Comparison, Competition, and Changing the World with Jeff Gargas | Episode 46
Play • 44 min

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.” Now that’s impactful – and world changing.

Jeff’s new book, Teach Better, is co-authored by his company teammates Chad Ostrowski, Tiffany Ott, and Rae Hughart. It is a terrific roadmap for growth for educators but also one worth the read for leaders from any industry. The mindset messages are universal, and the tactical elements of lesson planning and creating pathways for success are easily translated to the business practices of training, education, building relationships, and assessing progress.

In response to my standard question relating to 3 takeaways, Jeff’s response was this:

  1. Believe in what you do or go find something else to do. This was a strong statement, but so important about coming from a place where you can put all your passion and authenticity into what you do. That makes you a stronger leader.

  2. Serve others. Jeff shared his approach to his business. Even though he is technically the “boss” – he doesn’t believe in the “they work for me” theory of leadership. He believes in the “I work for them” approach which ensures that he is always looking out for what elevates his team, not just himself.

  3. Work balance and the idea that “if you find something you love, you’ll never work another day in your life” are myths. The truth is that if you really do love what you do, you’re going to put in the hours and work even harder to make it work at the highest level. The second truth is that most people spend about 60% of their time at work so there really isn’t balance. Instead of focusing on balance, focus on finding harmony. How can everything flow together?

It was terrific getting to know Jeff better and of course, we so admire any person and organization who make it their mission to help our teachers and educators thrive in today’s world. Kudos to the Teach Better Team for all they do.

I loved exploring these concepts of comparison, competition, coming from a place of passion and authenticity and of course, changing the world. As a leader, how can you be better today than yesterday and better tomorrow than today? Let’s have that conversation!

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