“For things we have to learn BEFORE we can do them, we learn BY doing them.”
For those of us who found ourselves in Mr. Nelson’s high school world history class, it’s the first thing we saw when we walked in.
A giant sign that said, “Question Everything.”
On paper, we were in his class to learn world history. We would often memorize answers to future test questions. Tests we would pass, then immediately forget about.
On the real, we learned about life.
Mr. Nelson, as far as I know, didn’t care what grade we got in his class any more than we did. It was all bullshit, and he knew it. Our grades, on a piece of paper, were no predictor of how we would do in real life.
School creates great factory workers. They train us from the smallest age to memorize and forget, while falling into conformity.
Fall in line. Remain quiet. Don’t speak up unless called on. Ask to go to the restroom. When the bell rings, you may start. When the bell rings, you can take a break. When the bell rings, you can go home.
The “A students” end up working for the “C students”, and they make great employees.
The kids in the back, questioning everything. Refusing to fall in line. We’re the entrepreneurs now.
Show me a world-changing company built by following all the rules.
In life, you occasionally run into teachers who see things differently.
Mr. Madigan was similar. He taught english, but I didn’t give two shits about books like “Flowers for Algernon” or “The Great Gatsby.”
I wanted to learn from a man who seemed larger than life. A fan of the movie “Dead Poets Society”, he encouraged us to “Carpe Diem”, or “Seize The Day.”
The “Twinkie Defense” is a catch all term, based on the 1979 murder trial of Dan White. White assassinated Harvey Milk, and at the trial, it was suggested that junk food had contributed to his depression.
So Mr. Madigan had Twinkies taped up all over his classroom, to warn us of the evils of junk food.
It was fucking hilarious. I loved the outside the box thinking.
Not all teachers are as encouraging.
From my third grade report card:
“Joshua takes pride in his work but needs to understand that it is not necessary to be the ‘best’ or ‘first’ in everything.”
Here is the competitive spirit being stifled at a young age. Maybe this is where participation trophies came from.
I didn’t need to be the best or first, but I sure as fuck wanted to be.
And it pissed me off when I wasn’t.
How you do one thing is how you do everything.
Great teachers encourage you to find what you’re looking for, without telling you what the answers should be.
In psychology, providing an answer to a client’s problem would be considered a form of theft. You rob them of the opportunity to come up with their own solutions.
I often get contract related questions from real estate agents.
My default answer: “What does the contract say?”
The answers are in front of you. You have to seek them out.
If I just answer the question, it will be asked again. And again.
I had one agent who would constantly ask me the same questions, over and over again.
I finally told her that she was allowed to ask me any question she wanted, as long as she came with three possible solutions every time.
I rarely hear from her anymore.
When someone comes up with three potential solutions, the answers reveal themselves.
Like Mr. Nelson and Mr. Madigan, I strive to build thinkers, who question everything.
Teaching isn’t just telling someone. How many times do we listen to people, and not hear a word they say?
The most valuable lessons are in the journey of doing.