When the Student is Ready

Photo - Kung Fu Fighting - copyright Kenny Wong This post may contain affiliate links.  Learn more by reading my disclosure.

Photo - Kung Fu Fighting - copyright Kenny Wong

This post may contain affiliate links.  Learn more by reading my disclosure.

My girlfriend is smart.

I’d like to say she’s smart for being my girlfriend, but it’s the other way around.  I out-kicked my coverage when I met her.  She’s very bright and will engage in conversations on a variety of subjects.  If she’s not well-versed on the subject matter, she won’t fake it, but she will listen intently and try to provide feedback where valuable.

Once when we were talking, she referenced a quote she’d heard many times over the years.  “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”

I thought it was a great statement and have tried to learn its origin.  It seems there’s dispute on who is responsible for it and I’m not going to get into that discussion here.

Regardless, I dug the quote and have even repeated it myself a few times when situations arose where I thought it applied. 

It wasn’t until recently that I started to comprehend what it really means.

The Teacher Appears

I’ve referenced my Kenpo Karate experience a couple times in the blog.  However, as a quick reminder, I’d fallen away from training twice.  First, for about eleven years and then again for twelve.  Then I was approached by a friend who had become an instructor.  My world changed and the art opened up for me.  It became a central part of my life and led me on an incredible journey.  It didn’t last forever but the experience is one that I would never change.  I had learned something important, both in the art and about myself.

In 2010, my finances were still a mess and I didn’t have any assets beyond my house.  I clearly didn’t know which was up with money.  Then a 26 year-old broker walked into my life who told me I could partner with him in some real estate.  I didn’t believe it until he showed me the way.  Then my confidence grew and I starting finding deals on my own. My personal finances changed as a result and my life hasn’t been the same since.

Recently, I read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.  In that book, he talks about living in this exact moment, not tomorrow nor yesterday.  It’s a book that leans towards spiritual enlightenment, but I found immediate benefit for today.  It brought me a great deal of help in dealing with my future tripping, worrying about what might happen next week, tomorrow or an hour from now.  I haven’t been happier since perhaps childhood.  It’s a strange place to be at this time of life.  I’m smiling a lot now and weirdly relaxed, even while dealing with some personal and business problems (which, of course, will end up as a post later this year).

Teachers can be people, books, situations or events.  You can have a bad experience that, if you are open to it, can be a great teacher.  However, if you are closed off and not paying attention, you will miss the lesson and be doomed to repeat the class. 

No Matter Where You Go

There is an early 80’s science fiction movie that I love, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.  It was a fantastic film and starred Peter Weller as Buckaroo.  There was a scene in a bar, when the crowd is making fun of a crying patron. “Don’t be mean.  You don’t have to be mean,” Weller says, “’cause remember…, no matter where you go, there you are.”

I tried to research the origin of that quote beyond Buckaroo and there was argument whether it belongs to Confucius.  It seems there’s a lot of confusion on old, Zen-like sayings such as the one at the begging of the article.  I’m not going to sweat it, though, since I first learned about it from Weller as Buckaroo.

Regardless, I always thought the teacher was the most important part of the equation.

“The teacher will appear.”  Damn, that’s mystical, right?  Like Mr. Miyagi appearing out of thin air to say, “Colin-san, it’s time to practice paint the fence.”

However, the teacher isn’t mystical.  The teacher was always there.

You see, I had four Kenpo instructors, but I didn’t really connect until the last one.

There were plenty of opportunities for investing mentors, but I never connected with someone until I met investing partner.

And The Power of Now sat on my bookshelf for two years before I picked it up and actually read it.  The information was there for over 700 days, waiting for me.

The student’s readiness is the catalyst for action.

When I was teaching karate, I saw this many times.  Some students would show up out of curiosity.  They’d step on the mat, but there was no fire inside them.  They were just testing it out.  They’d be gone within two weeks.  No matter how focused I was on instructing them, I wouldn’t reach the student in a way that really matter.

Then there was the student who wanted to be there before class and after class.  No matter what I did or how I taught, that student was engaged and totally in the moment.  

The difference between the two students?  A fire inside.

How Can We Apply this to Our Lives?

Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t found the motivation yet to learn that new skill you’ve talked about.  Just add it to a list and then put it to the side.  If it’s important, you’d have gotten to it immediately.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve wanted to learn archery.  There’s a course a few miles from my house and it’s been on my radar.  I’ve looked at it on my list of goals for the last couple of years and wondered why am I not getting to it.  Now, I know.

The student is not ready.  I am not ready.

If I forced myself to attend the course now, it would be a failure.  Not in the sense that I wouldn’t complete it, but my heart would not be fully into it.  I’d probably take the course and then realize, meh, it’s not for me.

I did a similar thing with a motorcycle course.  I took it, passed and then shrugged.  I’m glad as I don’t want a motorcycle, but I pushed myself to take the class as it was simply a “goal.”  My heart wasn’t really into it and therefore I wasn’t excited.  The eventual outcome was almost guaranteed.


Do you have a fire inside right now for something you want to do?  Be honest with yourself, it’s imperative.

If there isn’t a fire, that’s okay as I explained above.  Rubbing two imaginary sticks together inside your soul won’t create the necessary fire today.  Perhaps it’s smoldering.  Great.  Let it.  When it burns, you’ll know it’s time for action.

However, if you have the fire in your belly, now, I bet you’re already taking action.  You’re probably making moves toward whatever your goal is.  Nothing is going to get in your way.  If you’re not taking action, you’re more than likely anxious because you should be in motion.  Find a teacher and feed the fire.

Because an unattended fire, can wither and fade out.