3 Confessions of My High School Business Teacher
Yes, my high school business teacher had plenty confessions as I was able to treat him to lunch. It still amazes me how much impact a teacher can have in a student’s life. Over 25 years later, I get to reunite with my high school business teacher who inspired me to entrepreneurship during his Business 101 class.
Mr. Tony Vais made an impact in my life during my senior year by planting the seed of becoming a Chicago-based entrepreneur…little did I know!
No one around me, my friends, my friends parents had anything to do with business. Especially in the Chicago-area, entrepreneur and business-owner was never something we ever talked about. I didn’t even know how to spell entrepreneur until my mid-20s! (Even then, I needed spellcheck ON)
All our parents had jobs, some two or three jobs and came home late at night. Rarely would we ever had dinner at a “decent” hour. Dinner was either on our own or at 9pm when there was something in the oven…er microwave.
Everyone in the Berwyn, Stickney and Cicero area knew about Michael Anthony’s Pizza. For birthdays, family gatherings and other special occasions we always ordered Michael Anthony’s Pizza. What made me take notice to Mr. Vais during his Business 101 class at Morton West High School is that he was the OWNER of Michael Anthony’s Pizza.
In other words, I looked at him with a different esteem because he spoke from experience as a business-owner, an entrepreneur, not just a teacher.
I reached out to Mr. Anthony “Tony” Vais after bumping into him years ago when my twins were born at the same hospital his granddaughter was born. My motivation was to simply thank him for inspiring me to become an entrepreneur.
Here are the notes I took after he agreed to having me treat him to lunch at Oakbrook Mall’s Wildfire Restaurant across the street from our office.
What he shared with me was teaching from the perspective of what he wanted his students to take away. It was less about the books and tests…it was the bottom line approach to his teaching style.
Confessions of My High School Business Teacher
1) Pave the road – if no one around you has done it, be the first to do it! Don’t let the limitations of what hasn’t been done keep you from getting what you want. Pave the road. Be bold and set out to discover new opportunities and ways to get what you want out of life. Don’t be satisfied with just “good enough”. Pave the road to go from good to great! You do it for your own personal satisfaction, knowing that you don’t go through life timid and indifferent.
While paving this road, there will be many failures and setbacks along the way. Suck it up. Someone that has built roads, the Internet and even education is paving the road! Make it better for the people that come behind you.
“…our first reaction to learning new things is DEFENSIVE. Our first instinct is to simply protect ourselves.” – Mr. Tony Vais
2) Beware of Your Initial Reaction – our first reaction to learning new things is DEFENSIVE. Our first instinct is to simply protect ourselves. As a teacher you have to break things down and let those that you hope to teach that you want to make them better. People want to protect themselves, their image they’ve been beat up so much. Let them know, “I’m on your side”!
…who decides WHO is going to get better? It’s the student.
Why do we have schools? Bottom line, it’s to make you better. But who decides WHO is going to get better? It’s the student. Are you making an investment in you…so you can get better?
So much pressure is on the teachers these days but it’s always been about the student. When you learn something new, for the rest of your life, consider what type of student you want to become in that moment.
Which leads him to his next point…boy was Mr. Vais on a roll.
3) Always Be THE Student – Who is the most important person between the student and the teacher? It’s the person receiving when being taught…they total control over what was heard or experienced. And BOTH student AND teacher can be learning AT the same time!
However, at the time things are taught, the student becomes the most important! What they do is for themselves from this point on. Either it takes on a new level or new life with that student or it is dead a buried.
Mr. Vais said, “Matt, you played sports here at Morton. Did you study? Did you want to keep getting better? Of course you did. Who determines that? YOU determined that. Make sure u use it!
One Final Thought on my First Book Suggestion in Business – Iacocca: An Autobiography
When paying for the bill, I asked Mr. Vais one last question. Why motivated you to have us all read Iacocca: An Autobiography, about how Lee Iacocca turned around Chrysler?
He leaned back, speaking from his heart and said, “Matt, I know many of my students have fathers that are blue-collar workers. Majority of you living in this area see their dads leave for work, punch in and punch out. They make a living, do the best they can and bring home the income what a blue collar job will pay. But I know what life is like as an entrepreneur. I know what life is like having a job versus owning my business.”
Whoa, it got deep for me as he continued. “Matt, I felt that if I were to help just ONE of my students see the other side of taking a blue collar upbringing into owning your own business, it would change their world. It’s another level up for that family. That’s why I had my students read the book, to hopefully inspire a generation, to consider owning their own business…just like I have.”
“I felt that if I were to help just ONE of my students see the other side of taking a blue collar upbringing into owning your own business, it would change their world. It’s another level up for that family.” – Mr. Anthony Vais
Holy moly. It was then, that my respect for Mr. Tony Vais shot through the roof. He was an entrepreneur that wasn’t all about the money.
He was an entrepreneur that wanted to change lives.