My first student turned 30 today. He wasn’t actually my student, to be fair. He might have been the hall monitor or something, because he always came to check on all of my classes. I thought he was an employee for three years.
He was the only person I ever told, “You should quit that job and act.” Everyone else who wants to be famous–I encourage them, but I tell them to have a back up plan. This kid didn’t need one. “You know, even the NY Giants’ defensive end had a back up plan,” I usually say. The Giants of my youth were all attorneys.
Maybe that’s because they had backup plans like their teachers said or because they knew the professional athletes of the future would get in a lot of trouble and need lawyers, so whether they won the Superbowl or not, they’d be set for retirement.
Either way–it’s foolproof.
A few years ago that first student texted me a picture of himself with Clint Eastwood. Plan A’s working out pretty well after all.
I told another two students their jobs were formalities and they’d never work for The (Wo)Man if they just got out of their own way and started executing on their ideas. They’d be famous. They had more talent than Renaissance artists.
Butts stink. Everyone’s got them. That’s an excuse. “Tons of people have ideas and brilliant talent. Very very few have execution,” I said. “You have way more talent than me, but I get things done.”
That’s my entire secret. Execution. Get things done.
The kids I teach are on a level playing field with me–or smarter. They have talent and the ability to access the world through technology.
They can pass me by any time they want, making a living using their talent and tech alone, if they can execute the idea. Some do. I have kids with thousands of followers, monetized YouTube channels, “passive income.” I wish I had more of them. I’d make them buy the coffee and hot chocolate, instead of me.
This is a 21st century equal opportunity education. I’m not here to teach trivia anymore–for that, they can go to Google or YouTube. I’m here to teach execution.
People always wonder whether educators will become obsolete now that everything’s an online course or on YouTube.
Nobody executes. Execution is still a premium skill–it’s what separates the top 20% from the rest.
I’m taking a computer science course online, and when my motivation dips or life gets in the way, I look at my friend’s 10 year old who’s currently kicking my ass on problem set one. He is my teacher. He reminds me to execute.
I look to the kid yesterday who magically appeared in my class when I asked my students, “Anyone know PhotoShop?” He is my teacher. He shows me how to execute.
Sometimes, kids are my teachers, and other times, I am theirs.
It’s my job to take every kid’s good ideas and shape them into something actionable–something they can execute broken down so it won’t execute them.
I do that by telling my story and showing the skills I use along the way–the money skills.
I explain how my own best ideas have been foiled, crushed, spoiled and ruined by life and how I got up and tried again. And again. And again. And what happened when I did.
It wasn’t always pretty, but in the end–I executed, tweaked, fixed, repaired, and executed again–until something worked.
That’s all teaching is… living what I teach, then telling the story, showing the mistakes and fixes, and being real.
I got the best compliment every yesterday. “I like how we don’t really feel like we’re learning. I go home and talk about this then I learn more.”
Integrate passions with skills. They’ll do 20x more than if they thought it was work.
“I know you hate math/science/writing/reading/school/life, but if you’ll just learn these few things, you’ll be able to do That Thing You Love.”
That’s the secret. They learn more than I demand every time.
PS: This works for adults, too.
I saw a kid on his phone. “I’m done with my work, Miss. I need to read.”
He was reading an entrepreneurship book I bought a few interested students. Kindle’s cheaper than getting my library picked clean.
Passion. Execution. And a couple 99-cent books.
I take a look at my student with of Clint Eastwood.
“Do you feel lucky?” Yes.
“Go ahead, make my day!” You have.
One kid following his dreams. Another promising to publish his book. A third saying how much she learned. Two more kicking my ass in that same computer science course, one saving mine in PhotoShop, and another telling me about his video tour this summer since his YouTube channel’s doing so well.
You have all made my day. Soon, you’ll conquer the world. If you have one thing…
And since most of you do, I pour some coffee and smile.
[Photo: Clint Eastwood. Sudden Impact, Warner Brothers, 1983]