The First Rule of Consulting

The first rule of consulting is this:

“Never teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time, and annoys the pig.”

Never try to solve a problem your client hasn’t asked you to solve. You will fail, and you will annoy people in the process.

This is one of the hardest things for engineering types to learn, and it’s taken me many long years to not fully learn. I still discover myself attempting to teach a pig to sing, from time to time. Mercifully, I do this less often than I once did.

One trick of consulting is to learn how to get a client to ask you to help them learn to sing. They won’t do that if you’ve annoyed them by trying to teach them a lesson they’re not ready to learn. They don’t want to learn from you any more, and you can’t teach someone who doesn’t want to learn.

Brilliant Teachers Don’t Teach

Imagine someone who could someday become a brilliant pianist. Instead, they are forced to play nothing but “Three Blind Mice” for three years, as their first introduction to learning the instrument. Why would they go near the instrument ever again?

Brilliant teachers help students to discover their own love of the subject. And then you can’t stop them from practising.

Brilliant teachers make students teach themselves.

Brilliant teachers help you unlearn everything you think you know, to make room for actual knowledge and skill.

They can’t teach you everything, but they can teach you some things.

The rest, you will have to teach yourself.

And getting you to learn that is what makes a teacher brilliant.

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