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Speaker

Charle Peck — Keynote Speaker and School Mental Health Consultant

Charle Peck — Keynote Speaker and School Mental Health Consultant
About Charle Peck

Charle Peck (@CharlePeck) is the co-creator of Thriving School Community, a revolutionary program designed for schools to improve the mental health of staff and students. She holds an MS in Education and an MS in Social Work as a 20+ year veteran in education (K-12).

As a global keynote speaker, she delivers powerful messages of hope to educators and facilitates meaningful professional development to equip adults with tools that integrate into everyday practice. Her unique lens as a high school teacher turned clinical therapist who has worked closely with adolescents and families in crisis makes her stories relevant and captivating to those struggling in today’s system.

You can purchase her book “Improving School Mental Health: The Thriving School Community Solution” on Amazon. You can also listen to Charle’s podcast “Thriving Educator” and connect with her via email charle@thrivingeducator.org, on Twitter + LinkedIn @CharlePeck.

Connect with Charle: Email | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter | Facebook

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

Thriving School Community Program

Graduate Programs at Niagara University

Master of Social Work (MSW) – Wilfrid Laurier University

Improving School Mental Health: The Thriving School Community Solution

Thriving Educator Podcast

TSC Virtual Summit

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma
Welcome back to another episode on the High Performing Educator podcast. Today I am so excited. I was connected to this amazing human author and speaker through a past guest named Darren. Today’s special guest is Charle Peck. Charle, please take a moment to introduce yourself to all the educators who will be tuning in today.

Charle Peck
Hi, you guys. Sam, thank you so much for having me. It’s so nice to be connected by people who are genuinely good people like Darren. And, you know, I’m just coming to everybody from a background in education, K through 12, for the past 20 years but I taught high school for 18 years, really saw my students struggling. So I got a Master of Social Work, became a clinical therapist, and I’ve been working with schools and districts across the country to help them solve this darn youth mental health problem. So I’m coming to you with that lens. I’m also a parent. I’ve got three boys, and I just want to make sure that our educators have simple tools and strategies that they can just infuse into everyday practice to manage their own mental health and well-being and then respond effectively to their student needs. That’s what they need the most.

Sam Demma
Well, something that makes you very unique is your specialization in trauma in becoming a clinical therapist. Tell me a little bit about that journey of yours.

Charle Peck
You know, I realized that understanding that brain-body connection through a trauma lens was essential to help mitigate the problems our students are having. And by the way, our educators are coming into our buildings with these same problems that are unprocessed. So once I learned what that was all about neurologically and emotionally how people are responding with that emotional charge as a result. It helped me develop the skills and tools that could actually adapt to the classroom setting. And that’s why I love doing what I’m doing, because it does work. And it works even in crisis. I worked at a crisis unit in a hospital, Sam, and I worked with teens who were really struggling and with their parents and families. And these skills and tools work with them too. So I’m excited to roll it out.

Sam Demma
Tell me more about the tools. As someone who’s excited to hear some of the things that you’re sharing, I’m sure the educators are also.

Charle Peck
Yeah, well, I developed them with Dr. Cameron Caswell. She’s an adolescent psychologist and she and I hooked up because we knew the problems were very similar with what we were each working with. And we had to come up with something that was evidence-based, so they absolutely are evidence-based, but something that would easily be able to recall and use and have visuals that can work for not only the adults, but the kids. So they can work with kids as five years old, but also 15 years old and adults. And I’ll give you an example, Sam. So one of the problems we have is dealing with anxiety, right? Anxiety and then avoidance and so in therapeutic sessions what I would do is talk with talk with people about this and they have what’s called their own narrative now We all know what narrative is right? It’s a story that we tell ourselves And there’s lots of things that are brought into that story But oftentimes they are just a bunch a bunch of lies like we’re not basing them on facts And so we’re walking around our buildings, emotionally charged with these unresolved traumas and all of these thoughts and feelings that are triggering us throughout the day. And it’s based on a story that we’re telling ourselves. So I teach them about the story spiral and how our thoughts and emotions, our responses, or really reactions, are all linked together. And then how people are responding to us can keep a spiraling into that story. Again, that’s not based on fact. We might think somebody is upset with us or mad at us or think that we’re dumb or incompetent, but they’re not actually thinking about us. They’re thinking mostly about who? Who are they thinking about, Sam?

Sam Demma
Themselves.

Charle Peck
Yes, of course, of course. But we’re all egotistical as human beings. And so helping people reframe their thoughts and feelings, emotions around those stories. And really unraveling that story can be so helpful with anxiety, which can apply to anybody. So that’s just one little tool that we use.

Sam Demma
One of many tools that you and many other educators and speakers will be sharing at your upcoming virtual conference. Can you please tell us a little bit about the summit happening on April 16th and how educators can get involved if they’re interested in learning more

Charle Peck
Yes. Okay. So Dr. Kim and I said, listen, we’ve got to provide support to people free, virtually, easily, anything that’s accessible. We’ve got to get it out there as much as we can. And so we decided that we’re going to do a virtual summit. We’ve done it several times before. It’s been great. And so we’ve got eight awesome speakers. We’ve got a speaker talking about crisis response, like how do we respond to youth in crisis? We’ve got a speaker talking about how to manage big emotions so that it will help us as educators, but also we can translate that to parents and students easily. Also leaders are a part of this too. They need to help with that as well. And they absolutely can.

Charle Peck
And so we just, we have like one of my sessions is about how to assert your authority without being mean because we do have struggles with students in that authority position, but we still have to stay connected, Sam. And if we don’t, we’re shutting them down, shutting them out and helping create that disconnect and that divide that is not working in our education system. We need to bring people together and have trust and connection. And so the expert speakers we have are there bringing their true insight and skills and tools, but briefly. So each of them have 20 minutes to talk and share resources. We’re doing giveaways. It’s fun. Dr. Kim and I engage people and people leave with real tools that they can immediately use. And so if anybody wants to register again, it’s absolutely free. You can be a parent or an educator or leader. And if you just go to thrivingschool.org forward slash TSC summit, you can just register for free. So thanks for bringing that up because we do want to support our teachers big time.

Sam Demma
And I know it’s not the first. So there’s a lot of people that are already involved. You’re building the momentum and doing such an amazing job at providing all these resources to so many educators across the country. I think everyone listening right now should pause this recording and go and check it out. It’s a amazing experience from what I’ve heard and I’m excited to hear more about how it goes this year. Tell us a little bit about why. Like why do you do this work that you do? You’ve done a great job explaining some of the things that you do and the tools. Tell me the reason behind it all.

Charle Peck
Oh my gosh, okay. So when I got to teach, I loved what I taught. I got to teach kids about their brain. I got to teach them about their development. I got to teach them about why the heck they were feeling what they were feeling and experiencing what they were feeling and experiencing based on their developmental stage of life. And also all of those influences that they got along the way. And so what that did for them is it helped them learn about who they were, and a lot of forgiveness happened with themselves. So they weren’t carrying the weight of the guilt and the shame and pain that society has put on them, and they were able to make sense of it. And so I knew that after I became a therapist, I knew that this work had to be done on a more massive scale because the youth mental health crisis is everywhere. I mean, it’s global. It’s global.

Charle Peck
And so when I realized I had some great tools that could easily infuse into everyday practice and really work well in a classroom and support staff at the same time with their own mental health, because they’re struggling too, I knew I had to step out of the classroom and just do this work. So I do get to speak around the nation about, and internationally about these tools. One of my sessions is called SOS for School Mental Health, Strategies for Staff and Students in Crisis, because we’ve got to address it. We’ve got to give relief to the whole system. So that is my why I’ve got to do this on a massive scale and help others get the relief that I was seeing in my own students.

Sam Demma
And did you struggle with mental health growing up or have you seen it in your family? Like, I would love to hear a little bit of your personal story as well that brought you into education and even brought you here.

