Many of you already know this, but I teach for a living–specifically, I’m a corporate trainer. For me, there is nothing more rewarding in the world than being trusted with the honor of teaching others every day of my career.
Anyone who knows me is aware that I take this responsibility pretty seriously.
Before I start each class, there is one simple idea that inspires every single one of my words and actions. It’s the idea that the teacher has just as much to learn from the students as the students have to learn from the teacher.
That’s because we are all teachers.
Just because I rock a suit to work everyday, it doesn’t make me a more “legit” teacher than the men and women who come into my classroom as students each day. Again, we’re all teachers–you, me, all of my students, everyone. There are no exceptions to this rule.
All of us have a special lesson to teach the world.
The problem is that most of us either don’t know this, or worse, we don’t believe it.
That’s the hard part–creating the belief in ourselves. The good news is that’s why I’m here. But I won’t be the one doing the teaching this time. It will be done by someone who you might not consider to be a teacher if you ever saw him in person. His suit is rags, his classroom is a Los Angeles sidewalk, and he chooses to teach by using his words instead of textbooks.
My teacher was a homeless man.
If you have ever thought that a homeless person had nothing to give you, let me be the first to tell you that you would be wrong. Dead wrong. In less than 5 minutes of speaking with him, he taught me a lesson that changed my life forever.
There is not a teacher alive who would not give anything to have the kind of impact on his/her students that this man had on me. My hope is that he’ll do the same for you too.
Appearances can be very deceiving sometimes. I’ll prove it.
The Student and the Teacher
I entered my teacher’s “classroom” for the first time last Spring.
Seven months ago, during a three-week period I passed by this man each morning as I mindlessly hurried to my West Los Angeles office to start another workday. Usually, I would notice him sitting on the sidewalk dressed in rag-like clothes or rummaging through a nearby dumpster for food or empty bottles as I walked past him each morning.
Regardless of this man’s situation, he would frequently smile at me when our eyes connected. Without fail, every time our eyes met, the drama that was waiting for me at the office didn’t seem all that serious when I saw him smile in light of his circumstances.
There was a valuable lesson in that man’s smile that was not lost on me, but that was not why our paths intersected. He had much more to teach me than a lesson that I already knew.
It was on one nondescript morning that everything changed between this man and me. Little did I know that the real teaching was about to begin.
As I passed by this man on that average Spring morning, I noticed something very different about him. His smile was gone. Instead of simply looking unkempt, he looked sick. I knew that something was seriously wrong with this man. I could feel it.
After passing by this man without saying a word for close to three weeks, he weakly looked at me and broke our mutual silence for the first time.
“Do you have any spare change, sir?”
I reached in my pocket and gave him the remaining two bills in my wallet. It was only then that my curiosity got the best of me.
“Hey man, are you okay?”
He feebly smiled and said that he was fine. Although I didn’t believe him, I smiled back and offered a bit of unsolicited encouragement as I headed to the office for another busy workday.
“Good thing that you’re here in West LA because there are a lot of people who can help you if you really need it.”
That’s when this man purposefully locked his gaze with mine and stared at me in focused silence for 5 seconds or so. His apparent weakness was replaced with a deep conviction that spoke clearly through his deep brown eyes. Even though each second of our shared silence felt like an eternity to me, I couldn’t turn away. It was clear that this man had something very important to say to me.
I was right.
What he said next changed my life forever.
“I’ve been here in the same spot for the past three weeks, and no one has helped me besides you. I hate to tell you this young man, but there is no one else. Only you.”
The Greatest Myth of All
As I sat alone in my office, I was shaken. That man’s words haunted me.
There is no one else.
This isn’t about whether or not I should have helped that man, or if he should have helped himself. The point of his lesson is so much deeper than that. All I knew was that for three weeks, I walked past a man who I easily could have helped, but I chose not to do it because I figured that someone else would do it for me.
So many times in our lives, we count on someone else to step up and do the dirty work. We hope with fingers and toes crossed that someone else will do the right thing so we won’t have to do it ourselves.
But what if there is no one else?
I’m here to tell you that someone else is a myth. It may be the greatest myth of all–especially if you have any real interest in living an exceptional life.
Someone else isn’t going to do the dirty work. Someone else isn’t going to do our push-ups for us. Someone else isn’t going to stand up to the sociopathic office bully who is currently making your work life a living hell. Someone else isn’t going to ensure that kids in Africa will have clean drinking water. Someone else isn’t going to magically make this world a better place for all of us.
Simply put, someone else isn’t coming. EVER.
There is only one person who is here and able to show up every single day to make this world a better place.
Saving the World is Your Job
You are a teacher. It doesn’t matter if you want this responsibility or not, because it’s yours. So, as a teacher I’m going to ask you this: what gifts are you keeping from your students because you think that you’re not ready to teach them?
Maybe you’re reading this post and you currently have a dream to help out a group of people in a major way.
Perhaps your dream is to help victims of spousal abuse, or to officially register one million new organ donors, or to rescue neglected animals, or to ensure that everyone on this earth knows the difference between “your” and “you’re” once and for all, or to revamp the country’s legal system to ensure that innocent children always remain safe from psychopaths.
The good news is that it doesn’t matter what it is.
If it is your dream to do this, then believe in the persistent inner voice that is begging you not ignore it for a moment longer.
Please don’t talk yourself out of your dream because there is someone else out there with more connections, more money, more knowledge, and more credibility who could teach your lessons far better than you think you could do it yourself.
That imaginary “someone else” doesn’t exist. But do you know who does exist?
