Dave Burgess is the New York Times Best-Selling author of Teach Like a PIRATE, co-author of P is for PIRATE, and the president of Dave Burgess Consulting, Inc. which delivers powerful, inspirational, and innovative books, keynotes, and professional development.

He specializes in teaching hard-to-reach, hard-to-motivate students with techniques that incorporate showmanship and creativity.  At a recent ceremony in Washington, D.C., he was awarded the BAMMY for Secondary School Teacher of the Year by the Academy of Education Arts and Sciences.

Dave delivers the ultimate professional development experience for your teachers that is perfect for all circumstances from truly inspirational opening keynotes to full-day hands-on workshops.  It is a high-energy, interactive, and entertaining experience that will leave your staff unbelievably inspired, motivated, and with the practical skills to dramatically increase student engagement.

You can read more about Dave here.

Disrupting the Publishing Industry with Dave Burgess Consulting

by Dave Burgess

Show Highlights

  • Disrupting the publishing industry 
  • The “snowball” theory to creating cultural change in school
  • How to use social media to connect and community build
  • Running a business with a laptop and kitchen table
  • Are you creating a place for people to come together?
  • The importance of spreading your message
  • You can’t announce change from the podium
Full Transcript Available Here

New Speaker: 01:12 Welcome to the show, Dave.

Dave: 02:38 Glad to join you. Thanks for having me on.

Daniel: 02:40 So you’re a ruckus maker for sure, right? You make change happen and you break free from the status quo. You did that in a very much realistic way, right, with Dave Burgess Consulting, with your publishing company and you absolutely disrupted the publishing industry. Can you give us the story of why? Why did you do that?

Dave: 03:05 Yeah, so I was traveling, speaking about Teach Like a Pirate for years and years and years before there was a book, which is I think something a lot of people don’t understand is all the work that went on the front end. I would go anywhere, anyone would listen to me and talk about these ideas and I just submitted conference proposals all over the nation and if any conference in any state said, Hey, you can come do your pirate thing here, I got a plane ticket, registration, a hotel room, and I went, I did my thing. Nobody knew who I was at that point. I was just a crazy guy walking around these conferences dressed like a pirate, right? So I can remember being at the NCSS Conference in Washington DC and a publisher sat in on my session. They wanted to meet with me afterwards.

Dave: 03:43 They offered me a publishing contract and I went straight up into my hotel room and I Googled publishing contracts because I thought she was trying to cheat me and then when I Googled publishing contracts, I came to find out she was not trying to cheat me. That’s what they look like and to me the only thing missing was a ski mask and a gun and so I couldn’t believe that this is my intellectual property. I’m going to travel around and speak about this stuff. I’m going to build a social media platform, I’m going to do all these things and you make how much money and I make how much money. It just made no sense to me. And they wanted to take creative control of the project. They wanted to remove the edgy stuff, they wanted to take out the rants about the overemphasis on standardized test scores.

Dave: 04:20 They said, no administrator will support this book with that stuff in there. But I knew a secret because I was married to an administrator. I knew the secret is that a lot of administrators were frustrated that overemphasis too and they said it was too personal. They had wanted to make all these changes and so we did a ton of research. We said, you know what? We don’t need to sign this. You don’t need to sign this contract. And so we formed our own publishing company and we published Teach Like a Pirate right from the kitchen table, right off of a laptop at the kitchen table is where we published this book. And it kinda hit us that when you see an industry that’s based on an outdated model, it’s time for it to be disrupted.

Dave: 04:54 And we thought the publishing industry was based on outdated model. So we said, you know what, we’re going to drive some of these big companies crazy. We’re going to disrupt this industry. And so once Teach Like a Pirate took off other people started to come to us and say, Hey, we don’t want to sign those contracts either. How are you doing this? And eventually we said, you know what? We’ll put their books out too. And so now we publish all told over 100 different books and we still run the business right out of our house.

