by organizational stalls. An initial service might focus on helping learners to identify what stalls their organizations and their stakeholders have. A follow-on service could help with creating stallbusters for any organizational stalls that learners cannot see any way to change. After that, you could offer help with identifying the learner’s personal stalls. The follow-on to that service is tutoring about creating individual stallbusters in cases where the learner feels challenged to do so. Beyond that, you could offer separate tutoring services for aspects of each of the eight steps in the 2,000 percent solution process. Sometimes you may also find that learners will have an interest in either you or a colleague helping them to locate specific information, such as the future best practices from other industries that are relevant to the learner’s circumstances.
I also encourage tutors to write practical books that describe aspects of how to create breakthroughs in their specialties. I think that such books help position tutors as experts, people who have demonstrated experience and brilliance far beyond what self-styled professionals provide. If you have learners who will let you include bits and pieces of their stories in such a book, you will also enjoy the benefit of gaining credibility due to their successes. Don’t feel as if you have to reinvent the wheel in order to write such a book. I intend to be generous in granting rights to use aspects of the 400 Year Project’s writings for such tutor-authored books. Such books will also help your learners to do better by having another resource to refer to that draws on your experience and skills.
Let me tell you a revealing story about finding clients. When I was a fairly new consultant with my own firm, I went to see one of my old bosses who had recently become the head of a major corporation. Although he knew me well based on our successful work together as colleagues, my old boss eagerly began assessing my services by looking at my client list. After he saw firms on the list that he admired, he visibly relaxed and began talking about assignments in a totally open way, explaining how important that credibility was to him. Because we knew one another already, he had to avoid any potential appearance of favoritism in order to be effective with his new colleagues. If my client list established credibility with his new colleagues, he could work with me on larger, more important projects.
I suspect that many of your prospective clients will also focus on your client list, either for personal reassurance or to make the decision to work with you less controversial with their colleagues. If many prospective learners are sensitive in this way, you can accelerate your marketing success by focusing first on attracting clients who will impress others. You will often find such impressive clients in organizations known for their pioneering activities. Unlike most organizations where the focus is on copying what has long been established, organizations that seek to innovate are usually looking for new ideas and methods. People in such organizations will be more likely to welcome you.
While many individual learners won’t want their names listed in a brochure or on a Web page, some will be willing to give you testimonial letters and quotes you can share in person with prospective clients to make them feel a lot more comfortable about working with you. Of even greater value will be clients who will join you on the telephone with prospective learners to describe their experiences with your services. Some learners may also be willing to appear with you at professional gatherings to describe how they created their breakthroughs and what role your tutoring played. When such joint appearances occur, ask for permission to create a video that you may share with prospective learners.
Independent of such recorded presentations, online audio and video clips are rapidly growing ways to share information. Prospective learners will probably listen to and watch any brief recordings that you make available that give them a sense of your personality and expertise. Many inexpensive professional services exist to help you record, edit, and present such materials on your Web site and on other sites that are relevant to your expertise.
In addition, Web-based articles are read by a lot of people. You can chop up your book into sections that address narrow topics (usually in articles shorter than 1,500 words) and use article-publishing services to distribute the texts to hundreds of relevant Web sites. Such placements usually allow you to include a link to your own Web site in the author biography.
Finally, learners will be telling others about their experiences with you. Encourage your learners to introduce you to anyone who seems interested in working with you. Such referrals will eventually become your biggest source of new learners. Stay in touch with your learners by sending out an occasional article or brief newsletter, and some of them will help lead you to others who want help with making breakthroughs. Learners may also come back to you for help when they run into difficulties while working on future breakthroughs.
At some point, you’ll have more learners seeking to work with you than you can accommodate. Find some qualified tutors in your specialty who aren’t as busy, and send the leads along to them. You will then need to be sure that you allocate and focus enough time on and attention to improving your effectiveness. Let’s consider some ways to do so.

Continually Improve Tutoring Effectiveness

But there is a spirit in man,
And the breath of the Almighty gives him understanding.
Great men are not always wise,
Nor do the aged always understand justice.
Therefore I say, “Listen to me,
I also will declare my opinion.”