Charle Peck
Yeah, you know, first of all, I’m the baby of six kids. So I had some interesting experiences in the position of my family. And even we had a great, I had a great childhood and a great family system, but I felt alone a lot. And I had a lot of people around me a lot And I was involved in a lot of sports Informing my identity. I wasn’t really sure like am I Only good when I’m playing well in my sport in my I didn’t think I was a good student I could have been but I thought I was dumb and there were lots of things that went on I absolutely struggled with mental health and I think adolescence is something that I always knew I would participate in, in the learning piece there to help adolescents because it’s such a tricky time of life and I think there’s such a disservice out there that they’re not involved in understanding what’s going on with themselves. So I was always compelled to work with teens, but I also have a child development background so that I understand not only as a young child, like what’s important for us to do to support them when we’re pregnant. And I’m not afraid to say that because it’s super important that people understand how impactful it is forever. Okay. And so that’s one of the things that’s a disservice I think I’m doing by not being in a classroom again with teenagers.

Charle Peck
I don’t get to teach them every day about healthy and unhealthy relationships Because we had some really important Conversations there that I wish I would have had So that’s something else that I’m trying to do on a global scale is help Adults teach kids about these healthy and unhealthy relationships and friendships And what does that look like because I don’t want anyone else getting stuck, you know, my first year of teaching. I was not only planning sessions for my students, I was planning an escape to a women’s shelter. And I did that while I was still teaching and holding it together. But I was able to do that because I felt confident about who I was and I had a ton of supports. So yes, I struggled, but the good news is, Sam, we can prevent these problems from happening in the first place. And we can also help people manage that when they’re in it and learn to step out of wherever they are if they’ve reached their limits. I mean, there’s a way to do that and still feel good about who you are. And so that’s why I’m doing this work too.

Sam Demma
There’s the speaking, there’s the summits, and then there’s the book. Tell us a little bit about the journey of the book and what you’re hoping that resource will do in the world.

Charle Peck
Well, it’s meant to be something simple that has a framework that’s easy to relate to, especially in the education world. And so there are nine skills. And the reason there are nine is because we identified nine different areas that were contributing to the youth mental health crisis. For example, insecurity, not recognizing our own strengths and getting stuck in that. Like when I was felt like I was a poor student, I got stuck there. And so that shapes how I performed in school. I mean, I later went on and did better, but that was what I wish I had is that particular skill or polarization, right? There’s so many of us who are polarized and guess what? We can actually work and engage with others, even if we don’t like each other or believe in the same things. But there’s a way to do that, to meet our own needs in that exchange. So that’s another thing. So all of the skills are in the book that explains the rationale, but also we wanted people to walk away being able to use them immediately. So it’s kind of a reference guide that way. That’s what the book is, so anybody can use it, parents, students, but we say educators, you need this. We need to start with you because I think our schools are absolutely the keys to make any kind of change, like, in the masses.

Sam Demma
What can people listening expect from you and the team in the near future?

Charle Peck
Well, we’re doing a lot of professional development in equipping our teachers across the nation with these tools. So if anybody wants that, please, please, let’s help. Like we all need to help you. There’s something for every budget. I know budget is certainly an issue, but there’s something for every budget. And in fact, we want to promote sustainability and autonomy in the schools we work with. And so we have a program for that so that we can equip school counselors, school mental health team members, so they can roll it out. And it’s not even as big as train the trainers, Sam. That’s way too much for people to handle right now. So we know what we can provide is affordable, but also sustainable. So that’s one of the things we’re doing. And I’m also doing some keynotes.

Charle Peck
And so if anybody wants that message of hope, that’s one of the things I’m doing, but I’m really excited to share, and I haven’t said it too much yet, but I’m actually working on another book with a former principal who has a trauma lens and is a foster parent and understands the system really well too. And we’re actually talking more about behavior and how to respond to behavior and where the heck it’s coming from. So I’m excited about that because people need those tangible tools and principles to kind of go by. So yeah, that’s coming up too.

Sam Demma
And if they wanna reach out, ask a question, follow your journey online, what would be the best place for them to get in touch?

Charle Peck
They can just email me charle@thrivingeducator.org or they can just go to my website thriving educator.org. I’m on social media. You can find me @CharlePeck. Just connect. The thing is, don’t let this go. Like if you need some support, let me help you.

Sam Demma
Charlie, such a pleasure to have you on the show. Thank you for taking the time. I look forward to our paths crossing at some point in real life offline. And I’m so excited for your new book, your educator summit, everything that is yet to come.

Charle Peck
Thank you so much for all you do too, Sam, thank you. Thank you so much for all you do too, Sam, thank you.

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The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Sandra Nagy — Managing Director at Future Design School

Sandra Nagy — Managing Director at Future Design School
About Sandra Nagy

Sandra Nagy (@edtechfest) has dedicated her career to driving innovation and building effective organizational strategy. Sandra began her career at Accenture as a Change Management consultant where she supported public and private sector clients through large-scale strategy and business transformation.

Sandra spent over a decade as a senior digital strategist at Pearson Education where she led multiple teams that worked across K-20 to transform curriculum and professional development resources with the use of technology. She was a member of a global team of educational technology champions focused on collaborating to solve problems in education. She engaged with stakeholders globally and was responsible for nurturing strategic partnerships with key customers and other like-minded organizations.

Prior to Pearson, Sandra worked at The Learning Partnership, a non-profit organization responsible for building stakeholder partnerships to support, promote and advance publicly funded education in Canada. She led a government and business-funded research project to look at blended, online and face-to-face, professional development for teachers in STEM courses. Sandra engaged in speaking opportunities across Canada sharing best practices in sustained, action-research driven professional development that leads to authentic community building.

With over 20 years of experience, Sandra has designed, developed and delivered hundreds of learning opportunities to thousands of employees and educators. She is a firm believer in the capacity of educators to drive future-skill development, and in sustained professional development that leverages a blend of learning tools. Sandra leads the Education Practice at Future Design School building strong academic partnerships with school leaders that help to drive their strategic priorities through consulting support, professional development and efficacious curriculum resources.

Sandra’s educational background includes a Master’s in Education from Harvard University focused on Technology in Education. While completing this degree she worked at TechBoston, an organization infusing technology programs into inner-city Boston schools; conducted published research into distance learning at the Concord Consortium; and volunteered through the MIT Media Lab teaching robotics to home-schooled students. Sandra also holds a Bachelor of Commerce focused on Organizational Behavior and Entrepreneurship from McGill University. During her time in Montreal she actively volunteered at the Montreal Neurological Hospital focusing on brain research, and taught within the Faculty of Management.

Connect with Sandra: Email | Instagram | LinkedIn | Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

Accenture

Pearson Education

The Learning Partnership

Future Design School

Master’s Programs in Education – Harvard University

Bachelor of Commerce – McGill University

Crofton House Private School

The Future of Jobs Report – World Economic Forum

Future of Education Report – Future Design School

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma
Welcome back to another episode of the High-Performing Educator. This is your host, author, and keynote speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s special guest is an absolute trailblazer in the education industry. Sandra Nagy has dedicated her career to driving innovation and building effective organizational strategy. She began her career as a change management consultant at Accenture before moving into a role as a senior digital strategist at Pearson Education, where she worked for over a decade in the K through 20 education space to transform curriculum. She has traveled the globe doing work. She has worked with non-profits. She’s even done her master’s in education at Harvard University. Today, Sandra is changing the landscape of the future of education for our young people. And she shares so much impactful information and insights during our conversation here today. My hope is that you listen to this and feel compelled to reach out and ask some questions. She’s doing amazing work that I think could be very helpful for you and your schools and your students. Anyway, enough from me. I’ll see you on the other side of this interview. Enjoy.

Sam Demma
Sandra, Sandra Nagy, thank you so much for coming on the podcast this morning. For everyone tuning in, they might not know that you’ve done work in 65 different countries exploring the future of work. They may not know the work you’re doing with the Design School. Please start by just introducing yourself to the listener. 

