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Outlier’s Path

Great Teachers are Underappreciated

This Thanksgiving, I was asked by a friend what the kindest thing someone has done for me, a question with which Patrick O’Shaughnessy closes each episode of Invest Like the Best.

My answers were all about a handful of great teachers who had a profound impact on my life. You might not know that I was not a follower of rules. If there was a system, I wanted to hack it rather than master it. Mostly, I was a lousy student through elementary school, mainly because I was bored and a truant.

In sixth grade, I was fortunate to have a teacher at P.S. 159, Mrs. Einstein, who took an interest in me. She pulled me aside and explained that being smart would only get me so far without doing the work. She asked a pointed question, “Do you just want to start first, or do you want to finish first?” She further explained that she’d met many talented students in elementary school who failed to reach their full potential in junior high or high school because they didn’t do the work along the way. Then, the differences grew more significant over time.

The statements are so obvious to an adult, but to a twelve-year-old, it sounds like an old adage I also wanted to prove wrong. At that time, I was likely to answer that I wanted to start first and finish first with minimal work. She asked, “what will you do when there isn’t a clear finish line?” Mrs. Einstein’s provocative questions made me reevaluate my position and gave me an inkling of playing an infinite game. I would repeat her questions to myself throughout my life. It is due to her that I became a better student, and the rest is history.

Great teachers, coaches, and mentors influence us far beyond their academic instruction. Their contributions to our personal and professional lives can last a lifetime. Great teachers are underappreciated, and I am thankful for them.

I hope you had a restful, refreshing, and memorable Thanksgiving weekend filled with food, parades, football, shopping, and laughter with friends and family.