Daniel: 05:19 That’s amazing. And so doing this now for years, hundred books out there, has there been a a proudest moment when you look back and just say, wow, that was neat. We were able to do this.

Dave: 05:31 Yeah. You know what? So I think it was for the last two years we’ve made the Inc. 5000 for fastest growing privately-held companies in the United States. And so to think about where we started, I was a full-time practicing teacher. Shelly was a principal, then moving into the district office and we literally ran the business off a laptop at the kitchen table, still do that and then to make the Inc. 5000 list two years in a row for fastest growing companies in the U.S. I think that was it.

Daniel: 06:04 Yeah. I can only imagine the emotions that you feel when you make that kind of list. And the interesting thing about that is like you said, a laptop, a kitchen table, you’re bringing us to that place. It doesn’t seem like you have to have this big system and team. And a lot of times we get frozen by maybe the fear or the idea of what we think we need to be successful. But that’s not necessarily the case.

Dave: 06:32 Absolutely not. So it was about community building for us and authentically interacting with educators. And a lot of people will see, they write a book and then they want to walk away. We look at the book as a start. The book is the start, right? That’s the beginning. That’s where now let’s connect. Let’s collaborate. Let’s create a space where people can come together and discuss these ideas, which is just like something that I think you’ve done a brilliant job of with what you do and you’ve created a place for likeminded people to come and connect and lift each other up. I was listening to a history of rock and roll DVD series and Jerry Garcia from the Grateful Dead was talking about what they do and what he said was something that was fascinating.

Dave: 07:18 What the Grateful Dead said, Why are all these people traveling around and following the Grateful Dead, the Deadheads. And his point was, it’s not necessarily about us, but what we have done is created a place for people to come together to ritualize, a place to come together where people say, Oh, there’s other people like me and this is a space that I like to be in. And so they are just a part of that scene. They just happened to have the best seats because they’re on stage but they’re just a part of a scene. What really the brilliance of the Grateful Dead was that they created a place for people to ritualize and that’s what we feel that we’ve done with some of these online communities in the hashtags, like the tlap hashtag and leadlap and these things that they start with a book, right, but then it’s really a place for people to come together to ritualize.

Daniel: 08:06 It’s an interesting point because a lot of people think, okay the book’s over now I’m done. But what you’re saying you flip in that paradigm on its head. That is just the beginning that the work continues and it’s more so too to connect people, to help the leaders that you serve, the educators you serve to say there’s other people just like me and people like us do things like this. Here’s where we connect and you’re able to do that. Can you go into a bit about maybe your method or how you think about building community on social media? Because the ruckus maker listening, they might be an author or they’re a budding author or they are definitely a school leader and they definitely want to build community with the stakeholders they serve.

Dave: 08:52 Yeah. So when I’m talking to people about social media or something like Twitter, I was told that the hashtags are the key to unlocking all the treasures of Twitter because that’s a place where you can build that community. Where you can have a place where people come together and ideas.

Dave: 09:12 And so for almost all the books we have a hashtag and that’s a place where you can share ideas. That’s the place where you can interact with authors and for our reader, when you tweet something about a book and that author shows up and interacts with you and talks to you about the ideas, that’s a big moment for a reader. And so that’s something that we really encourage our authors to do is to make sure that they’re, I call it stalking the hashtag. Like you should be stalking your hashtag and when when I started, I’m not quite as good at this as I used to be, but when I started, if you said something about teach like a pirate online, you would be almost thinking that I was looking over your shoulder while you were typing your tweets because I would show up so fast and interact with the person. And at anytime of the day if someone mentioned tlap or two second power online, I was there like you put a bat light into the sky and to talk and interact with these people. So as a matter of being relentless in trying to build that community and be a connector of others. And so if you can be a connector of other people, and again it’s like Jerry Garcia said, if you can create a place, will people want to come and ritualize and find that positive, uplifting spirit, then you can be highly successful. It used to be there are no more geographic barriers in the world.