The people out there who desperately need your help.
They’re very real, and they need you now.
These men and women need the encouragement that only you can provide. They need the unique insights and experiences that only you can share with them. They need a hug that only you can give. They need the passion that only you have.
That’s what the best teachers do.
Each day that goes by where you put off your dream is another day where someone who truly needs what you can teach them has to live a life that is far less epic than the one they could experience. It doesn’t have to be that way for a moment longer.
There is no one else who can save the world.
It has to be you.
Inspiring the World is Your Job
Maybe you’re reading this post and you have a unique message to share.
You are ready to start a revolution and you know that the world is ready to join you. Millions could be inspired if they only heard your unique message. You are certain of this.
The problem is that no one knows who you are.
This cannot be the thing that stops you. It just can’t. Every “somebody” was once a nobody who didn’t give up–that is a fact.
Your message needs to be stronger than your anonymity.
Although it’s hard to believe, there was a time when the majority of the world didn’t know that Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., or Mother Teresa even existed.
You do now. That’s the point.
Instead of looking at the enormity of the goals that were in front of them, they chose to keep fighting even when every sign was telling them to quit. They chose to represent a mission that was bigger than themselves. They chose to keep showing up to cut through the over-abundance of small-minded naysayers until their message was heard (and loved) by the masses.
Simply put, they changed the world.
You can too.
Don’t be intimidated by the big names that I just mentioned above–they were human beings just like you. Just like them, there is no doubt that there is someone reading this right now who has a message that is too important to be silenced for a moment longer. If you are that person, I am going to talk directly to you now.
Your message is unique and for some people it could be life-changing. Maybe even life-saving. But you will never know if you don’t take the steps necessary at this very moment to deliver it. You know exactly what you need to do. Do it now.
No one else has your message. No one else can share it in the way that you can. No one else can use it to inspire millions.
That’s because there is no one else.
It has to be you.
No More Waiting
It has been seven months, and I have not seen “the man on the sidewalk” since our only conversation. The fear that this man could have passed away has messed with my mind more than I’m willing to admit.
Each morning on my way to work, I walk past his spot on the sidewalk in hopes of seeing him, and when he’s not there, I am left with only his words to reflect on.
There is no one else.
Maybe I could have helped that man more than I did, but as you already know, I relied on a person who doesn’t exist to do it for me. I relied on someone else.
The pain of that regret hurts more than I ever imagined. It’s a feeling that I promise to never feel again.
No one understands the importance of teamwork more than I do. There is no doubt that it is impossible to do anything meaningful without the help of others. But before you even get to that point, it also can’t be argued that making the decision to follow your dream, taking the first inspired actions, and committing to keep showing up each day, cannot be done by anyone else but you.
As of now, the days of waiting for someone else are officially over.
- Do you want permission to finally leave your soul-crushing job behind, become your own boss, and live life on your own terms? No one needs to grant you permission. Millions have successfully made the leap. You can too. Start today.
- Do you want to stand up to the office bully who is making everyone’s life at work a living hell? If you won’t do it, who will?
- Do you want to leave an unhealthy relationship that you know should have ended years ago? The person who can make it happen today is waiting for you in the mirror. Listen to that person.
- Do you dream of the day when no one in our world suffers from hunger, abuse, or any other form of unnecessary pain ever again? This dream is a big one and it came to you for a reason–don’t ignore it for a moment longer. You can shorten the gap between your dream and the reality, and you can help save more lives than you ever dreamed possible with your inspired action.
- Do you want to finally get into the best shape of your life and be an example of health for your kids? If you don’t start this very moment, when will you?
- Do you have a message that you’re aching to share with the world, but you’ve convinced yourself that you’re not worthy and that you can’t do it? You are and you can.
Do you think that someone else can do these things for you? Think again.
Someone else isn’t coming. That’s because there is no one else.
You’re the one who has to do this. And yes, you have to do this. The world needs you now more than ever.
Lastly, a few words of thanks for the special man who I will likely never know.
Thank you for inspiring me to stop putting off my dreams for a moment longer than necessary. Thank you for reminding me that the responsibility of making the world a better place is a responsibility that belongs to me. Thank you for nudging me to realize that no one is going to tell me what my life’s passion is.
Most importantly, thank you for my much-needed, and long-overdue, wake up call. No more slacking allowed–I am ready to turn in my homework assignment.
I am declaring loudly and definitively here on this blog post that I will make the world a better place to work and to live for millions of people.
I might not have all of the answers, but I can promise you that I will not wait for someone else to give the answers to me before I take action toward my goal. For now, I’ll count on my passion and my single-minded focus to guide me in the right direction–that’s a hell of a lot better than waiting for someone who will never come.
There was a time where I would think that it would be insane to think that such a big idea could come from 5 minute conversation with a homeless man.
But it did, and that’s the point.
He wasn’t “just a homeless man” any more than you are just a cubicle dweller, just a business man, just a cashier, or just a stay-at-home-mother.
This man was a teacher and so are you.
I was fortunate to be his student and his lesson changed my life, and because of him I hope that I will be able to do the same for millions of people.
To all of the teachers reading this, ask yourselves this: whose lives will be dramatically improved by the lessons you will teach to them? Or worse, what gifts will you keep from the world because you think that you are not capable enough to teach them?
And finally, to my personal teacher on the sidewalk–they say that when the student is ready the teacher will appear. They were right.
I can say with confidence that one simple lesson from you taught me to take inspired action toward my dream in a way that I never knew was possible.
There is no one else who could have done this for me in the way that you did.
It had to be you.