Sandra Nagy
I will do, will do. So I’m Sandra Nagy. I’m the Managing Director at Future Design School, and we’re an organization that is based in Toronto, so it’s nice to be with Canadians, but we work around the world, as you said, Sam. And our real reason for being is that we’re focused on the future of work is changing rapidly. And we know, especially in the last year, when you look at everything that’s happened with AI, that the world of work is changing faster than we can keep up with. And in K-12 education and higher education, there’s an impetus on us to really prepare students. And so our goal is to support deep competency and skill development alongside all of the other great stuff that happens in schools, and really giving kids exposure early and often to potential career opportunities and the skills and competencies that they need to succeed. So we work strategically with schools, we work through professional development with teachers,

Sandra Nagy
And so our goal is to support deep competency and skill development alongside all of the other great stuff that happens in schools, and really giving kids exposure early and often to potential career opportunities and the skills and competencies that they need to succeed. So we work strategically with schools, we work through professional development with teachers,

Sam Demma
Tell me more about what the future of work looks like. Yeah, and you mentioned it’s rapidly changing. From your research, where do you see it going?

Sandra Nagy
Yes, it’s a great question, and there’s a lot of research out there. Most recently, the Future of Jobs report from the World Economic Forum came out and talked about the fact that with the real proliferation of technology changes happening out there, that we’re set to lose about 89 million jobs or roles that exist in the world. And for the first time, we always see this, this statistic that says we’re going to lose a certain number of jobs, and then a certain number of jobs are going to kind of replace them. For the first time, we’re seeing a massive delta, where the number of jobs that are going to be replacing those jobs that are being displaced is significantly lower. So we’re talking, you know, 80 million plus that are going down and only about 60 million kind of net new jobs coming in. And so when you look at that delta, we’re poised for, you know, potentially great recession, people looking for work and jobs. And without the crystal ball that we’d all like to have to say what are the jobs of the future, what we focus squarely on are the skills that students need. So and really thinking about transferable skills, maybe things that people may have called quote unquote soft skills in the past are becoming the essential skills when you look at the workplace of the future. So what I mean by that is things like critical thinking, communication, collaboration, problem solving, and an entrepreneurial mindset. So whether you become an entrepreneur who, you know, starts the next Google or Tesla, or you go into an organization or a company with an entrepreneurial mindset, that’s what we’re trying to cultivate with kids. Where they look at the world’s challenges as opportunities that they can roll up their sleeves and have the creative confidence to dig into developing solutions. So problem solving is super key as we think about skill development.

Sam Demma
What challenge did you see that inspired you to embark on this path to try and solve this problem of creating more innovative young people in schools? Why this work? So why this work?

Sandra Nagy
It’s a great question. So myself and our CEO, Sarah Prevatt, and Sarah, it’s really Sarah’s vision that kind of enticed me to come to Future Design School was she had started and scaled and successfully sold a number of technology-based businesses. And when I met her, she was funding, through Venture Capital, folks that were bringing new ideas into the world. And she said to me, there’s lots of smart people out there that are solving problems that don’t necessarily matter or won’t necessarily have an impact on the future. And her working theory was we need to start younger. We need to start getting kids engaged in solving real, real problems when they’re in K-12 and get them to care about things like education and poverty and health care and security and believe that they have the capacity to actually develop the skills to solve those problems, that they don’t have to wait until they become an adult to have a real impact on the world, that it’s not actually the adults that are always changing the world, but that they can make real change, even from whatever their purview is. And Sam, when I was listening to some of the stuff that you were talking about, this notion of small, consistent actions that you can take in the world, really resonated with me because it’s that and equipping students with the problem-solving skills, teaching them how to deconstruct a problem, helping them to understand who it is that they’re actually solving the problems with, and understanding them walking a mile in their shoes, developing empathy for them, that you were talking about, this notion of small, consistent actions that you can take in the world, really resonated with me because it’s that and equipping students with the problem-solving skills, teaching them how to deconstruct a problem, helping them to understand who it is that they’re actually solving the problems with, and understanding them walking a mile in their shoes, developing empathy for them, and then, you know, getting ideas out there, getting real feedback, and iterating based on what you’re hearing. And we’ve seen kids develop incredible, incredible things. And we wanted to bring that into the classroom for teachers to say, okay, so how do you do this inside of the curriculum regardless of where you are in the world? How can you actually help students to uncover curriculum instead of standing up at the front of the room and feeding them content, but letting them uncover it? So hopefully that helps give you a bit of a sense of it.

Sam Demma
Tell me about some of the problems you’ve seen students tackle through your programming, some of the initiatives they’ve started. 

Sandra Nagy
Yeah, absolutely. So I’m thinking about one student in particular that we’ve been following for the, for the long haul. Um, so Mick is a student, and I can actually share this video with you cause you, you know, people might want to see what she’s done. But Mick is a student who came through one of our programs, which is called the Young Innovators Program. And she saw a real need for the unhoused community in Toronto. And she saw that they were not getting the basic hygiene needs that they needed to really function. In as part of our program, she developed something called Penny Packs, which are packs that she’s taken out to the unhoused community. She’s galvanized her community to come together and donate, but really listened to what people who are unhoused needed, as opposed to making assumptions about, you know, you need a toothbrush or toothpaste. Some people do. What were the things that were missing? And every year she reimagines the packs based on what she’s hearing from real people out there. And she’s inspiring others to take action when they see something in their local community. So that’s that’s sort of one aspect of the student programming that we do. And those are kids that come into very specific programs. But what we’re trying to do is infuse that kind of thinking into all of school so that when you walk into a classroom, you’re able to engage in a problem, you’re able to engage in a real situation, and that you have choice and voice as a student on what it is that you want to focus on. No longer do we all need to be working on the same novel in a classroom. We’re all digging into the same novel study. What if we gave kids choice? What if we gave them voice?

Sandra Nagy
From the foundation setting, we’re able to get them to make decisions that make sense for them and to dig into things that they’re passionate about. In a world where content is just something you can grab from anywhere, how do you look at content and think about it critically? How do you know who the author is, where it’s all coming from, and how do you become sort of the master of the things that you want to dig into deeply?

Sam Demma
You mentioned earlier that these soft skills are now becoming the essential skills. What are some of those soft skills that the programming aims to develop in a young person?

Sandra Nagy
Absolutely, I’m so glad you asked that question. And I will also share, I think I sent to you some of our future of education reports, but we’ve developed what we call the portrait of a future ready graduate. And so what we’ve done is really from a research-based perspective, both academic and action research, which is what I like to call what happens in the classroom, right? You try something out with a student, with your group of students, and you kind of iterate based on who’s sitting in front of you. But we’ve developed this portrait that looks holistically at the skills students need to build. And it starts squarely in the center, looking at wellness. So, what we believe is that students need to walk into school feeling optimistic about their learning, feeling psychologically safe that they can be who they are and have a deep sense of their identity in the buildings that they’re walking into. Table stakes, right? If a child walking into a building doesn’t feel well enough to learn, nothing else matters. So, our portrait looks at that at the center.

Sandra Nagy
From there, we move into social emotional learning. So what are those skills that I need to build from that perspective? Then we look at learning strategies. So how do we cultivate metacognition and help students think about their thinking and being conscious pursuit of getting better? So we sort of build that foundation. And then we look at character traits. So we talk about things like curiosity, ambition, resourcefulness, empathy, stewardship. How do you kind of take control and really cultivate those character traits? And then we look at what we call future ready skills and competencies. And so in that bucket, we talk about critical thinking, collaboration, communication, and creativity, which are not new. You and I both went to school learning those skills, but they’re 21st century skills is what they’ve been called and we’re so many years into the 21st century, we need to be cultivating them with students. And then to that, we add global and future vision. We add entrepreneurial thinking. We think about equity and inclusion. And we think about design thinking or human-centered design or problem-solving skills that we can cultivate. The really key piece of all of this, though, is that when we talk about those skills.

Sandra Nagy
So lots and lots of schools that are embracing this. And the best part is what parents are reporting back is that their kids are asking more critical questions around the table. They have greater confidence as they’re talking about their learning and they can see the changes in their students and that’s really what we’re looking to achieve. We’re trying to start a skill-based revolution around the world. We’re trying to start a skill-based revolution around the world.

Sam Demma
I know you’ve housed a lot of your research in a beautiful report. Where can people access that resource if they’re interested in learning more?

