When the Student Becomes the Master

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Last updated on February 11th, 2024 at 01:25 am

Recently I found myself speaking on an Intern Alumni Panel for work, where four of us spoke to new, fresh-faced interns about our experiences and advice. I strongly believe that we should always strive to pass knowledge on to others. It’s impossible for one person to know everything, but if we combine our knowledge and put it on paper for others to use, I think we all become better at the things we do in life. Hence, Wikipedia. Or YouTube. Or blogs. There’s so much to know in the world, and only recently have we started to try and capture it all.

Try as some may, we do not advance as a collective by withholding information from one another. If our ancestors hadn’t shared the secret of fire, would we be nearly as technologically advanced as we are today?

We can learn from just about anyone. Parents teach us the basics of how to operate in the world. Teachers fill out heads with the knowledge needed to get jobs in the working world. Coworkers teach us how to do the job. Friends teach us how to be social. Lessons can happen at any time, in any place. But learning is a two-way street—so remember that while you’re learning from the world around you, at the SAME TIME, others might be learning from you.

I hate it when I hear celebrities in interviews claim that they’re not role models. That they’re just expressing themselves and that they can’t be held responsible for the way people act. BULL. Like I said, people learn from us. Our behaviours. Our thoughts. The things we want to teach others, as well as things we may have never meant to teach. And the more people you’re exposed to and the more important you’re seen in the world, the more likely people are going to want to learn from you as a figure of authority. So yes, celebrities, like it or not—you are role models. We’re all role models in some way, shape or form to someone, and people can learn from both our good behaviour… and our bad.It’s impossible to control the things that others will learn from us. The world is interconnected in such a multitude of ways that trying to even do so is not only impossible—it’d be ridiculous to even try. But I’ve said it before and it’s just as applicable now—while we can’t control the world around us and everything that happens in it, we can still control ourselves.

This is where all those childhood lessons about how to behave factor in. It’s self-centred to think that the lessons you had were for you and you alone. Like I said, we’re all connected—we are taught how to act to make living life as easy as possible. When we deviate from these guidelines, life increases in difficulty accordingly with how much we deviate.

With that in mind, I think it’s always important for us to ALWAYS ACT LIKE SOMEONE’S WATCHING. The best way for others to learn our best habits is to make our public and private selves one and the same, making sure that we always work with the same principles, values and methods. You at home should be the same as you at work and you with your friends. Different audiences, same message. Figure out what it is that you want the world to remember you for, and try your best to always project that as who you are.

On the other hand, we can also choose what we’ll learn from the world. Whether through direct or indirect learning, the choice is ours as to what will stick in our heads—it’s not simple though; it will require effort and self-monitoring to get the bad stuff out and keep the good stuff in.

Some examples of what I mean by this are that…

  • …we can choose to do things exactly as our parents did or choose to accept what we felt were useful lessons and discard the rest
  • …we can choose whether the things we learned in school are useful to our lives or if we rather try other methods to open the way to other paths
  • …we can choose to have friends around us who don’t value us and make us feel bad about ourselves to make themselves feel better or we can find people who appreciate us and what to add to our lives

I’ve personally learned from numerous places, myself: I learned how to play a better game of Ultimate Frisbee from several friends; I learned how to be a better person from several key figures in my life; I’ve learned that really, I have little reason to complain about life from the wealth of experiences I’ve had so far.

When it all comes down to it, we are simultaneously both the teacher and the student—but it’s the only classroom in life where we get to choose the curriculum. Don’t take the bird courses in the hopes of an easy “A”—learn from the conflicts, challenges, mistakes and celebrations, and it will make you a better teacher.

For you never know who your students might be!

The second logo for Casey Palmer, Canadian Dad



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