I remember the phone call clearly.
‘It’s motivation week at Chase High School and we’d love it if you could spare us some time and tell the kids about your career during our year 8 assembly’.
Here I was a week later, sitting through the hub-bub and murmur of a school hall filling up with 12–13 year olds.
I had already decided what the school was after was going to be almost as boring to talk about as it was to listen to.
I made one request of myself. Whatever I presented had to either get me escorted from the building or invited back for more.
Anything in-between would be a failure.
Where do you start when it comes to motivating a school year? You certainly don’t spend too much time talking about yourself.
So after spending a minute or two on my career to date. I spent another minute or so describing life as a very average school ghost, haunting the corridors and classrooms invisible to most of my year.
Lets face it, not every kid is a jock, a chic geek or just plain cool.
With the consistent feedback filling my young ears ‘Must try harder’, I left School with little in qualifications and an overwhelming desire to design film posters.
Already I’m starting to question my ability or even my experience to make a difference to these kids.
And if you can’t make a difference (or at least you’re not going to try) then what’s the point in standing up in the first place?
So the rest of the presentation (about 15 minutes) was used as a social experiment.
I wanted to see if the stuff I believed in, loved and loathed was the same as what kids today believed in, loved and loathed.
I also wanted to know if this stuff still had any resonance with the ‘me’ right here, right now and what bearing it had on my career.
In a nutshell the answer was a resounding ‘yes’.
Speedier expectations apart, the kids of today are no different from the kids of yesterday.
We all hate going to bed and hate getting up even more.
Most of us love films.
We all love video games.
Everyone hated apples (ok, ok only a smattering of us agreed that apples are vile).
Rude words are still funny no matter how old you are.
And there was a definite leaning towards the thought that you learn as much in the playground as the classroom.
I admitted that I still dilly-dally between wanting to kiss girls or kick footballs more. That question was probably a year too soon for this bunch.
I find sad songs sadder than sad films – that was a room splitter with the majority disagreeing.
We all love pop music.
And finally we spoke about being scared of horror films but still watching them, which surprisingly quite a few agreed with. Especially at their age.
But what was the point of those questions? What did I learn?
Quite a bit was the short answer.
There wasn’t much to learn from whether they shared my hatred of apples, but it did lighten the mood.
And the whole bedtime/wake-up debacle was really just a lesson in some things just are, you just have to get on with your day, no matter how tiring.
What we did learn from my love of films, or more importantly film posters was the importance of finding something that helped carry me through school. It gave me a purpose that led me to better things. Something that double physics could never do.
A love for pop music taught me that things move on. Don’t get left behind. Horror films helped me understand things are scary but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t face them.
To kick or to kiss?
Well life is full of decisions, don’t leave them to other people and don’t worry if you get them wrong. We all do, it’s part of life. But don’t kiss footballs and kick girls. That is behaviour to be frowned upon.
Video games, well gaming can give you focus. Especially if like the younger me you’re saving up for 6 months to get a Spectrum 48k. This taught me about endurance and that great stuff doesn’t just happen straight away.
The playground taught me social skills that have been invaluable to me throughout my life.
But finally at the end of it, no matter what chances and successes I have enjoyed throughout my career, I learnt that ‘Must try harder’ wasn’t a curse or a moan.
‘Must try harder’ was in fact a way to live everyday, no matter what it might bring or how successful you are.