Sandra Nagy
So I will definitely send you the links, but on our website you can sign up to gain access to our reports on an ongoing basis. We produce them yearly. Our next report is coming out at the end of January, but I’m happy to provide you with links to this year’s report, and then also to our special edition report, which breaks down that portrait that I just talked about as well. And always happy to chat. Also, if there are educators listening to this podcast, often we start by having a conversation about what your aspirations are for your school and what you’re seeing, and then we can support schools really deeply.

Sam Demma
Awesome. What opportunities are you seeing in 2024 that you’re very excited about in education?

Sandra Nagy
That’s a great question, Sam. I think that, you know, we’ve been through a really interesting time in education. The pandemic was a moment where people had to innovate by necessity. And I often talk about how the pandemic, for all of the negativity that came with it, was sort of this moldable clay moment, where we were playing with education. There were things that came out of it that were super positive for kids. So for example, elongated periods, you know how when you went to school, and there were 45 minute periods, and you’re jumping from class to class to class? Well, the pandemic by necessity made schools elongate certain periods, and some schools are not going back. And I think that, you know, this notion of innovation and education is something that people are continuing to talk about. Lots of people have gone back, they let the clay set and they didn’t wanna move beyond that. People were going back to the old, old, but as I look forward to 2024 and the clients that I have the privilege of working with, a lot of them are looking at this continuum of skill development and also talking to industry. So when I look at higher education as an example, we’re out there and talking to the regional employers in the jurisdictions that we’re working with and saying, what are the unfilled positions that you’re projecting? And what can education do to help prepare students to take on those roles? And the things that I’m hearing the most are students need the ability to narrate the experiences that they’ve had in school and the skills that they’ve developed. They need a better way to showcase the amazing things that they’re learning. So lots of schools are investing in professional development for teachers to help them think about how do I, we call it hack my curriculum to embed these skills. The other piece of that is assessment. So you can’t change education practices in the classroom without changing your assessment practices. And so, you know, preparing kids for the test or the exam is not the only way to assess what they know. And that’s what I’m most excited about is we have lots of people, especially with the proliferation of AI, saying, okay, so the essay that we used to write, you know, how can I tell if they’re quote unquote cheating? Cheating hasn’t changed all that much from before or after. My question back is, how can you change the assessment? What else could you do? What’s the project you could give to a child? What’s the podcast that they could create for you? What are the different ways to show what I know that are more real real than just writing a test? Not saying we need to throw away quizzes and tests completely. I think there’s a balance there.

Sandra Nagy
But I think we need to think of assessment, we call it journey-based assessment, as a journey of learning, as opposed to just getting to the end product or the last test. And I’m excited about what people are doing with assessment. And I think there’s so much room for growth.

Sam Demma
I’m wondering if the future design school has envisioned what they believe a perfect school looks like and how it functions. This may be something you have insight to answer, it may not be, but if you could wave a magic wand and change the period length, change the structure of a school, change the classroom layout, change the questions, change the curriculum, and build what your company believes is the most ideal learning scenario for kids, what would that look like?

Sandra Nagy
I’ve thought about this a lot, a lot. And I think that the ideal school in my mind is completely project-based or personalized inquiry-based. And, you know, when you think about kindergarten, I’m going to start there, and the notion of kindergarten by design being emergent curriculum or exploratory, where you put stuff in front of students and you let them explore and tell their stories and make sense of the world through exploration. And then you look at the change that happens when you move from kindergarten to grade one, it’s like hitting a wall. I went from this beautiful environment where I could explore and problem solve, and now I’m sitting in rows, not in all places, and there’s amazing things happening, but I would like to keep curiosity high. I’d like to keep problem solving high. And then you look at the change that happens when you move from kindergarten to grade one, it’s like hitting a wall. I went from this beautiful environment where I could explore and problem solve, and now I’m sitting in rows, not in all places, and there’s amazing things happening, but I would like to keep curiosity high. I’d like to keep problem solving high.

Sandra Nagy
And to do that, it doesn’t mean that you’re throwing away the baby with the bathwater. Kids still need to learn how to read. Desperately need to learn how to do math, and we need to make sure that their conceptual understanding of math is as good as their ability to do their times tables. And how can we leverage all of those skills in a problem solving world? So how can we give kids real things to grapple with at a developmentally appropriate level?

Sandra Nagy
And that doesn’t mean that we need to stay in this factory-based model where all kids in grade one are doing all the same thing at all the same time, because kids have different life experiences as they go through school, and depending on what you’re digging into, they have a different trajectory of growth. They’ve been exposed to different things, and allowing them to move at the pace, at the personalized pace that makes the most sense for them, where they have choice, voice, they’re problem-solving, they’re aware of their skill development, to me, that’s ideal. So what does that look like? You asked about the structures. I think the structures are different.

Sandra Nagy
I don’t think we’re talking about a bell based school schedule where every period is exactly the same length. We need to leave time for kids to be in flow, right? If I’m working on a project in my, my mind, it should be interdisciplinary. This notion of discrete, especially as you get to high school, discrete English and social studies or geography, history, like every subject has its place and the teachers don’t cross over and don’t do it in an interdisciplinary way. In my mind, that’s such a miss and such a loss.

Sandra Nagy
And my ideal school would be project-based, interdisciplinary, journey-based assessment where skills are being built on an ongoing basis, so where kids graduate with a portfolio that they can narrate. Not just a portfolio that you put stuff into, but rather, let me pull stuff out of my portfolio. What am I most proud of? And how do I know what to pull out at the right moment to showcase my development and my learning? You know, we have talked in the past about building our own schools, but instead we’re creating this network of schools that’s doing that now. And it’s super exciting to watch because it’s having a huge impact on kids.

Sam Demma
I was working with a really great private school in Vancouver called Croffin House, and their classroom structure is so cool. Some of their classrooms have oval tables, and rather than kids sitting side to side, everyone can see each other’s face sitting at the table and they debate topics. And this could be an entire class period. And I just thought it was so brilliant.

Sam Demma
And it’s not a new idea, but it’s not an idea that’s being implemented in every school. And I just think how cool would it be if more schools grabbed onto these ideas and built these structures so students can see themselves more in the work that they’re doing. And they can build real life skills that they can use in the future. So the work that you’re doing is amazing. This has been an insightful conversation. I’m sure that we’ll chat more as things unfold, as the work you do continues. Where can people reach out, ask you a question, get more information, and connect with you?

Sandra Nagy
Absolutely, they can reach out to me directly. So I’m just sandra@futuredesignschool.com. And I’m often the front line on folks that are thinking about transformation in education. So I would say reach out, you know, happy to jump on a call, hear the vision, share the vision, share the stories of what’s happening. Because what I’m talking about is very concrete in the approach that we take with schools. We have frameworks, we have research, we have protocols, and I’m happy to dig in wherever and share what’s going on. It’s a true passion. And as I said, I feel privileged to get to do this work with partners every single day and with a team that is amazing. And they’re real dedicated educators, entrepreneurs, engineers, designers that are all about how do we make the world a better place with education being at the center of that.

Sam Demma
I’m so excited to see the innovation that continues as a result of your work. Thank you for doing what you do. Thank you to your entire team. I would love to be a part of a future school if you decide to include in the model building your own in the future because I think it’s definitely a need that we all have, especially here in Canada. And I just, I’m so grateful that you’re doing this work. Thank you for taking the time to come on the podcast. I encourage you, the listener, to reach out to Sandra to have a conversation and I wish you all the best in 2024, Sandra. Keep up the awesome stuff.

Sandra Nagy
Thank you, and Sam, thank you for all the work you’re doing as well.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Sandra Nagy

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Ted Temertzoglou — Highly sought-out speaker and lead author on health,  physical literacy and well-being

Ted Temertzoglou — Highly sought-out speaker and lead author on health, physical literacy and well-being
About Ted Temertzoglou

Ted (@LifeIsAtheltic) believes in a world where the skills learned through Health & Physical Education enable all to lead authentic, happy and fulfilling lives. He creates this world by working with Governments, School Boards to implement UNESCO’s Quality Physical Education Guidelines. Ted is an advocate and thought leader for quality Health and Physical Education. He is a highly sought-out speaker and lead author on health & physical literacy and well-being.