Dave: 10:33 And so you can take and you can have an internet connection and you can spread your message. It’s about amplifying your impact. And so now through social media you have a great opportunity to amplify your impact and most of these platforms are free, which is just absolutely stunning, amazing. When people talk about, what’s keeping them from spreading their message, I’m like, what do you mean you’ve just got to have an internet connection and you can spread your message across the entire world. That’s something that we’re in the greatest, greatest period of history ever of all time to be able to create a movement and spread a message.

Daniel: 11:05 Yeah, it’s like a technological revolution and as long as you have that kitchen table, you have that laptop and an internet connection, you can get your message out there. Podcasting, not necessarily free, but it’s very inexpensive and that’s unlocked tens of thousands of listeners that I have the pleasure of serving every single month. And now in the leadership community in the mastermind, we have members from six different countries around the world, right.

Daniel: 11:31 And it’s just amazing to see how they’re causing a ruckus in the schools where they serve. So you just saw though the documentary with Jerry Garcia if I was tracking with you correctly, and if we rewound the tape, did you know what you were doing building those hashtags or was it more that you just uncovered it and you learn and you iterated or was that the plan as you were building it?

Dave: 11:58 I think it was something that became apparent as we were doing it. And that goes to this whole idea. So one of the things that’s happened is that the gatekeepers have disappeared. And so that was one of the things that we saw in the publishing industry. Where it used to be that the publishing company had all the leverage because they were the gatekeeper. In order to have your book on the shelf at the bookstore, you had to have the big publisher to get you in the door, right? But now if your book is on Amazon, you’re for real and anyone can be on Amazon. And yet the publishing companies still walk around with these contracts, like they have that leverage that no longer exists. And so that’s like one of the differences that’s happened, and then social media used to be like you have to have an ad campaign and you have to have all kinds of money to be able to promote.

Dave: 12:45 But now through social media, that’s disappeared. You can, if you’re relentless, you have hustle, creativity and you put the sweat equity into it, right,? the community building and connecting, then you can get rid of that gatekeeper. And then the other gatekeeper that disappeared was a technological one. So you have the distribution through Amazon but also through print on demand publishing. And so it used to be that in order to be economically feasible, you’d have to print off huge runs of books. So if you are self-published you’d have a garage full of boxes of books. But now through print on demand publishing, that gatekeeper has gone as well. And so like one of my favorite quotes of all time is Seth Godin’s quote. He said, and this is one that inspired me at the very start of this, he said, “Reject the tyranny of picked. Pick yourself.” And so you don’t have to be chosen. You don’t have to raise your hand. You don’t have to get permission from anyone. You can go put your work into the world now.

Daniel: 13:45 Yeah. The permission is already there. You just have to give it to yourself and remove that upper limit challenge you may face. You’re a living example of that. I am, the podcast is out there now. I get to do what I do. The Roadmap, which I wrote, you know, on Amazon, it gets printed on demand like you said, one-to-one. One gets ordered, one gets printed, and that’s how it works. And it’s amazing. You just have to pick yourself. Snowball theory. I think you have an interesting riff here and idea, and I know the ruckus maker listening is very interested in creating cultural change in their school. So what is the snowball theory?

Dave: 14:25 Yeah. So a lot of times leaders will come to me and talk to me about creating cultural change with their school. Or you know, I would like to see this flourish in my school system. How can I do that? And I always tell them that look you can’t announce change from the podium. Change is something that is built at a grassroots level. And so if for example, if you wanted to build a giant snowball and you went out into the snow and you tried to grab it all up in your arms at one time, what would happen? It would crumble away and you’d wind up with nothing. That’s not the way you build a giant snowball. The way you build giant snowballs, you get a little bit in your hands and you pack it tight and you shape it and you mold it.

