I picked up a copy of Tuesdays with Morrie last night and didn’t set it down until I was done.
Yup, it’s one of those books…
It had been sitting on my bedside table unread since December — a constant reminder of my intention to fill myself with new ideas and inspiration… an intention that usually goes unfulfilled until the holidays, when I load myself up with a stack of books and devour them like there’s no tomorrow.
This particular book put words to something I had sensed for years but couldn’t quite put my fingers on…
And that is that teaching is the highest art form there is.
In my lifetime I’ve been a professional writer, photographer, speaker, designer and documentary filmmaker but none of those can touch the impact I’ve had as a teacher.
Teaching is essentially the art of sculpting raw human potential. And — unlike sculpting clay — you can’t control and can only suggest.
The best teachers lead students to their own realizations and, ultimately, render themselves obsolete.
Perhaps that’s why teaching is so often dismissed as a thankless, low-paid profession. And perceived as, well, teacherly.
But what if you could become one of the most highly paid teachers in the world?
Or even Warren Buffett.
Why are those teachers paid so well when the average teacher in the U.S. makes just $58,030?
Those teachers instinctively teach at the transcendental level.
Let me share what I mean by that.
Years ago my mentor Brendon Burchard taught me what he called the 4 levels of teaching:
- the theoretical
- the tactical
- the transformational
- and the transcendental
The theoretical is the stuff of academics. You know, pie in the sky theories of how things work on a very high level.
So how many people want to pay top dollar for theoretical teaching?
Let me answer that by asking you another question: How many rich academics do you know?
Not a whole lot, right?
They’re fairly universally middle class, right?
They’re so fixated on their theories and philosophies that they often forget to relate those theories and philosophies to people’s everyday lives…
That’s the biggest reason why I ditched my plans to follow in my mom’s footsteps and become a professor. I wanted to make an impact.
Now the next level of teaching is the “tactical” level — or the actual “how to,” “step-by-step”, “nuts-and-bolts”….
That’s valuable to people, right?
Not so fast.
Think about the millions of how-to videos you can watch for free on YouTube — there are 779,000,000 results for the term “how to”. These videos are a dime-a-dozen and you’re probably not going to add a huge amount of value to anyone’s life if you just start pumping those out.
Tactics alone aren’t life-changing. They don’t inspire people into sustainable action.
If they did, then everybody who learned a new diet plan would stick to it until they achieved their weight loss goals. The truth is, it’s not the diet plan, it’s not the nuts and bolts, that motivates someone into life-changing action.
So what is it?
Well our third level of teaching is the “transformational” — and that’s where you make the connection between your content and the change your audience wants to see in their lives.
When you connect that diet plan to looking good, feeling better, increasing your confidence and energy, then all of a sudden that diet starts to get a little bit more interesting, because you’re sharing the benefits. You’re answering the all-important question of so what or why this matters.
While that’s super important, the transcendental level is where the real magic happens.
When you get into the realm of the transcendental, you can actually lift people up and connect them to their meaning and purpose — to the change they want to see in the world.
This is where you connect that diet plan to being the best version of yourself for your family — to being fit so you can be a model of health and vitality for your son and know that you can actually keep up with him as he grows, not just today, but be around for him when he graduates from college, gets married and has his own kids.
This is where you connect that diet plan to looking good and having confidence so you can attract a life partner who loves you for who you are and wants to take you to bed every night.
This is where you connect that diet plan to having the energy you need to do what matters most to you in the world and make your highest contribution, to getting that promotion at work — or writing that book — or starting that business.
And this is when people run to join your tribe and spontaneously coalesce into a movement of motivated people spreading the word — not for gain or payment or commission — but because they must.
You see, each level of teaching is more valuable and more valued than the next in that people are willing to pay more money for it….
So why is that?
In 1999, the futurist Rolf Jensen said we’re moving away from an Information Society and into a Dream Society that values imagination over information.
The best teachers go beyond the content or information of their topic and awaken the imagination and potential of their students — just like Morrie did with his biographer Mitch Albom.
Which brings me to this quote I found in the middle of Tuesday’s with Morrie:
“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams
Then, as I kept reading, I came across this scene:
– “I decided what I wanted on my tombstone,” he said.
I don’t want to hear about tombstones.
– “Why? They make you nervous?” I shrugged. “We can forget it.”
No, go ahead. What did you decide?
Morrie popped his lips. “I was thinking of this: A Teacher to the Last.”
He waited while I absorbed it.
A Teacher to the Last.
– “Good?” He said.
Yes, I said. Very good.
Then this final scene on the last page of the book:
After Morrie died, I went through boxes of old college material. And I discovered a final paper I had written for one of my classes. It was twenty years old now. On the front page were my penciled comments scribbled to More, and beneath them were his comments scribbled back.
Mine began, “Dear Coach…”
His began, “Dear Player…”
For some reason, each time I read that, I miss him more.
Have you ever really had a teacher? One who saw you as a raw but precious thing, a jewel that, with wisdom, could be polished to a pro shine? If you are lucky enough to find your way to such teachers, you will always find your way back. Sometimes it is only in your head. Sometimes it is right alongside their beds.
The last class of my old professor’s life took place once a week, in his home, by a window in his study where he could watch a small hibiscus plant shed its pink flowers. The class met on Tuesdays. No books were required. The subject was the meaning of life. It was taught from experience.
The teaching goes on.
So take a moment and celebrate teachers with me.
Mitch calls teachers “our most precious resource” and I believe they’re also our most unsung heroes.
Let me know: Who is your all-time favorite teacher and what did you learn from them?