With a Master’s Degree in teacher-student relationships and 33 years of educational experience, Ted shares his expertise to help more teachers and students flourish and thrive. He is the recipient of the R. Tait McKenzie Award, Physical & Health Education Canada’s most distinguished award. He is also a certified Personal Trainer with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.

Connect with Ted: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)

R. Tait McKenzie Award

Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP)

Outlive by Peter Attia

Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) – Teacher Education

Brock University – Master’s Degree in teacher-student relationships

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma
Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator Podcast. This is your host, author, and keynote speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s special guest is Ted Temertzoglou. Ted believes in a world where the skills learned through health and physical education enable all to lead authentic, happy, and fulfilling lives. He creates this world by working with governments, and school boards to implement the UNESCO’s Quality Physical Education Guidelines. Ted is an advocate and thought leader for quality health and physical education. He’s a highly sought out speaker and lead author on health and physical literacy and well-being. With a master’s degree in teaching student relationships and 33 years of educational experience, Ted shares his expertise to help more teachers and students flourish and thrive. He is the recipient of the R. Kate McKenzie Award, Physical and Health Education’s Most Distinguished Award, and also a certified personal trainer with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Ted. It left me very energized, and I’m sure it’ll do the same for you. Talk to you soon. I’ll see you on the other side. Welcome back to another episode of the High-Performing Educator Podcast. This is your host, keynote speaker and author, Sam Demma and I’m very excited to be joined by our guest today, Ted Tamurtsuglu. He is a friend of mine who is connected through a friend of mine named Joyce, and I’m honored to have him on the show here today. Ted, how are you?

Ted Temertzoglou
Good, Sam. I am super excited to be here with you, and thank you so much for asking me to be a part of your show. I gotta ask because the listeners can’t see what I can see. Behind you is a beautiful home gym. When did you get it, and when did fitness become a big part of your life? Oh, okay, so I’ll start backwards. So fitness has always been a part of my life. I’m an aspiring athlete through school, trying to acquire as much athleticism as I possibly can. And then this is our garage. We converted this, ah, about six years ago. We started building it. And because work got so busy, we weren’t able to get to the gym and stuff, so my kids work out of here, my wife works out of here, I work out of here every day, and now this is what we call Life is Athletic World Headquarters. This is where my work is. Did you have an experience in your own life that tested your health, that inspired you to take it more seriously, or did you just continue from your athletic journey as a student? Yeah, I know I really did, Sam. I knew, you know, I went to six elementary, I went to five elementary schools in six years. So like from kindergarten to grade six. And so that kind of put a pretty big strain on my numeracy and literacy skills as it did our entire family. My parents immigrated from Greece to here. But, you know, the people, the teachers that really kind of saw something in me were my health and physical education teachers. And it was because of them I went on this journey to figure out, you know, I want to do this for a living. It makes me feel good and I want to continue doing it. So that’s kind of really started, started at a really, really young age. I wasn’t an athlete by any means, but I acquired it because of the teachers that I had and the, you know, the areas that I happen to be in. So, yeah, that’s basically how I came to it. And at some point, you decided, not only do I want to feel healthy, but I want to help other people feel healthy too, especially people in the education industry. You know, you’re someone that I look up to for your physical fitness. And if there’s a teacher listening or a superintendent or a principal right now, and you haven’t talked to Ted about how to get your teachers and yourself healthy and feeling good, this is your sign to do so. When did supporting educators and other human beings in their physical health and mental health journey become a part of your story? Yeah, I’ve always wanted to do, Sam, similar to what you’ve done. So when I was younger and I was playing sports and then played on the university level, I always knew, at grade 11, I knew I wanted to be a physical health education teacher and a professional athlete Those were the two things that meant the world to me because I thought I could really affect change If you were kind of like on the world stage right or on a national stage and playing and playing professional football So I got to that level after University and I signed my contract with the Argos and then got hurt at that camp But had at least my education degree to fall back on. So as I got teaching, what I noticed in health and physical education is we didn’t have what was called evidence-based resources. So I kept on teaching the way I was taught. And that’s good for kids who like football and like soccer and like those sports, but the vast majority of kids, they’re not on school teams and they don’t like that stuff. So I thought, oh my goodness, I have to expand my pool here. So what I started to do is inquire about how do we get evidence-based resources into our school. And that’s what really exploded into teacher training. Tell me more about what you mean by evidence-based. Is it tested with large groups of people? I want to know more about the resources that you’ve created that might be of value to the listeners. What we did was in 2,000, 99, 98, 99, 2000, my wife and I were lucky enough to be chosen to write some curriculum for the Ministry of Education, for specifically health and phys ed. So they’re making a new curriculum. And, you know, when you’re in a math class, you have these beautiful textbooks or these visuals that are done by professors and with teachers. And it’s all based on evidence. And there’s so much evidence in the health and wellness field that applies to the health and phys ed curriculum. I thought, hey, wouldn’t it be great if we could get a publisher, get the best researchers, get their research, break that knowledge down where teachers can understand it to deliver it to our kids? Well, now we’re speaking from a place of evidence rather than a place of opinion. Like I may think I know what’s really good for kids as far as exercise progression, but do I really? Like, what does the science say? So that’s what I mean by evidence-based resources. And then we were lucky enough to create textbooks, workbooks, fitness charts that are used in many, many, many schools across Canada and some internationally. So that’s how we got it from there. 

Sam Demma
You started creating this curriculum, you built out these resources. Take me to today. How are you supporting students, schools, administrators, superintendents with their health and with their students and staff’s health today?

Ted Temertzoglou
Yeah, great question. So, largely across Canada, the exception being Manitoba, we don’t have what are called specialists in health and physical education at the younger years. So, what we call the foundation years or the physical literacy years, the years where kids minds are truly like clay and sponges and they absorb a whole bunch of stuff about movement. Whereas other countries like Germany, Poland, Sweden, the Netherlands, et cetera, they do. And I’m not saying that, you know, it has to be a specialist, but we need people who are really passionate about helping kids wellbeing and health and physical education. So the way I support them is we create now I create these online learning modules where teachers take boards, subscribe to them and buy them, and then they disseminate the teachers. I do a lot of live, like in-person face to face workshops, either showing them how to use my resources or showing them how to use the resources they currently have in the classroom. Like literally, I meet the teacher where they’re at, we push in a chair, and then we’re doing movement, and then we’re linking that to numeracy and literacy. So I think the biggest gain we’ve had is that’s where we are. But Sam, I think the real pinnacle happened in 2015 when the United Nations, UNESCO, launched a massive massive literature review on, hey, what would happen if we ran quality, and I’ll define that in a second, physical and health education programs? What would that look like for health care? What would that look like for mental health? What would look, what would that look like in society at large? So they released that. And I just said, okay, I’m UNESCO, I’m going to help you put that into schools. And then helping schools understand the power of health and physical education and how that can make people, you know, well, not only healthy, but feeling really great about themselves. So that’s where we are now. And I wish I could tell you, Sam, that it’s amazing and it’s working really well, but it’s a grind, man, you know, cutbacks in public education, teacher shortages, etc, etc. So but, you know, there’s always a bright side, we got to keep moving forward.

Sam Demma
I was reading a book recently by Dr. Peter Atiyah called Outlive and he talks about, there let’s go, for all the listeners, he just put it in front of the camera and he talks about this concept that for so long people were obsessed with lifespan, which is how long you live and he says it’s not only about how long you live, it’s the quality of life you have while you live a long life, which is your health span. And he talks about the four horsemen, which are these diseases that take us out most often in life and how to avoid some of those things. And he makes this argument that the best possible treatment to avoiding those four things is exercise. Above all else, he talks about sleep and nutrition and all these other things, but exercise. And I’m wondering what your perspective is on exercise and when people ask you, hey Ted, how do I get healthy? You know, how do I feel good? What is your thoughts? What do you share with them? First of all, I got like a major research crush on that guy. So Dr. Peter Atiyah actually went to Mowat High School in Toronto.

