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Do You Make a Difference?

Sometimes I feel that being a trainer or teacher is the most unappreciated job in the world.

I felt this particularly keenly just recently when I tried to help my youngest daughter with her exam preparations. Now I guess that she hadn't really done the work she should have done but that didn't stop me wanting to help her with some maths problems that she didn't understand. I did my best. I did. But it was still not good enough and I was waved away with a frustrated, "Oh, you're no help at all, Dad."

It reminded me of a story told by Thomas Friedman at the commencement ceremony of the Washington University in St Louis in 2004.

Friedman had been at a dinner party when a well-known and successful CEO started to complain about the standard of education of today's students. Noticing that another guest around the table was a teacher, he asked her, "Susan, you're a teacher. I earn over $200,000. What do you make?"

The room fell silent. Susan stopped talking to her neighbour, put down her spoon and turned to the CEO with a kindly stare.

"You want to know what I make? I'll tell you what I make. I make kids want to get up in the morning. I make them want to stay in class at the end of the day. I make them want to go and read Shakespeare. I make them want to be proud for their moms and dads. I make them remember me with love only when they're old enough to have kids of their own."

Warming to her theme, she continued, "You want to know what I make? I make kids wonder. I make them do things that nobody else can do. I make them look into themselves to find their unique gifts. I make them see that their gifts are no different from anyone else's. I make them grow inside. I make them understand that, if anyone ever tries to judge you by what money you make, you should pay them no attention."

Susan then paused and with a smile said, "You want to know what I make? I make a difference."

I guess parenting, training and coaching are the same. It's about making a difference but not expecting to be appreciated for it until many years later, if ever. It's nice to get ticks in all the right boxes in the end-of-course questionnaire. But I'll also settle for ticks in all the right boxes many years down the track.