I have seen enough bashing of the education system and schools that I want to write about it. I had an interesting exchange in twitter yesterday.
I followed up with a tweet that I strongly believe in:
Blaming the education or school system is not the solution IMHO. We just need to invest in getting better at the whole notion of teaching, teachers, mentors and educators. I believe teaching is one of the highest leverage activities that we have. Every successful person I know has had someone who taught them some things. Maybe that does not happen in a formal setting in a school, but we all learn and teach whether we know it or not. I would like to challenge all those who are against the school system to actually take the time to teach someone, go through the exercise. It is not easy or simple. Back to the context of my tweet. I know that great VCs or those who have successfully navigated the perils of investing their money or someone else’s money in Venture Capital are all great mentors, teachers and educators. One has to be! there is no other way. This magic of investing money and suddenly you uncover unicorns is total baloney. Yes, luck does happen… but you don’t know that apriori.
When you are not a teacher or have the mindset of a teacher, it is difficult to teach. I encourage every startup founder who reads this to volunteer to be a mentor and teacher. Teach your colleagues, teaching is a lot of listening. You cannot prescribe a path without understanding the problem. I used to teach a class of undergraduate students in Economics in LSU, while I was working on my PhD. I really enjoyed the teaching role, I was going to be a teacher and researcher. That is what I wanted to do, but as they say life happens when you are planning it. I went to the next best thing, Management Consulting, there was a lot of teaching there too. All my years of doing this is what led me to what I do now, I, mentor, coach, advice, beg, plead and teach Entrepreneurs and Startup Founders. I believe teaching is the noblest of professions.
Teaching is that one profession where the “Give First” philosophy is embedded in it. Great teachers are also great students, I want so badly to be a great student of Entrepreneurship, Startups and Venture Capital, so I decided that I will learn and teach anyone or everyone who will listen. For those Angel/Seed/Venture investors who don’t have the patience or courage or inclination to teach, don’t be a venture investor, you are doing yourself disservice and to your customer. You do know that your customer is the Entrepreneur and Startup Founder right? Teaching is also a thankless job, but there are times when it is extremely rewarding, when you see a startup founder who gets it and starts running with the “Eureka” moment or when you see one of your mentees achieve incredible success. A teacher needs to have the humility to stand in the shadow and enjoy that quiet victory. It is the price every teacher has to pay. I am here because I was lucky to have had great teachers and mentors who have guided me on my career and my education. I sure do hope that you get a chance to work with a mentor or teacher who gives you that same feeling.
I have written about the Last Lecture, and why you should be optimistic about the future. If you have not read the book the Last Lecture I highly encourage you to read it. If you have not watched the Last Lecture that was delivered by the late Dr. Randy Pauch, you definitely should. Watch the lecture.
These are the teachers that I am talking about. I don’t know if you caught the piece about how Dr.Pauch was talking about this football coach. You didn’t? well, here is an excerpt from the book:
Coach Graham used to ride me hard. I remember one practice in particular. “You’re doing it all wrong, Pausch. Go back! Do it again!” I tried to do what he wanted. It wasn’t enough. “You owe me, Pausch! You’re doing push-ups after practise.”
When I was finally dismissed, one of the assistant coaches came over to reassure me. “Coach Graham rode you pretty hard, didn’t he?” he said.
I could barely muster a “yeah.”
“That’s a good thing, ” the assistant told me. “When your are screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they’ve given up on you.”
That lesson has stuck with me my whole life. When you see yourself doing something badly and nobody’s bothering to tell you anymore, that’s a bad place to be. You may not want to hear it, but your critics are often the ones telling you they still love you and care about you, and want to make you better.
Great investors are those people. They care, they ride you and they want you to win!