Dave: 15:01 And then when that’s packed tight and shaped and molded, then you add a little bit more, a little bit more. Eventually it gets big enough. We can set it on the ground and you can roll it and the snow will start to stick and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger. Right? That’s the same way you build cultural change across a school system is you’re never going to get everyone to change at the same time. You’re never going to get buy-in from everyone right at the beginning. But you find the people that do want to be a part of something innovative, do want to be a part of something creative, do want to be a part of this movement and you work with them and you shape and mold that group and you put your energy there and then the energy and enthusiasm that radiates out from that group starts to attract other people in and then you welcome them into the fold and eventually it gets big enough where you can set it down in your school system and roll it out, but it always starts with that.

Dave: 15:44 That small group. It’s a a group of people in a room sitting around a room, like in a teacher lounge or sitting in somebody’s classroom at lunch or whatever it might be. It’s always that small group that you start with, but too many people allow their energy to be dissipated by the negativity or apathy that might exist in certain places on their campus rather than focusing that energy where it’s going to be the most effective, which is those people that do want to move forward with you. If you wait for everyone to be with you in order to move, you’ll never go anywhere.

Daniel: 16:11 Well, I’m really enjoying this conversation, Dave. We’re going to pause here just for a moment so we can get a message from our sponsors, but when we get back, we’re going to talk about an event that you’re putting together that’s going to attract these kinds of people that you’re talking about, that want to make change happen, and you have a really awesome opportunity. Better Leaders Better Schools is proudly sponsored by Organized Binder, a program which gives students daily exposure to goal setting, reflective learning, time and task management, study strategies, organizational skills, and more. Organized Binder’s color-coded system is implemented by the teacher with the students, helping them create a predictable and dependable classroom routine. Learn more and improve your students’ executive functioning and noncognitive skills at organizedbinder.com.

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Daniel: 18:25 Alright, and we’re back with Dave Burgess and we were talking about the snowball theory. We were talking about how he disrupted the publishing industry using social media to build a community. And now we’re going to talk about a first where you’re tracking other people that want to make change happen for the DBC Pirate Con, an adventurous uncommon PD experience. It’s happening June 12th through the 14th. Tell us about this event, Dave.

Dave: 18:53 Yeah, absolutely. So we are pumped up, excited about this. People have been talking to and asking us to put on a conference for years and years and years. And we just kind of held off because we wanted it to be something special and we think we’ve created something special now. So DBC Pirate Con is the hashtag. It’s June 12th to 14th in San Diego, California. There are going to be over 50 different Dave Burgess Consulting Incorporated authors speaking at the conference.

Dave: 19:24 And so like, in order to see all of these authors speak, you’d have to go to probably at least 20 different conferences. We’re bringing them all together in one place – San Diego, California, June 12th through the 14th. We have amazing keynotes. We have strands from math, social justice and equity to leadership, to innovative teaching strategies. And we’re going to bring the community together for two and a half days and just completely blow it out of the water and just provide a professional development experience, unlike any that you’ve ever seen.

Daniel: 20:00 I want to go just for San Diego, but the fact that you’re throwing the conference makes it that much sweeter. And just so the ruckus maker knows that’s listening, we’ll have the link there for you in the show notes so you can register.

Daniel: 20:14 I don’t know if there’s one or two previews you can wet our appetite or things you’re most excited about. I know, like you said, over 50 speakers, you’d have to go to 20 different conferences just to see them all that they’re going to be all in one place. But what would be the one or two highlights that you’re really looking forward to?

Dave: 20:32 So I think that we’ve put together some general sessions. We’ll make sure that there are certain people, everybody gets a chance to see, and there’s been a lot of buzz online about Hamish Brewer and his relentless message as the tattooed skateboarding principal. And so he’s going to be our closing keynote on Sunday. And so he’s getting bigger and bigger on the speaking circuit, but there’s still a lot of people that haven’t seen Hamish live. And so that’s going to be an incredible experience for people.

