I considered myself a grown adult. Or as Cedric the Entertainer said in Kings of Comedy, “I’m a grown-ass man.” At 42 years old there was no way I was going to be on social media the way I knew many of my friends were. I was way too mature for that. I read books, attended conferences and had even presented at a few.
But join Facebook? No chance!
Open a Twitter account? Never!
But then something happened that has forever changed my life.
Almost three years to the day that I am writing this, I attended the NAESP Conference in Baltimore, Maryland. It was amazing! I had never seen anything like it! I heard speakers upon speakers with the same enthusiasm and zest for teaching that I had. I was in a state of nirvana. And while they were each incredible, there was one in particular, that while I’m certain he didn’t know it, would alter my life forever.
If you’ve never heard Todd Whitaker speak in person, you need to. Most likely you have come across one of his books and have enjoyed them as much as I have. But there is something about hearing him speak in person that is a whole different experience. Yes, he knows a lot about education and what it takes to be a great educator and a great leader. And those were the reasons I joined thousands of other people to hear him speak that day. Yet, it wasn’t his wisdom that blew me away that day. It was his humor. The man is funny! He has a way of making you laugh and learn at the same time. And I did plenty of both for the hour he spoke. I hung on every word that came out of his mouth as if were the gospel.
But then he said something that I could not believe. It went against everything I had believed up until that point. He told us that if we weren’t on Twitter then we needed to open an account as soon as possible. I was sitting towards the back of the auditorium but I am certain those were the words that came out of his mouth. I was incredulous, but it was freakin’ Todd Whitaker.
So, there was only one thing to do.
It only took me about a minute to understand what Todd was talking about. To this day, I look back and wonder how my professional career would be different if I hadn’t attended that conference. If I hadn’t heeded Todd Whitaker’s advice. Lucky for me I will never know.
Oh, and by the way, the photo below is a screenshot that shows my first two followers on Twitter, courtesy of Tworiginal Todd is not just some talking head that writes books, speaks and front of large audiences and then disappears. Oh no, he interacts with his followers. I swear he must have a team of tweeters that enable help him meaningfully respond to the thousands of people that contact him yearly, if not monthly.
Fast forward two and half years from that prophetic day when my journey as a connected educator began. I was getting ready to launch a radio show titled My Bad. I was going to ask amazing educators to come on my show and share a big mistake that they had made during their career. In the time since Todd had convinced me to join Twitter, I had had the good fortune of connecting with amazing educators from all over the world that have not only become part of my PLN, but they had become my good friends.
So, I was confident that I would be able to secure guests to come on the show and open up to me. But when the producers from Bam Radio told me that they had contacted Todd and he was willing to come on the show. To be my first guest! I was floored and excited beyond belief. The person that inspired me to become connected was going to the same person that would help me launch my very first radio show.
I had read his books, listened to his keynote address and had quoted him countless times in the past. I was a bit nervous before the interview. My nerves disappeared once I heard Todd’s voice on the other end of the line. He immediately made me feel at ease and it was if we had known each other for years. I simply added this to the long list of things that Todd has taught me.
If I had to pick one lesson that I have learned from Todd that I carry with me wherever I go, it would be to treat people well every single day and every single time. He stresses the fact that all you have to do is treat someone poorly once and you have damaged your relationship with that person. Todd mentions that you can treat someone well 29 times out of 30 but that is not good enough. It’s not because people don’t remember the 29 times you treated them well. They do. But what sticks with them, and anyone else who witnessed the event, is the one time out of 30 that they were treated poorly.
So, you can imagine how powerful it was for me to hear Todd share, on the very first episode of My Bad, about a time when he lost his temper. He talked about how the first year that he coached basketball he would yell at his team. Todd then went on to discuss one game in particular in which he yelled at the referee and received a technical. And what he did next;
After the game I walked into their locker room. And I’m not kidding. I thought they were gonna to have to change their underwear. What’s he doing walking in the locker room. And I said I was wrong to treat you like that. I should have never talked to you like that.(…) I’m embarrassed I did it in front of my team. And I will not do it again with you in the future. And I never got a technical after that.
For Todd to share this with me, with everyone, was so powerful. To admit to losing his temper, and essentially, providing a concrete example of his own personal one time out of thirty was exactly what I was looking for. Hopefully everyone that either heard the episode or reads this piece will feel a little less guilty about making the same mistake themselves.
Todd did go on to discuss how to recover from making such a mistake. He couldn’t emphasize enough how important it is to work to repair a relationship once you realize you have damaged it. More than anything though, he stressed the fact that once we make these mistakes, we must learn from them. We must learn from them so that we do not repeat them in the future. Otherwise our apologies ring hollow.
Kicking off my show My Bad with Todd Whitaker was more than I could have ever hoped for. Because while Todd is one of the most sought after speakers in education and someone whose calendar I’m certain is quite full, he never once gave the impression that he was in a hurry or was too busy. Even after the interview had finished, he was more than willing to expand on answers he had given.
Truth be told, because Todd is such a busy person and someone who travels all the time, he had planned on conducting the interview over the phone while driving. This seemed perfectly reasonable to me. I am certain he had the Skye app on his phone and this arrangement would have been fine. But we did not want to take any chances with the sound quality and so we asked if it would be possible for him to conduct the interview differently.
But he was more than willing to accommodate this request. It required him rearranging his schedule and it required him to stop and find a location from which to conduct the interview. And I will be forever grateful to him for making this gesture of kindness.
Yes, Todd Whitaker has written over forty books. Yes, Todd Whitaker is one of the most sought after speakers in the country. And yes, Todd Whitaker always commands a large audience. But on that day in which I conducted my very first My Bad interview, Todd was real. Todd was transparent. And Todd was kind. That is what I will remember most.
Thank you Todd.
In case I’ve peeked your interest and you’d like to give the episode a listen, I’ve included the link below
* This is the first in a series of 10 pieces I’ll be publishing weekly in which I highlight a former My Bad guest. I hope you enjoy them. And if you do, please pass them on.