Ted Temertzoglou
So he’s TDSB. Yeah, absolutely love it. Sam, I truly believe, and I know this through evidence, that the health and physical education curriculum stands to be the greatest healthcare intervention we have ever seen, if we teach it, especially at the younger grades. And so everything Peter talks about in his book, that’s all in our health and physical and health education curriculum, right? The top 10 diseases that end our lives largely before they should, like that lifespan that you said, and then our health span within it, are all largely preventable if we just moved a little bit more and ate a little better. And not only that, Sam, we’re talking about billions, tens of billions of dollars saved in direct costs to healthcare. So giving kids these tools at a very young age is critically important, more so today than it’s ever been. So I’m not sure if that was your question Sam, sorry I got a little carried away on that. But yeah, that’s where we’re at. 

Sam Demma
How do you prescribe a program for a teacher or a student? Do you have to assess their current abilities or is there a basic foundational level where everyone should start? Like if there’s someone listening to this who let themselves slip through the past couple years and they haven’t exercised much at all and they’re thinking gosh I want to start showing up for myself again. Just as much as I’m showing up for everyone around me. What would be like the first steps?

Ted Temertzoglou
Yeah, the very first step would be truly What thing do you enjoy doing like what really makes your heart sing and then I would build movement around that So if someone was to say, you know, I really really love just being out in the garden. Okay, great, right? So being in the garden is a great physical activity. You know, I like going outside and going for a walk. Fantastic, you know, getting up from a chair and walking is a phenomenal exercise. And then we would vary that. We’d slowly progress the overload, meaning that, okay, yes, you’re walking now and you’ve walked this distance. So now, you know, between this lamppost and that lamppost, every time you go every other lamppost, walk a little quicker and then slow it right back down again. So the gentleman that does a lot of research in this area is a guy named Martin Gabala, another Canadian, who’s been on all kinds of podcasts, including Tim Ferriss. And he wrote a book called The One Minute Workout, because largely the number one reason people do not work out is because of time constraints. But he has shown in all his research, like the minimal amount of exercise that’s actually needed to get people from not healthy or not very healthy to adequately healthy where they’re going to avoid what Atiya calls the four horsemen or those 10 non-communicable diseases is very little, Sam. And we know that prescription. For adults, that’s 150 minutes a week, 22 minutes a day, and two times a week where you’re pushing, pulling, lifting, squatting, lunging things. Those are the easiest things. But the first place I start with either my clients or the students or the teachers is what do you love to do? And there’s so many areas of movement. We gotta find something. I don’t even care if it’s a TikTok dance. That’s amazing for cardio, right? Like I’m trying to bust some of those moves in here, Sam. I’m telling you, I’m cutting rug in here. I mean, those things get your heart rate up fast. So any which way that you can find where movement’s a part of it, and they’ll get hooked because the body craves it, like we really do need. A great book for you too, Sam, after you finish Dr. Atiyah’s, is Dr. Kelly McGonigal from Stanford called The Joy of Movement. She doesn’t talk about exercise, she just talks about when muscles move, here’s what happens to the brain. And a lot of my work right now is that, is connecting muscles to brain, because we know today muscles are like an endocrine system. They’re not just these things that move things. They actually release proteins and they activate certain hormones. And that’s why it’s important to move, because it feels good. 

Sam Demma
It does feel good. It feels great. I was telling a friend of mine, I’m very competitive with myself. I like pushing myself and reaching new heights. And, you know, as much as I push myself in business or professionally with the work that I’m doing that’s usually tied to spending more time in front of my computer and even when I push myself in those arenas and reach new goals and heights and reach more people I Don’t feel the same way I feel when I lace up my shoes and do a 5k run around the block like that physical activity gives me an emotional emotional response and physical response in my body that pushing myself professionally just can’t give me and I recently inspired a friend to start running as a result and after he finished He’s like I haven’t felt this good in years like yes. I’m out of breath. Yes I’m feeling kind of nauseous and tired right now, but I feel so happy and I’m curious like You sound like someone who’s done lots of research. Is there like a link between feeling great and happy and moving the body? Like what is that connection?

Ted Temertzoglou
Yeah, Sam, we’ve got our own pharmacy and it’s right in our head. And the way you access that dealer, I’ll call my drug dealer for now, is the way you access that drug dealer is you move. So there’s this new discovery about 10 or so years ago called endocannabinoids. You probably have heard that ending of that word somewhere, right Sam? Cannabinoids, like cannabis, it produces the exact same effects. So, you know, when it releases serotonin and dopamine and all these epinephrines, we call this the dose response. So D is dopamine, O is the oxytocin, you know, that’s that social hormone that, they call it the hug hormone, where when you’re around friends, you just feel lifted, and we call that energy. Well, that energy is a direct product of oxytocin, right? And then you got your dopamine, and then you got your endorphins and those endocannabinoids. Yeah, we have a drugstore that’s frigging free, and it’s really worth getting addicted to those drugs, you know, because there’s no side effects.

Sam Demma
Yeah, that’s awesome.

Ted Temertzoglou
The side effects are what you just described, smiles, feeling good, wanna take on the world, you know, the sun’s always brighter You know Even the darkest days are a little bit brighter because that’s where your body wants to be we want to avoid pain We seek pleasure and movement is the key to that. 

Sam Demma
It’s crazy You brought up the end of that word and how it relates to Cannabis because this friend of mine that I inspired to run has recently kicked the habit of smoking a vape, which I’m sure many of the educators listening to this right now are very familiar with. And funny enough, every time he gets an urge, the way he stops himself from reaching for it is running or doing pushups. And he says he runs or does pushups and the desire to grab it immediately vanishes. So there is something special happening in the brain when we push our bodies physically and move. And after I was reading that book by Peter Atiyah, I started thinking about my own life and how much time I was spending sitting versus standing versus moving. And I didn’t think the body was made to sit all day. And I want to be someone who’s 80 or 90 years old and able to walk and able to pick up my grandkids, able to enjoy the daily activities of life. And so I think making sure we follow a routine similar to the ones you create for people is really important. I’m curious, out of all the work that you do, what work brings you the most joy and fulfillment?

Ted Temertzoglou
It’s when I’m working with the students, because often when I do the workshops, it’s with teachers and I invite the teachers to bring their kids. And it’s turning on those kids who didn’t think or didn’t see themselves as athletes, right? And you know, my tagline, Sam has always been it’s my like my Twitter handle to life is athletic. We push, we pull, we squat, we lunge, and we do all of these things in normal day-to-day life. So when those kids get hooked on movement, man, I just feel like, you know, I made it a little bit better today. I learned from them because I always ask them, like, what are your limitations? Like, what’s stopping you from doing these things? Because we all want to feel good. I think most people want to feel good. Or at least when we when we feel bad, we want to know what the strategies and tactics are, where we can hit the reset button really quick, right? So we get kids to realize, look, mistakes aren’t a period, it’s a comma. And then you first create your habits and then your habits create you. So finding these things in a positive light for kids, that’s what really lights me up. That’s what makes my heart sing. That’s why I still do this. And that’s why I’m gonna continue to do it. But I think the biggest learning I can have is when people actually tell me why it won’t work. Like, give me roadblocks or perceived barriers, and we got to find a way around these things because, you know, Sam, life expectancy for our kids, like, there was a big paper written, this was way before the pandemic, announced that prevention, a pound of trouble. And basically what it outlined was, this is probably the first generation of kids that will not love their parents. That was before, you know, before smartphones. And I’m not vilifying smartphones, it’s amazing. We have the world’s knowledge at our fingertips, for goodness sakes. It’s a really good thing, it’s not a bad thing. However, too much of it is a bad thing. And when we hook kids, and you know, their attention is drawn to other things and away from movement, man, we’re gonna be in a world of hurt. Not only in our healthcare system, but for them. So, you know, I’m getting on here in my age, and I’m thinking my kids are roughly your age. And I’m thinking, hey, when they start having kids, and I have grandkids, like, I want them to have, you know, very exciting and fruitful lives, but I need them to be feeling really good about themselves. And that’s health and physical education to me. That’s why it’s so critically important. But yet it’s below the maths, it’s below the sciences, but really it’s the most important subject we teach. What can be more important than our health, right? 