Dave: 21:00 We’re bringing in Kim Bearden, cofounder of the Ron Clark Academy to do one of the keynotes and she’s absolutely fantastic, amazing. She wrote a book for us called Talk to Me, writing another book with us now. So to see the cofounder of the Ron Clark Academy, I think it’s going to be a big deal. We have George Couros – Innovator’s Mindset, Innovate Inside the Box doing a keynote. Jimmy Casas wrote Culturize and a couple of other books with us. And I’ll kick it off on the first morning of the conference doing the Teach Like a Pirate keynote. So people having a chance to see the Teach Like a Pirate keynote live, that’ll be there too. And and then, like I said, there’s over 50 different other authors that are going to be there live in session rooms. So each session there’s going to be about 13 different rooms going. So you’ll have 13 authors to choose from every single session of the conference. I think the hardest thing is going to be deciding where to go.

Daniel: 21:53 Yeah, that is going to be quite a challenge. So in some respects just flip a coin because wherever you’re going to end up it’s going to be amazing. That’s for sure. Dave, if you could put a message on all school marquees around the world just for a day, what would that message say?

Dave: 22:10 So I think that one of the core messages that I try to get across to educators is that we are in the life changing business to embrace the mighty, your purpose of being an educator. And that the content standard is just the tip of the iceberg. A small part of what we do and education and what this school system is about is so much deeper than that. And so it would have to be a message about embracing the mightier purpose of what we do. And so it’s not about, like I always tell people when I’m doing my civil rights unit, there’s two different things. What’s most important to me, whether they know all the different elements of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or that they’re more willing to stand up and fight against oppression and injustice and to be a change agent in the world. Well, obviously it’s the latter, right? But only one of those is measured on the test. And so tests only cover a small part of what we do as educators. And so I’m really out there trying to convince people to embrace that mightier purpose.

Daniel: 23:17 You’re building a school from the ground up. You’re not limited by any resources. Your only limitation is your imagination. How would you build your dreams school and what would be your top three priorities?

Dave: 23:29 So I think that a dream school starts with a staff that is on fire about education, on fire about kids, and see kids as human beings, not as test-taking automatons. I want to start with the staff. I want to start with the innovative curriculum that has flexibility, ability to personalize non-scripted and it gives kids a chance to explore some of their talents and passions as a part of what they do in the school system. And then also I think that a focus on mindset and like an entrepreneurial mindset, not just on memorization. I tell people we want to have makers, not memorizers, creators, not consumers. We’re not trying to put better trivial pursuit players into the world. It used to be that one of those gatekeepers in the world was information – who has it, who doesn’t?

Dave: 24:21 Now everyone has all the information. You can pull up anything on your phone, right? And so I think school has in some cases been slow to transform based on that current reality. Right? And so we want schools that where kids can go out in the world and do stuff. You want makers, not memorizers, creators, not consumers. So our real focus on what are students doing, creating, making, and how are they ready to go out into the world and become a change agent.

Daniel: 24:48 Dave, thanks so much for being a part of the Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast. For the ruckus maker. listening again, the show notes definitely check out the DBC Pirate Con. You’ll have a link there where you can register. Of all the things we talked about today what’s the one thing you want a ruckus maker to remember?

Dave: 25:06 Reject the tyranny of picked. Pick yourself. Put your work out into the world. We desperately need it and there’s nobody stopping you and give yourself definition

Daniel: 25:23 Thanks for listening to the Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast for ruckus maker. If you have a question or would like to connect my email, [email protected] or hit me up on Twitter @alienearbud. If the Better Leaders Better Schools Podcast is helping you grow as a school leader, then please help us serve more ruckus makers like you. You can subscribe, leave an honest rating and review or share on social media with your biggest takeaway from the episode. Extra credit for tagging me on Twitter @alienearbud and using the # BLBS. Level up your leadership at betterleadersbetterschools.com and talk to you next time. Until then, class dismissed.




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