Dustin McKissen, CAE, CME
Dustin McKissen, CAE, CME
Teach elementary school for 7,000 years, or fail as a CEO? The pay is the same.
May 22, 2016 • 384 Likes • 45 Comments

When my son was a toddler he would find a random spot to hide, and then poop in that spot. Under our bed was a favorite place. Suddenly my wife and I would realize we hadn’t seen Dylan in 10 minutes, which would be followed with the realization that we were about to go on the world’s worst treasure hunt.


Usually it would take us a while to find the poop, but the source of such a powerful stink always has a way of making itself known.

One time he made it easy on us.

We walked into our bedroom, and there stood our naked son, facing our bedroom wall. He had pooped on the floor, then got one of my wife’s shoes and used his “leavings” to paint her a picture, using the shoe as a brush.

It was the first of two times I would see my wife literally burst into tears. Seriously. She was projectile crying.

(The other would come a couple of years later when our youngest daughter—in an attempt to make herself look like her doll “Caitlin”—would leave cuts on her scalp from a self-administered haircut. Damn you, American Girl, and your impossible hair goals.)

The Value of an Education

Our son painted his masterpiece right around the time he started attending his first year of preschool.

Things have changed since then.

Two days ago he completed elementary school, and next year he will start what our district calls “intermediate school”, which is for 5th and 6th graders. Basically, my little man is starting “junior junior high school”.

Except, he’s not so little anymore. Yesterday he got his first phone.

And today he asked me to watch a documentary with him that he had already seen, called Catching the Sun, which is about the green economy, solar power, and jobs. During the movie they show an extended clip of John F. Kennedy’s famous “Moon Speech”, and my son could repeat every word of it. 

In a chunk of years that seemed to go by in a flash my son went from painting poop pictures with my wife’s shoe to a Kennedy quoting kid who rang up all “4”s on his report card.

A lot of that change is the result of time, some of it (hopefully) is parenting, but a lot of who my son is comes from spending years in the company of truly amazing teachers.

Teachers that, at least in Missouri, make on average a little less than $50,000 per year.

The Cost of an Education

Quick question: How many years does it take to earn $55,000,000 at $50,000 per year?

It would take 1,100 years.

That’s how many years a teacher would have to work to earn the same amount Marissa Mayer may receive in a severance package if Yahoo is bought out. In the event that she manages to stay at Yahoo for another year and a half she may earn total compensation of up to $365 million dollars.

Quick question: How many years would it take to earn $365,000,000 at $50,000 per year?

It would take 7,300 years.

A teacher would have to begin their work about 3,000 years before Hammurabi ruled the First Babylonian Dynasty in order to earn as much as Marissa Mayer did in 5 years at Yahoo.

And what did Yahoo get in return? Apparently, a whole lot of nothing.

Is that all Marissa Mayer’s fault? No. Maybe none of it is. Maybe Yahoo is just an antiquated brand or a no longer viable business model. Maybe turning the business around was next to impossible. But shouldn’t a payday worth more than seven millennia of teacher’s salaries be reserved for achieving the next to impossible?

(Of course, there is an argument to be made that the whole system is out of whack, and our society’s values have gone completely off the rails when any executive is being paid this much to essentially figure out a way to sell us more stuff we don’t need. But that is a separate post.)

An unsuccessful executive receiving a huge payout for failing to achieve a next to impossible goal with little to no societal benefit even if it were achieved is nothing new. It’s so “not new” that it’s really not even news anymore.

Or, maybe it is.

Maybe it’s one of the reasons why so many people are so justifiably angry. Maybe it’s why this presidential campaign has been so different.

Maybe this campaign really isn’t about walls, or free college tuition, or one specific policy proposal from any one candidate.

Maybe—like my wife and I on the hunt for poop all of those years ago—it’s about trying to find and fix the source of the stink.


Dustin McKissen is the founder of McKissen + Company, and was recently named one of LinkedIn’s “Top Voices on Management and Corporate Culture”. He is also the author of “The Brand New Entrepreneur” on

You can find him on Twitter @DMcKissen, or reach him at
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Dustin McKissen, CAE, CME
Dustin McKissen, CAE, CME

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    Thomas Henry Boehm
    Thomas Henry Boehm
    Circular Knitting Machine Mechanic at Stanfield’s Ltd.
    “I completely agree, but as a Canadian watching your election, isn’t getting Trump to look for the source of the stink like buying a rubber hammer to pound in that nail that you keep hooking your sock on?”
        Like(5)Reply(2)1 day ago
    LikersRyan Cooley, Susan Dravis, Lorraine Fernandes, +2
        Paul Costello
        Paul Costello
        Senior Business Analyst
        “No. As a Canadian watching the election: Turn the channel, you are too ignorant to understand any of it.”
            Like1 hour ago
        Dustin McKissen, CAE, CME
        Dustin McKissen, CAE, CME
        “Best comment ever.”
            Like(5)1 day ago
        LikersRyan Cooley, Jesse Roy, Doug Warminski, +2
    Anees Merzi, CISSP
    Anees Merzi, CISSP
    Leads IT teams to automate processes: See More
    “Why should the pay be equal when the stress, responsibility, and accountability of a CEO is 7,000 times harder than an elementary school teacher? We should make teaching more competitive as the investment would pay off high dividends for our future generations.  ”
        Like(5)Reply(3)1 day ago
    LikersPaul Costello, William Reith, Samira Akpan, +2
        William Reith
        William Reith
        Data Scientist at Booz Allen Hamilton
        “Thank you. As someone who tutored to pay for college taught as a graduate student and at a small college throwing more money at teachers is not the answer. It is the political answer only. Simple easy to get and completely lacking in understanding of he actual problem. I will never teach high school for any amount of money because of the issues I saw my mother put up with for 30 years. If you want to compare teaching to business and it’s pay then compare the inability to be fired the union control and compete lack of competition.”
            Like5 hours ago
        Samira Akpan
        Samira Akpan
        Goal Digger ✔ Project Leader►Learning Gamification Guru ✔ Community Spark & GSK University Recruitment Advocate
        “Fair point. And is it different than a police officer, a mayor, or other public roles where they face life or death decisions?”
            Like(4)17 hours ago
        LikersSusan Dravis, Nico BRUNI, Etienne Uzac, +1
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