Have you ever met people who seem to learn from everything that comes their way? They don’t just listen to music; they meditate on the lyrics and melody, and they glean a new level of understanding that I don’t have, though I listened to the same cord progression. Every sermon seems to have been written with them in mind, as they take pages of notes, post quotes on Twitter, and draw parallels that I don’t even remember hearing. They read books by the great thinkers, they listen to podcasts by thought leaders, and they acquire information like bouquets of wildflowers. They are learners through and through. They are self-starters. They are intrinsically motivated to simply know.
They stand in stark contrast to those who say, “Eh, that concert didn’t do much for me.” Or “I tried reading that book, but it didn’t resonate.” Or, “I didn’t really get the point, but then again, I wasn’t really listening.” What kinds of forces foster Person A, compared to Person B? Sure, some of it may be their nature—they were just born curious and interested. But I think it can be nurtured, too.
My pastor gave a powerful challenge to us recently with three simple words: “Be good soil.” He told the story of the farmer who went out to plant some seeds. The farmer scattered them across his field, and they fell onto all kinds of land. Some seed fell onto the footpath where the birds swept in and ate them up. Other seed fell on shallow soil filled with rocks, so the seed sprouted quickly but then died because the roots had nowhere to grow. Other seeds fell among thorns and thistles that choked the plants that tried to grow. Still other seeds fell on good soil, and they produced a crop that was up to a hundred times what had been planted.
Though some took root and some did not, while some grew tall and others died before they got started, they were all born of the same seed and scattered by the same farmer. As my pastor pointed out, “The seed is good and the farmer is skilled. The only variable? The soil. The seeds that grew took root in good soil.” How can a person “be good soil”?
Find your learning style. You don’t have to be enrolled in an institution to be a student, and you can take responsibility for your learning. If you don’t love to read, try listening to podcasts in the car. If you need to watch and learn, try Ted Talks on YouTube. Discover what kind of learner you are, and feed your learning style.
Try something brand new. You may be bored with the doldrums of your routinized life. Try taking on a new project, working with new people, even visiting a new restaurant that can expose you to a glimpse of a new culture. Sometimes one new choice can shift your perspective entirely.
Become well-read. Make a list of books you’ve always wanted to read. Download them or check them out from your local library, and dive into the first one.
Take Facebook off your phone. You can enjoy your social media connections more when you take a break from them. Let yourself enjoy Facebook on the computer at the end of the day, instead of at every stoplight, in every long line, and during every dull moment. Fill your found time with interesting things instead, like that new book you’re reading.
Become a movie critic. Create a list of movies or documentaries you want to see. Establish a “movie night” at your house, but instead of spending the evening scrolling through the Netflix menu, be intentional and choose your movie titles ahead of time. Watch them alone or with friends who think like you.
Burn a candle. Enhance your sense of smell by burning a candle while you work. (Some sources say strawberry scents actually boost creativity!) Aromatherapy can be soothing and can offer health benefits. Enjoy what your nose can bring.
Play music. Choose a new radio station with music you don’t normally play. Turn it on in the car or while you make dinner.
Interesting people are interested. Do you want to be interesting? Be interested in the people, events, and conversations happening around you. When you share your experiences with others, you experience an emotional connection with them that can be the start of something powerful. Here’s an engaging way to start the conversation: “What is something new you’ve learned recently?” But don’t just ask—listen for the answer.
Choose to “be good soil,” and watch your life take root.
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Tricia Lott Williford is a remarried widow and the mom of two young men who could charm you to the moon with their freckles. She collects bracelets, pens, words, and coffee mugs. She is a sought after speaker for events and conferences around the country. She is the author of three books: And Life Comes Back: A Wife’s Story of Love, Loss and Hope Reclaimed; Let’s Pretend We’re Normal: Adventures in Rediscovering How to be a Family; and You Can Do This: Seizing the Confidence God Offers. Tricia writes regularly on her blog, tricialottwilliford.com.