By: Tamarah B
The Million-Dollar Question
I’ve been tutoring on Cambly full time for about three years now, just a few hours shy of 10,000 chats at this point. And, without fail, at least twice a week, I get asked the same question.
Student: So what’s your real job?
Student: I mean, this isn’t your only job, right? What do you do for your actual work?
Me: (Mentally rolling my eyes) Actually, I teach full time on Cambly these days.
Then I tilt my head to the side, give them a bright, relaxed smile and pause because I know what comes next.
Student: (confused), but… you were a CEO, couldn’t you make a lot more money doing that?
At this point, I laugh because it’s true.
I could, and have in the past, made 5x or more the financial compensation I make on Cambly if I were to start another company or take on an executive-level role in another organization.
And no matter how many times I’m asked or answer this innocent (or glaringly obvious) question, I’m challenged to articulate with complete authenticity exactly WHY.
How did teaching a few hours a week become not only my full-time job but quite possibly the role I have loved most in my entire career?
Rockstar To Rock Bottom
At 48 years old, I’ve been a CEO for over half of my life. I Founded or Co-Founded three different startup companies in 3 other industries: publishing, luxury goods and software development.
I served as the Executive Director for a multimillion-dollar private charitable foundation, a Partner in a Landscape Design + Construction company and a few years here and there as a Business Strategy Consultant.
Some were big wins, some were learning experiences, and one was a soul-crushing, mind-numbing, identity crisis inducing loss.
The last company I Co-Founded was a kind of moonshot.
What’s a moonshot, you ask? I would describe it as: it’s when you get a group of brilliant people together to tackle something that needs to be done, that seems nearly impossible and that no one knows how to do yet – with enormous enthusiasm (and funding).
And that’s precisely what we set out to do for the philanthropic sector.
We wanted to create a way to use technology to massively speed up the decision-making process that gets money from big companies and foundations to the charities that need the money to do good stuff in the world.
We pitched our idea, raised lots of money, got lots of attention in the media and built our working prototype. It was insanely complicated, arduous and exhilarating all at the same time.
We were living the dream. Everyone was applauding us and wanting to partner with us. We felt like rockstars. We were going to change the world!
And then, with one email – it was over. With no explanation, our funding evaporated.
Suddenly our eager partners disappeared, everyone was laid off. Our office space, once humming with energy, was silent as a grave.
I spent a year trying to raise funds to revive the company but failed. A crushing failure led me down a path of anxiety, anger, depression, and eventually losing my self-identity.
That’s when I found Cambly
After spending all of my savings, losing my home, auctioning off all of my possessions and in the throes of a dark depression, I still needed to create an income.
But I had no spark for creating something new; I had no energy to put into another executive role, and after such a failure – who was I to lead anyone?
I decided to look for something I could do 100% online using the essential resources I had at the time – my mind and my laptop.
Somehow I stumbled across an article on English tutoring. After a bit of research, I decided to apply to Cambly.
I wasn’t terribly invested in the outcome, but it seemed like an exciting and easy way to generate some income while I figured out what I would do with my life.
When I was accepted and signed up for my first Priority Hour, I had no idea how this would radically change my life over the next three years.
Becoming a beginner again, or better yet, “WTH am I even doing?”
The first days, weeks and months on Cambly were anxiety-inducing, frustrating and fun.
I know, right? That’s a pretty weird combination.
But the thing about doing something new is you aren’t good at it for a while. And this can make you feel like you won’t be good at it, and you should just quit, especially when you are used to being good at something else.
But here’s the thing – this process is true for everything you’ll ever do when you’re a beginner.
You don’t know what to do; you don’t know how to do it. You know other people are successful at it, so it must be possible.
But there’s a lot of trial and error at this point. You experiment, and you figure out what works, what doesn’t and why. Then you make some adjustments and try again.
Then one day, magically, it starts to click. You find your rhythm. And it starts to feel fun because you’re getting pretty good at it.
Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose
I’ve discovered that tutoring on Camly offers me an extraordinary opportunity to experience work that meets the essential criteria I need to enjoy what I’m doing to earn money – autonomy, mastery and purpose.
Autonomy, because I have complete control of my day and can design or redesign my schedule, which students I accept reservations with, and my classes’ conversational style and content.
When it comes to mastery, Cambly is a phenomenal opportunity to experience many challenges that student by student and country by country allows me to work on my problem-solving skills, improve my communication skills, and increase my emotional quotient.
But purpose is by far the most important for me. Cambly’s business model is conversation-driven learning. Yes, it’s about improving English. But it’s not English for the sake of English for my students or me. It’s about improving lives.
It’s about creating a transformative impact.
My students want to talk about the struggles in their lives, the opportunities they wish to pursue, the ideas they want to express, the relationships they want to build.
English is the tool that will allow them to get a better job, move to a better country, start or grow their business, speak impressively or persuasively with confidence and develop better relationships.
Every student is entirely different, and yet they share the same desire. To actively grow into the person they believe they are capable of becoming. They seek advice, guidance, knowledge, correction, suggestions, explanations and expertise.
So, what’s the answer?
If this was supposed to be temporary and you can earn more money, why do you still work at Cambly?
I tell my students that I’m taking a break from the business world because I want to meet new people and learn about other cultures; I like helping people get better at English and achieve their goals.
But I’ll tell you the absolute truth.
It’s because I wake up every day knowing I have no idea what I will talk about for the next 7 hours.
It could be artificial intelligence, project management, how to fill out a Business Model Canvas, the step by step process to launching a new business venture, practising and refining a speech for Toastmasters, preparing for a job interview, or cryptocurrency trading.
We may discuss the new BTS album release, transformational breathing practices, making sense of verb tenses, or debating the idea if we are living in a simulation.
The list of topics, the depth and breadth of the conversations vary wildly.
There is never a day where I’m not intensely intellectually and emotionally stimulated, challenged and engaged.
Day after day, I see my students struggling, improving and growing. I get to be a catalyst for that growth.
Their improvements, achievements and enthusiastic, positive feedback about how their lives are changing for the better because of our classes together are a salve for my soul.
Cambly is the conduit for all these conversations and connections.
English is the path. But the impact on thousands of lives is the payoff. I don’t know how to put a price on that. But it’s the highest form of compensation I’ve ever received.
That’s why I teach on Cambly
About the Writer
Tamarah is an energetic, positive and fun tutor currently living in sunny South Carolina, USA. A former CEO of startups for 20+ years, she’s led over 10,000 sessions on Cambly. She has a blast chatting about starting and building companies, public speaking, anything involving food and drink, the big questions in life, finding your purpose, travel, branding and design.