Sam Demma
I couldn’t agree more. I heard a quote once that said, people with their health want a million things and people without it only want one. And if I don’t have my health, personally, I’m not gonna be able to focus in math class. If I don’t have my health, I’m not focused in any other subject in school. The only thing I’m thinking about is helping myself feel better. And in Outlive by Peter Etieh, he cites a little study of students that exercise versus students that didn’t and how it improved their cognitive performance in school. So, I mean, prioritizing health not only helps the physical body, but it helps you perform better as a student. So how can it not be the most important thing? And the fact that it’s accessible to everyone on this planet, even if you don’t have a gym in your garage, you know, like you said, walking outside, running outside, just moving the body, makes this such an important topic to teach everybody about, because it could save so many years in someone’s life, not only in terms of their lifespan, but so they can enjoy it longer.

Sam Demma
I did mention it.

Ted Temertzoglou
Oh, sorry, Sam. Go ahead. Go ahead.

Ted Temertzoglou
Sorry.

Sam Demma
No, you go. I have a thought afterwards.

Ted Temertzoglou
Yeah, and then when you think about as well, the Canadian Heart and Stroke Association did this great commercial, Sam, I’m not sure if you saw them, and it’s like, you know, for the most Canadians, the last 10 years of their life, so what Atiyah calls the marginal decades, they’re living in and out of hospitals, or they’re living in and out of chronic care units. They’re not vital. It’s not a vitality part of their life at that point. Like, think about that. You know, seven different drugs. You’re going in and out of hospitals. You’re not feeling really good. And all of those were things that, you know, Hemingway has always said, you know, it happens really, really slowly, and then it hits you like a ton of bricks. So these are really important things for us to get across to our kids. So those last 10 years, we don’t know when we’re gonna get them, but you wanna be going out like you said, like picking things up that you wanna pick up and hiking in the mountains that you wanna hike. You wanna have those things, what Atiyah calls the centenarian decathlon. I wanna be able to do those top 10 things into my 90s or 100s or whatever, you know, God graces this on this planet with whatever. That’s what I want to do. And that’s what I want for people too. 

Sam Demma
You mentioned earlier in the podcast and I caught it and I wanted to circle back to it. You said, me and my wife wrote curriculum. So does she work in the same space that you do? Like, tell me more about this power couple dynamic?

Ted Temertzoglou
Yeah.

Ted Temertzoglou
Oh, you’re too kind. Yeah, that’s so cool. Yeah, Carolyn and I, Carolyn works, so she was a teacher as well. We actually met at the faculty of education at the University of Toronto. Cool. I was a pub manager, so I got to meet a lot of really cool people. I was very lucky. And Carolyn now teaches at the University of Toronto. She’s in teacher education. So she teaches phys ed teachers how to teach physical education, K to grade 12. It’s funny because I used to call them gym teachers. Yeah, and when we do our work together internationally.

Ted Temertzoglou
Yeah.

Ted Temertzoglou
And I remember a teacher was like, no, the gym is the physical space. I am a physical education teacher. I’m like, damn, I’m sorry. But there is a distinction. Yeah, I’ve got a quick side story for you. So when we were in Newfoundland doing some work, the health and phys ed teachers there, they have t-shirts that they wear. And they say on the back, I teach physical and health education, Jim lives down the street.

Sam Demma
That’s awesome. I love that, man. Thank you for sharing some of your passion for movement today on the podcast. I know you’re headed to Vienna to spend a week with some schools and administrators internationally and I’m sure they’re gonna change and build some new habits that are gonna help them as a result of the programming you’re doing with them. If someone wants to learn more about you, check out some of your resources or get in touch, what would be the best way for them to reach out?

Ted Temertzoglou
Yeah, I don’t have a website up and running just yet, but yeah, if they Googled my name or if they want to get a hold of me through email, they can do that too. We can put that, I guess, if you like, in the show notes or what have you. And Twitter, I’m @LifeisAthletic.

Sam Demma
You mentioned, we’ll wrap up on this, you mentioned sometimes the thing that brings you the most joy is helping people overcome those barriers within themselves to reach their fitness goals or to even just get started. It sounds like you’re helping people empty their backpacks and that’s something that we love doing in all of our work. If there was one piece of advice or one thing you would share and encourage anybody listening right now related to their physical and mental wellbeing that you wish the whole world could hear, you know, if everyone was listening, what would you tell people?

Ted Temertzoglou
I would say, just start. Just move one foot in front of the other, baby steps, and then once you get past all those, the rest will just start to come for you, right? The world will open up for you. So from the movement standpoint, that’s what I would say. From a mental standpoint, I would say, look, it’s kind of, I think Seneca said this, we suffer more in imagination than we do in reality. Stop listening to the negative self-talk that we take ourselves through and start focusing on all the great things that you get to do on this limited time that we have on the planet.

Sam Demma
I love it. Ted, it’s been an absolute honor having you on the show. We’re going to have to do this again. Thank you so much for making the time. Keep up the great work, enjoy your travels, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Ted Temertzoglou
Thank you so much, Sam.

Ted Temertzoglou
It’s been an honor and really love being on your show. So good luck with all your great stuff that you’re doing as well. Cheers, my man.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Ted Temertzoglou

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Jairek Robbins – Performance Coach, Best-Selling Author, International Speaker

Jairek Robbins – Performance Coach, Best-Selling Author, International Speaker
About Jairek Robbins

Jairek Robbins (@jairekrobbins) is one of the worlds leading business and life strategists. He is a Best-Selling author. FastCompany calls him inspiring and says he’ll make your life less ordinary. Forbes says Jairek will teach you how to succeed. Deepak Chopra will advise you to go to Jairek to help create meaning and fulfillment in your life.

Brian Tracy applauds Jairek’s ability to teach people how to develop meaning and purpose in life and then to make a difference in the lives of others. Looking for ways to level up in life and business? Jairek is your guy. You can connect with Jairek here: https://www.instagram.com/jairekrobbins/

Connect with Jairek: Email | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

jairekrobbins.com

Ideal Day Exercise – Jairek Robbins

Live It!: Achieve Success by Living with Purpose by Jairek Robbins

The Complete Guide to Activating High Performance by Jairek Robbins

Learn It Live It Give It with Jairek Robbins Podcast

FastCompany

Forbes

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:00):

Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. A few years ago, I had a podcast called The High Performing Student. I did about 250 episodes on the show, and every episode was geared towards helping students become the best versions of themselves. There were a few episodes and interviews in particular that I found so valuable, that I thought I would share them on this podcast as well. And you heard the first two earlier this week, one with Dr. Ivan Joseph, another one was Sarah Wells. And I’m just as excited for today’s interview with Jairek Robbins. Jairek Robbins is one of the world’s leading business and life strategists. He is a bestselling author. Fast company calls him inspiring and says he’ll make your life less ordinary. Forbes says Jairek will teach you how to succeed. Deepak Chopra will advise you to go to Jairek for help for creating meaning and fulfillment in your life.

Sam Demma (01:02):

Brian Tracy applauds Jairek’s ability to teach people how to develop meaning and purpose in life, and then to make a difference in the lives of others. Jairek Robbins is Anthony Robbins, Tony Robbin’s son, and is doing such amazing work in the world with businesses, individuals and philanthropically. So I hope you enjoy this very meaningful conversation with Jairek, and I will see you on the other side. Jairek, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Student podcast. Huge pleasure to have you on the show. I actually want you to start by reciting to the audience what your ideal day would look like and you don’t have to get it word for word, but let the audience know what your ideal day would look like and give us a peek into who you are and, and what you appreciate and love in life.

Jairek Robbins (01:49):

Sure. So are they familiar with the Ideal Day concept?

Sam Demma (01:54):

That’s a great question. They should be if they’ve been listening to this show for a long time, but you can give ’em a little refresher as well.