— Job 32:8-10 (NKJV)

One of the dangers of becoming more experienced and expert is that of also becoming overconfident and complacent. There is no place where taking lazy short cuts can be more harmful than in not spending enough time and attention listening to learners. How often have you experienced someone interrupting your description of what you wanted to discuss to share his or her “answers” before you had even mentioned what you want help with? Such interruptions are annoying and they probably discouraged you from fully sharing what was on your mind. The experience certainly reduced your opinion of the interrupter’s ability to help you.
I instead encourage tutors to focus on becoming ever more patient and thorough in finding out what learners are thinking, even if this means seeking views that the learner has yet to fully develop. I believe that such skills can best be developed by becoming familiar with the field of intellectual history, especially through preparing biographies of those who played the most important developmental roles for various concepts and ideas.
Such biographers strive to think so much like the person they are studying that they could pretty accurately write an article about what the authority might have said about a recent event. To create such accurate intellectual simulations requires the historian or biographer to fully appreciate the perspective, premises, and mindset of the idea or concept generator. Seek to gain the same level of understanding of your learners. After you can thoroughly appreciate their thinking, you’ll find that you can often anticipate where they will have problems and help them to avoid unnecessary side trips into unproductive activities.
A good related habit is to ask learners during every interaction how else you can be of help. That consistent stretching out of a helping hand will encourage learners to contact you more often when they are confused or unsure. The offer also presents an implicit invitation to develop a personal relationship that many learners will appreciate. You may also benefit by finding that your work feels more rewarding when learners want to stay involved with you.
I also learned a practice from Rushmore that I commend to you: Ask your learners to keep a daily journal of how much time they spend on their breakthrough-related activities and what they do. By regularly reviewing the journals, you can also help point out where learners should reduce their efforts and where they should spend more time.
It’s also easy to develop bad tutoring habits that can harm learners if not corrected. Here’s an example. If you are like me, you’ll eventually write some standard directions to help guide learners in organizing various activities. It’s easy to become lax about reviewing such directions.
Before sending out any directions to a new learner, I find it helpful instead to consider what problems my last five learners had and to consider how changes in the directions might have avoided such problems. Then I revise the directions accordingly and keep a record of the old directions so that I can later see whether my changes have been of any help.
If you ask learners, they will also tell you how you did in helping them. In my many tutoring sessions with Peter Drucker where I was the learner, he continually asked me if he was talking about things that I wanted to learn, if I understood what his points were, and if I had anything else I would like to substitute for what we were doing. While I didn’t often redirect our conversations, having the choice to do so made me more patient and open-minded about hearing him out when he raised issues I didn’t expect.
The best time to ask for feedback is while you are tutoring. What you learn can then be immediately applied to improving your services. It’s also helpful to ask for feedback at the end of an assignment. At that time, learners are more apt to focus on what was most important to them. I also find it helpful to check in with learners at subsequent six month intervals to find out how they are doing with applying what we worked on together. From these contacts, I often gain ideas for making improvements in my tutoring.
One tutoring lesson I’ve learned is that my learners seem to be able to only grasp and retain about 25 to 35 percent of what I share with them. If I’m not careful, what they grasp can turn out to be just the less important points. As a result, I try to repeat the most important points as much as possible. As I do, I explain about this problem of partial understanding and memory. I tell them to be sure they remember the repeated material before adding any other perspectives. I often ask questions that test if they are grasping and retaining the key points. With such methods, most learners are able to come away with the right mental framework to succeed.
In a given tutoring assignment, I will try to keep the number of key points as low as possible. If there is only one point, that’s better than two and so forth. It’s probably a waste of time to try to share more than five points. You just dilute what little they know into almost nothing.
I also find that I can save learners a lot of time by asking them to share with me the details of their research and work plans before they begin implementing them. Such plans often reveal misunderstandings about what needs to be done and lack of knowledge about how to organize the tasks. By my posing a few questions and observations at such a time, learners can often correct the errors without further guidance from me. I also ask to see the revised plans until such time as they seem to be appropriate.
In the same way that I encourage all tutors to have a more experienced tutor oversee their initial tutoring activities, it’s also helpful to ask other tutors to review your methods from time to time and to do the same for other tutors. You will probably find that there are some rich methods that you haven’t yet seen used that can be most helpful for your learners.
Finally, new knowledge is always advancing. It’s easy to fall behind in being aware of and able to apply the knowledge to creating breakthroughs. I address this subject in detail in 2,000 Percent Living, so I won’t repeat myself here, but I recommend that specialist tutors continually invest ten hours a week seeking, checking out, and becoming familiar with relevant new knowledge that their learners should be applying. When there are enough tutors in a given specialty, they may find it to be helpful to band together to share notes about what practices they have been reviewing and their conclusions. In this way, more of the getting up-to-date work can be focused on absorbing helpful information rather than on checking out what isn’t useful.

While there are many other valuable things I could share about becoming a professional breakthrough tutor, I also don’t want to limit your creativity by prescribing too much. However, I don’t want you to walk away from Help Wanted without receiving some practical advice on how you can be more fruitful for God, both as a direct contributor and through indirect effects on other contributors. You’ll find my thoughts on that subject in the Epilogue, which follows.

Copyright © 2011 by Donald W. Mitchell. All rights reserved.

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