Teach Them To Fish

When it comes down to it, which would you rather do: actually do the task for someone else or teach them to do it? There is an old legend about someone coming to a friend and asking for a fish. This person could have given the fish or taught the friend to fish. I’d much rather teach you to fish. Then we can leave the elementary things behind and press on to a deeper relationship. It’s part of my underlying philosophy of why I write these entries on the Writing Life.

This week I received an email asking if my book, One Bright Shining Path, Faith in the Midst of Terrorism (Crossway Books) was in Spanish and how they could get a copy for their mother who only speaks Spanish. I quickly responded with a key bit of information they didn’t have: the Spanish title for the book, Ayacucho Para Cristo.

Then I anticipated their next question: where can I find this book? I may have a copy or two some place and could have dug it out and arranged to sell it to them. Instead, I decided it was better to teach them how to locate the book. One of the best places to search for books with a wide variety of possibilities is BookFinder3U.com. When I searched for my Spanish title, I found a number of available copies through this site—and in fact through this link. The exchange only took a few minutes but hopefully this reader learned a thing or two.

Here’s my encouragement to you: what are you doing for someone else where you can teach them to handle the task on their own? I’d encourage you to teach them to fish.

7 Responses to “Teach Them To Fish”

  1. Jerome Says:

    Good advice, Terry. Particularly for parents.

  2. Cindy Thomson Says:

    I’m finding this necessary now that readers are starting to contact me about genealogy articles I’ve had published. I am not a professional genealogist, and I certainly don’t have the time to help everyone track down their anecestors. You’d be surprised at the details they send me!

    What I do, even though the articles are already filled with resources, is point them to a few more and wish them luck on their hunt!

  3. R.G. Says:

    An excellent piece of wisdom, Terry. I’m having to use this philosophy more and more as people continue to ask me questions like, “How do I get into publishing?” Hmm… I wish I could answer that one with a quick email!

  4. Richard Mabry Says:

    Great advice. I learned this during my 36 years in medicine. Because I’d written or edited a bunch of textbooks, I was always getting questions from other doctors. I encouraged them to check the appropriate section of a textbook, or to look up the paper I’d published on the subject. A great way to handle folks who start out their conversation with “Just give me…” Like a two foot putt on the 18th hole of a Ryder cup match, there are no “gimmes” in life. Teach ’em to fish.

  5. Bucktowndusty Says:

    Sound advice, Terry, that only a fish would disagree with.

  6. Crystal Says:

    You have the heart of a true teacher, and this advice also helps those who have a tendency to take on too much. Great post.

  7. Heather Ivester Says:

    I agree with you completely. Whenever anyone asks me how to get into publishing, I always send them to your website, right-writing.com, where you teach aspiring writers how to “fish.”

    Thanks for offering us this resource!

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