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I’m a teacher.
For me that’s not a job, or even a career choice. Teaching is my calling, just as others are called to medicine, the ministry, the arts, or entrepreneurialism.
For the past decade, I’ve been inauthentic (though only to myself as I’ll explain shortly). I’ve been playing Mr. Businessman, Mr. Entrepreneur, and Mr. Business Author-and-Speaker.
In the traditional sense of “authentic,” meaning “honest,” I’ve pulled this role off because it’s based on solid business experience as a business founder, as a CEO, and (more importantly by far, at least to me) as a relentless lifelong interviewer of successful leaders.
Was I authentic to the world? Of course I was. But to me? I can’t lie to me. And deep inside, I’ve always been a teacher – which I actually was for nine years, before my private language school turned into a juggernaut and I stopped teaching in order to play CEO and grow it right.
Idiot. I should’ve hired a CEO so I could keep on teaching, maybe in the spirit of Craig Lists’s founder, Craig Newmark, who is worth $400 million yet works in customer service of the firm he started, rather than in management.
I suppose I had something to prove to myself (Dad was a business leader. He died just as my first company was starting). I guess now I’ve proven it sufficiently that… well, I can check “Big (Self-) Important Business Expert” off my list.
There’s a whole backstory here on why I finally gave in to my true calling this spring, and how hard I fought against it, and how incredibly vital a role my wife played in all this, and how I’ve reconnected with my eldest daughter in a way I never thought imaginable as a result of this move – all that backstory is either fodder for other posts or, more likely, things I’ll spare you from.
Because I’m ready to talk about education – all aspects of education, from classroom observations to national policy to the business of education to higher ed and, probably the most important for all of us, the future of education.
Stay tuned for all of that! I can’t wait to share it with you.
Meanwhile, let me leave you with a couple of related questions:
- Have you identified your calling? Most of us haven’t, and that’s okay – it’s out there for you to find, and no one’s keeping a stopwatch on you but you. Everyone’s calling is unique to them, but they all share this one trait: your calling is that endeavor that lights you up the moment you start doing it or even talking about it. For me, it’s working with a student to bring that light bulb of understanding to their eyes. What is it for you? You won’t be content until you find it and do it!
- Are you ignoring your calling because you’re doing something that pays better, because you “have to?” I’m not here to judge – your situation is your own, your family obligations, all that stuff. But keep this in mind if it’ll help: I never set out to create a highly profitable business when I switched from sales to teaching in 1997. I just set out to teach, and that’s all I did for five years, before the business really took off. Many of the successful people I know followed similar career trajectories: they followed their bliss, and at some point that turned into their first Broadway play, or novel, or tri-state business, or therapy practice.
- By contrast, I know very few successful businesspeople that set out to get wealthy and did. Oh, they’re there, all right – indeed, some people’s calling is to get rich, and they don’t care how they do it. But not most of us. Think of it this way: if you don’t love something, you aren’t going to give it your all – you can’t, because your soul is uninspired, so it’s resisting you, making you less than awesome at your work. While I don’t ascribe to “If you build it, they will come,” (that dross can be really dangerous for your happiness), I have always loved the Southern Comfort campaign from my early teaching days: “Do what you love. The rest comes.” If you’re truly doing what you love, and making enough money to feed your family (key point), then there is no “the rest” that will matter to you.
I’ve been incredibly silent on social media for months now; this is my first blog post in even longer. I’ve come to consider this period my sabbatical. Now that I’m deep into my renewed teaching career, I expect you’ll be hearing a bit more from me. So let me ask: What would you most like to read from me, or from other educators, here on OPENfor? Please let me know in the comments below.