Two Questions You Have To Be Able To Answer

@MrBrettClark 4 Comments

I have two questions to ask you that I think you need to be able to answer if you're going to unlock the leader inside of you and, ultimately, the leaders inside of others. 

*spoiler alert* - You might be tempted to think that the first question is the most important question, but it's not.

First question: Do you know who you are?

We have to know who we are if we are going to lead. I don't care if it's leading a district, a classroom, an athletic team, an academic team, or a fantasy team.

You have to know what makes you tick. In the book, "Talk Like TED" by Carmine Gallo, he says you have to answer the question, "What makes your heart sing?" I don't think you can effectively lead if what you're doing isn't your passion.

I don't know about you, but the hardest task for me to get done are those task that don't directly tie into what I'm passionate about. However, when it comes to something I'm passionate about, I can just get lost in it. 

Who doesn't want to follow somebody who can just get lost in what they are leading? There are things that I'm not passionate about, like grant writing, but I've worked with people who just love that challenge and I can't help but get sucked into their enthusiasm. I don't get why they're so excited by it, but I admire their passion. 

Here is my advice, don't take on a job, role, or position that you're not passionate about. In the end, no matter the money, you won't be happy and you certainly won't be effective. 

Ok, now for the more important question. As important as it is for you know who you are, this is more important. 

Second question: Do you know who you are not

More important than knowing who you are, is knowing who you are not. Too many of us end up spinning on our wheels and burn ourselves out by trying to be something or somebody we aren't. This is more than just knowing your weaknesses. You can't really be happy with you, are until you are ok with you are not. 

Here is what I know about myself. I am a middle school teacher. It's who I am. It's part of my gifting. I am also an administrator. It just fits me. I'm not saying I'm perfect in these roles and I certainly have room to grow. 

I once took a job as a high school teacher. Not because I wanted to teach high school, but because I wanted to live in that area. It almost crushed me and made me want to leave education all together. The problem is, I'm not a high school teacher. I remember being in college and applying for student teaching. I sat in a room being interviewed for the program and one of my professors asked me what middle school I might want to teach at next semester. I told her I wasn't going to go to a middle school, but that I was strictly going to be a high school teacher. She said, "I can't let you into student teaching then, because your are a middle school teacher if I've ever met one." Man, was she ever right about that, and I'm forever grateful for it. My last staff meeting as a high school teacher my principal was announcing that I had transferred to a middle school. My principal gave me a nice card and said to our staff of close to 100 teachers, "I think we all agree that Brett was meant to teach middle school." In other words, I was a really bad fit for high school. She was right. 

I feel the same way about my job now that I did about teaching middle school. This is who I am and it's where I belong. I couldn't imagine doing anything else right now. Maybe one day I'll be a principal, or even work my way up to a Superintendent. I honestly don't know. There are days when I think I'd really like to try my hands at those things. All I know right now is that I've never been happier or more excited about the work I get to be a part of every 

I admire people who recognize their place in the world and know where they belong and where they are better off leaving alone. I think of some of my very talented teacher friends, who would make great principals and district admins. Sometimes I know they get asked why they don't leave the classroom for an admin job. I know many of them know that even though they have the talent for the job, it's not their passion and it's not who they are. 

Just because you have the skill set to do a certain job, it doesn't mean you should be doing that job. 

In my lowest point of teaching, when I was looking at the possibility of leaving, I looked into what I could do with a degree in math. Let me tell you, there are some lucrative positions out there for a person with a degree in math. In the end, none of those options were the right fit, because that's not who I am. 

I use these answers to shape what I lead, where I lead, how I lead, and who I lead. I try to look to for people to learn from who are both who I am, and who I am not. I learn different things from those people. I grow under those people and I work on strengthening my strengths and minimizing my faults. 

I also make sure I have people working with me who aren't me. Sure, I could have a team full of Brett Clark clones. Maybe that would be easier and maybe we'd have less conflict. However, we'd also cover less ground, help less people and be less creative (because conflict is the birthplace of creativity). 

Does this make sense? Do you know who you are and who you are not? We should strive to be part of team that is working toward a common goal, is full of people who are in positions that match their passions, and a team where each others' strengths are the other team members' weaknesses.


  1. Outstanding post...totally spoke to me on many different levels. Keep writing...

    1. Thanks Katie! I'm really working on becoming more a consistent blogger. If for no other reason than I need to be more reflective. Thanks for checking it out and for leaving a comment.

  2. Such a great post, Brett. Really well written.

    As an aside, I thought this quote perfectly describes the life that most of our students lead from Kindergarten through graduation:

    I don't know about you, but the hardest task for me to get done are those task that don't directly tie into what I'm passionate about.


    THAT's something that we have to change.

    Rock on,

  3. Great post Brett! Two of your points are so important to remember:

    1) Don't take on a job, role, or position that you're not passionate about. In the end, no matter the money, you won't be happy and you certainly won't be effective.

    2) Know who you are not.

    In all stages of my career (MS teacher, MS AP, HS AP, and now District Tech Director), I never left a position that I was unhappy with. My goal of moving on was always about students and having an even greater and more overarching impact on their learning.

    Your story about being a middle school teacher really resonated with me. As I started college, my goal was to be a high school teacher. My first field experience was at a junior high. I was not very happy when my student teaching assignment was at a junior high. My experience went great, but I still wanted to be a JH/MS teacher. My first teaching position...a middle school teacher. I absolutely loved teaching middle school and was so glad everything worked out the way it did. I spent the next 14 years in a middle school. I new who I was and was proud to be a middle school teacher.

    I believe at some point, you will have the opportunity to be and will become an outstanding educational leader because you have the right mindset. Good luck!