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The Development Exponent: A Leadership Perspective

Bruce Holoubek

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Comparison, Competition, and Changing the World with Jeff Gargas

With a new book being released and a flourishing business that delivers game-changing tools, strategies, and systems for teachers all over the globe, Jeff Gargas, the COO of the Teach Better Team seemed like a great fit for our podcast. I wanted to explore the parallels of what’s working for educators and what’s needed to help emerging leaders develop mutually meaningful work engagements. Teach Better Team’s mission to help educators be better today than they were yesterday and be better tomorrow than they are today inspired a common thread in our conversation about comparison, competition, and the importance of being your most authentic self. In today’s world, it’s easy for any of us to fall into the trap of comparison – especially when scrolling through social media images that depict Instagram-worthy visual representations of perfection. For a teacher it might be a picture of an ideal lesson plan or masterfully decorated classroom. For the rest of us it can be photos of flawless homes, seemingly perfect relationships, completely collaborative teams, or office spaces that look like they have been lifted from the pages of Architectural Digest. As Theodore Roosevelt stated, “Comparison is a thief of joy.” It can often lead to those “not enough” thoughts that rob us of bandwidth and stifle our own talents. Jeff shared with me his early dream of being a “rock star” – which actually led him to his first collaboration with his Teach Better Co-Founder, Chad Ostrowski. Jeff had successfully built a record label and was on the path to the next level of success when the industry shifted, and he had to shut it down. That led him to a defining moment in his life when he questioned who he was without success. He found the perspective he needed to move forward from his wife and curiously from a line in the movie Cool Runnings. “If you are not enough without the gold medal, you’ll never be enough with it.” Jeff’s take-away: You have to understand who you are first. You have to get clear about your principles as a person. Know what you’re passionate about and come from that place of authenticity. Jeff shared come great advice that he received relatively early in his career: “It’s OK to compete – but don’t compare.” We talked a little bit about healthy competition and how it can drive you to get better or stronger and get out of your comfort zones. We also looked at the flip side of that competitive spirit using the analogy of runners in a 5K or half marathon. Some are running, of course, to be first over the finish line or to enjoy the accolades of winning. Most, however, that we’ve seen are competing not with the other runners, but with themselves by asking the question, “How can I beat my best time?” That definitely falls in line with Jeff’s company’s approach to teaching teachers about the “pursuit of better”. I asked about a lightbulb moment for he and his team that really made an impact. I loved that he shared the story about how Chad Ostrowski wanted to create an eBook that would share The Grid Method, which creates astounding results for teachers and students. Jeff didn’t think an eBook was enough, he told Chad that he was going to change the world. And story after story from teachers around the globe, it seems that’s just what they are doing. Two examples: One teacher shared how Chad’s strategies not only helped her create better pathways for learning for her students, but actually saved her marriage because, they helped reduce her stress and anxiety. A student shared how because of the new way his teacher was teaching, he was learning better and at a pace that worked for him and didn’t have to try to keep up with others. He said, “Because I’m not as smart as everyone else so I move as fast, so now no one makes fun of me and I don’t feel dumb anymore.”

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