Being Teacherless

Are you teacherless?

It’s a question that I was asked by a mentor of mine and I sat there for a moment and tried to answer his question quickly; I realized that I couldn’t. I wanted to give him some of the typical answers that were easy to conjure up but I realized that he was touching upon something much, much deeper.

The truth was that I was teacherless and had been for a very long time. Right after getting out of college (barely) I went on a long kick seeking to move with speed through what I thought was supposed to be a career.

I was working on my own power and through sheer force of will trying to bend reality to my own likeness (or at least to accept me as I was). What I lacked, though, was a guide, a teacher, someone who I respected and who could teach me the ways of being a professional, a grownup, a person of note.

And I crashed. Hard. I was fired from my first two jobs within 6 months and it wasn’t based on my skill. I picked up the pieces and continued to move forward, heads-down, and arrogantly believing that everyone else was wrong and I was right.

There weren’t any positive sounding boards and there wasn’t any accountability. There wasn’t a source of logic and reason that I could heed and I wasn’t very good at self-care nor self-management. I didn’t have a teacher I could respect and follow.

I was teacherless.

Since then I’ve managed to do this much, much better and I have mentors and teachers in place that I can count on but my thoughts return to those very turbulent years especially when I encounter younger professionals (many who are extremely talented and capable) who do not have those teachers in their lives.

I want to grab them by the shoulders, shake vigorously, and tell them that they’ll crash and burn if they don’t get a mentor, a teacher, a trusted guide who will help them through these very formative years.

And yet, at the same time, I know that if someone had done that to me I would have ignored them and most likely said something incredibly offensive. The medicine would have been good even if it was as bitter as I believed it to be.

Are you teacherless? Do you have someone (or more than just one person) that you can truly saddle up alongside and allow to teach you things that you do not know? Or are you too good to submit yourself to someone else’s experience and leadership?

I know I felt that way for a long time… But now I can’t imagine a life without my teachers.