What Are You a Student Of?

I would love to be able to say that I found Dan Carlin1 early, that I have been a listener for years and years and “knew him when,” but I can’t.  I am something of a Johnny-come-lately (four years ago) when it comes to Hardcore History.  I devoured his hours-long podcasts on the Kahns, World War I, and so many others.  So much to take in, so much to feast on.  When I tried to convince my husband to start listening, I knew in trying to explain it that I was doing the podcast a disservice.  See, there is little else in a Hardcore History podcast besides Dan Carlin talking.  Particularly as the show developed they started dropping background music and sound effects and it evolved to, well, hours and hours of Dan talking.  That’s it.  Just him.  Talking.  For hours.  The crazy part?  It is absolutely mesmerizing.

Dan will tell you, and does so often, that he is not a Historian.  He is a “history lover.”  He is not a history professor; he just loves history so much that he spends his days with it.  He loves it so much that he reads it in his spare time, thinks about it, studies it, and produces ridiculously fascinating podcasts.

To start off one of his podcasts that I recently listened to, he said something that stuck with me.  I’m pretty sure it was not anything important to him, but it made me think about teaching and interacting with others in a way that I had not thought about.  He said, “I’m not a teacher of history.  I’m a student of history.”  Thinking about how much I have learned from listening to his podcasts, I would argue that he has taught me as much as any other history teacher in my past—even the teachers that I loved.  I think that this philosophy is why.

Perhaps it is time to stop thinking of ourselves as “teachers of…” and start asking “What am I a student of?”

What do you love?  What are you passionate about?  What do you spend your time thinking about, reading about, talking about?  What excites your minds, provides fulfillment, and opens up something new to learn every time you think you’ve found the end of the path?

These are the topics we should be focusing on.  We feel drawn to them, “called” by them, if you will.  There is a reason for that.  Calls are never random or coincidental; we are drawn to certain things for a purpose, and that purpose is usually so we can not only improve our own lives, but to also turn outward and improve things for those around us.  If we listen to those Calls, we find fulfillment, joy, and meaning in ways we otherwise don’t.

But I want to take this just a bit further and ask perhaps the most dangerous question: are those topics that you are drawn to what you spending your days sharing with others?  Are you a teacher of things you aren’t a student of?  Do you spend your days immersed in things you don’t truly care about, don’t want to learn more about, and don’t feel any connection to?

If so, it might be time to look for a different path.


  1. Dan’s podcasts can be found here. Be warned: they are addictive.