Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

Teachers Make A Difference

Years ago a John Hopkin’s professor gave a group of graduate students this assignment:  Go to the poorest sections of the city.  Take 200 boys, between the ages of 12 and 16, and investigate their background and environment.  Then predict their future outcomes.

After consulting social statistics, talking to the boys, and compiling much data, the students concluded that 90 percent of the boys would spend some time in jail.

Twenty-five years later another group of graduate students was given the job of testing the prediction.  They went back to the same areas.  Some of the boys – by then men – were still there, a few had died, some had moved away, but they got in touch with 180 of the original 200.  They found that only four of the group had ever been sent to jail.

Why was it that these men with many disadvantages had such a surprisingly good record?  The researchers were continually told:  “Well, there was this teacher.”

They pressed further and found that in 75 percent of the cases it was the same woman.  The researchers went to this teacher, long since retired.  How had she exerted this remarkable influence over that group of children?  Could she give them any reason why these boys should have remembered her?

“No,” she said, “I really couldn’t.” And then, thinking back over the years, she said musingly, more to herself than to her questioners, “I loved those boys.”

Teachers hold a special place in our lives.  As we start another school year, it’s a perfect time to salute and applaud the people who helped mold us into who we became.

October 5 is World Teachers’ Day, so let’s celebrate the important role teachers play in all our lives.  I learned many life lessons from my teachers that had a significant bearing on my life.

There is no magic formula for being a success.  Sure, natural talent can make a big difference.  It takes iron determination and lots of hard, hard work.  The harder you work, the luckier you get.  Success only comes before work in the dictionary.  My mentor Curt Carlson, founder of one of the world’s largest privately owned companies, used to say, “You work five days a week to keep pace with the competition.  You work Saturday to get ahead.”

Stay focused.  The person who is everywhere is nowhere.  If you have the ability to focus fully on the task at hand, and shut out everything else, you can accomplish amazing things.

Respect has to be given to be received.  Respect people for what they are and for what they stand for – even if you don’t agree.  Be respectful or be regretful.

Dream big.  I was taught to aim high and to have dreams that inspire me to go beyond my limits.  Show me someone who doesn’t dream about the future and I’ll show you someone who doesn’t know where he or she is going.  If you can dream it, you can become it.

Never be afraid to make mistakes.  You’re bound to fail at some things.  Learn what you can and move on instead of beating yourself up.  Embrace mistakes as opportunities to grow.    If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not taking any risks.  And that could mean you’re not making progress. 

Remain trustworthy.  Trust is the most important word in business, as well as life in general.  Trust is central to doing business with anyone.  Without it, you have another word that begins with T:  Trouble.  It takes years to build trust, but only seconds to destroy it.

There are consequences for bad decisions.  Bad decisions are quite different from mistakes, as any teacher can tell you.  Deciding to take shortcuts instead of doing the job right, making promises you can’t keep – there are consequences that are often difficult to overcome which could be avoided by starting off on the right path.

Make the best of your opportunities.  Look for occasions to display your talents and see where it leads you.  There’s an old saying that you make your own opportunities.  Don’t sell yourself short.

You can make a difference.  Sometimes all a person needs to hear is that they matter.  Great teachers inspire that confidence, no matter what the grade or age level.  They also set wonderful examples of making a difference in their students’ lives, like the teacher who showed all those boys that they had tremendous potential for success.

Mackay’s Moral:  The best teachers share lessons not found in books.

About the Author Harvey Mackay, Founder & CEO

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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