Jairek Robbins (02:00):

Okay. So I, I remember I was living in Africa. I was teaching organic farming. I was in a village just outside of Jinja. It’s this little farming village. It was a pineapple village is where I was. And I got malaria twice. At one point, the doctor sat me down and told me I had six days left to live. And I remember thinking at 20, what, 22 years old, 21 years old. Like, that was not the plan. And, and there were so many other things I wanted to do and, and I, I wanted to get married. I wanted to travel. I wanted to finish school. I wanted to have a business. I wanted to have a child. I wanted to, to help more. I wanted so many things just flash before my eyes. And I remember sitting down and thinking, wow, number one, I hope he’s not correct.

Jairek Robbins (02:49):

I hope I have more than just six days, but if I only did have six days, how would I need to live my life so that on day six, I could high five myself on the way out and be thrilled to do so? And I remember thinking about that, and j j just wondering like, what would I, how would I wanna live? How would I want to treat people? How would I wanna be remembered? How would I want to remember the people around me? And, and I started to think about this day, and it was more about creating little memories each day, soaking in the magnificence of life, just being able to see the wind blow through the leaves and talk to someone and, and say something that might put a smile on their face. And as all of this started to come together, I realized that my ideal day was just being able to reach people, you know, and, and bring a little light into their world.

Jairek Robbins (03:59):

And I was like, that. If I could just do that, that would be amazing. Now, I also realized that without a vision, people perish. And so I thought about that and I was like, well, maybe I should have a vision beyond the sixth day, otherwise I’m kind of in trouble <laugh>. So, so I thought about it and it’s like, well, all those things I just flashed before my eyes that I said I wanted to do. I better write ’em down and, and not just hope they happened, but actually have a plan that they were gonna happen. So I I, I literally had a little journal with me and I started writing down like the specific things I would do and, and finishing school and finding someone to get married with, that we love each other, and, and falling head over heels in love and, and having a family and traveling the world more and making a difference, and building a school and building a hospital.

Jairek Robbins (04:48):

And, and like all these things started to come out. And then it seemed a little overwhelming. I was like, how in the heck am I gonna do all of that <laugh>? And so I was bouncing between like, just observing the wind in the leave, in the leaves to like, oh my God, there’s so much I want to do. How in the heck am I gonna do it all? And what I figured out was if I could just summarize in the future what just one day would look like, maybe, maybe I could just make that one day happen. Hmm. And then my thought is like, well, wait a second. If I could make the one day happen, I could probably make the whole vision happen. Yeah. But let me just figure out the one day. And so for me, that’s where that one day, the ideal day process came from.

Jairek Robbins (05:40):

 and at the time, I don’t remember the exact one I created back then, but I remember when I got home and I got a little bit healthy, and I, I finished school and I was going into business. I remember I was working really hard one year, and I sat down and I said, you know, if I could have, and this is a great phrase to start with, if I could have it all my way, mm, if I could have it all my way, I probably won’t get it all my way. But if I could have it all my way, here’s what I’d put in my ideal day. And, and so I just wrote it all down as if I could have it all my way. And so I just thought about it. If I could have it on my way, here’s what life would look like.

Jairek Robbins (06:17):

And I’d wake up in the morning, I would work out, I, I would be with someone that I’m head over heels in love with. we, we would, you know, meditate and journal and mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually prepare for our day. We’d go get a vigorous workout in. We, we would do something together around, you know, connecting and deepening our relationship, filling each other’s buckets and cups so we feel full and overwhelmed, deepening our connection to each other. fast forward, you know, have some great breakfast, and then get into the day. And, and in the day, I’d be part of creating things that help people. That’s something that’s really important to me. I, I, I seem to like humans a a lot and, and I like to help ’em, you know, how can I help these people live a better life, be a little bit more happy, be a little bit more healthy, be a little bit more fulfilled in all that they’re doing?

Jairek Robbins (07:09):

And so, over the years, we’ve learned how to specialize in three spaces, which is how to help people discover and create lasting love. How to help people have, you know, increased personal performance mentally, emotionally, physically, and how to help people you know, to grow their businesses and, and create a, a profit center that can fund the life they wanna live. And, and so as we’ve done these things, that was part of my vision back then is creating elements, creating content, creating experiences, creating tools that would help people make this kind of stuff happen. Fast forward throughout the day be able to take time for lunch and, and go spend time laughing and communicating with someone I really love. Fast forward even more. when it came time to the sunset, one of my favorite things my wife and my son and I go do every single day as we go out to the beach here and we watch the sunset for 15, 20 minutes, and, and being able to just soak in the magnificence of life every day and observe just the miracles of nature happening before your eyes fast forward into the evening I’d probably be either laughing, so watching something or doing something that, that brings laughter and joy or learning, doing something that, that we could learn and, and, and deepen our knowledge or experience around something.

Jairek Robbins (08:26):

And so my wife and I right now we’re taking accounting at, at Harvard online. So we do our accounting course every night. And, and we’re just learning more about you know, the books of accounts and how to use ’em and, and how to track ’em and all that jazz. So, so we’re, we’re doing all these things, but that was kind of the vision. And then before bed, just reflecting and reviewing, if this was my last day, what are the things I’m truly, truly grateful for? Before wrapping it all up, I love that

Sam Demma (08:54):

There’s so much to unpack. And you hit on so many major buckets, things that you would call the majors versus the minors. You talk about it in chapter two. You hit on health when it comes to working out. you hit on professional, you know, when it came to working and creating products that help others. Jim Ron always used to say, we have to stop majoring in minor things. And I think you’re someone who believes in that as well. What are the major categories of life and why is it important that we focus on those big buckets before we address all the other sometimes trivial stuff?

Jairek Robbins (09:30):

Sure. Great question. If you look at majors, how, and I believe they’re different for different people, there’s some that are gonna be the same across the board, but, but people have their priorities in life and, and they’re gonna figure out what’s most important to them. That the key with a major, if you look at it, you gotta ask yourself, by investing a significant period of effort, thought, energy, resources into this part of my life. Hmm. Number one, is it good for me? Now, people like to try to argue this and, and, and debate. There’s certain things that are good for you, and there’s certain things that are not. Period. And, and you, you, you know, if you go to the doctor, there’s certain things that are good for you. There’s certain things that are not, some things will put you into the hospital. Some things will get you out of the hospital.

Jairek Robbins (10:22):

And, and just think of it that way. So, so when you think of kind of where you’re gonna focus, are these things good for you? Number two, life isn’t just about you. That’s why when I was saying, Hey, as much as if I could have it all my way, that’d be great. Well, the truth is, life isn’t just about me. Life is about all of us. So the second part is not only is it good for you, but is it good for other people? Hmm. Is it good for other people? Number three, does it feel good? You know, you can find something that’s good for you, good for others, but my gut, it, it feels like crap. It’s horrible. Yeah. But, but number three is, is it, does it feel good? And then number four, is it good for the greater good of humanity? The whole, not just people alive now, but people alive. You know, when we’re dead in the future, is it something that’ll serve much longer than us? And so if you think about that and you just kind of analyze all the major categories of your life, if you analyze all the things you spend the most time doing, just ask, is it good for you? Is it good for others? Does it serve? And do I enjoy doing it? And, and if there’s a sweet spot where it hits all four, my goodness, it’s probably pretty smart thing to keep doing.

Jairek Robbins (11:39):

But if it doesn’t feel good, it’s not good for you, it’s not good for others, and it doesn’t serve, it’s probably a distraction. It’s probably something that you’re using to numb or avoid the things you really need to be focused on. And so I use that kind of framework to think about this and then look at the categories and say, you know, is being healthy as a human, mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually healthy? I don’t know. Do you think that’s a good idea or bad idea? I’ve yet to meet a person who goes, yeah, it’s a bunch of crap. You don’t need help. <laugh>. That’s a major, that’s a big one. What about, you know, there’s a big uprising right now over the, the horrors and, and how horrible capitalism ish. Okay? But at this point in history, you’re going to either need a trade, which a tradesman or a tradeswoman was someone who knew how to make horseshoes or knew how to you know, sew things into garments or knew how to go and source food.

Jairek Robbins (12:53):

so you’re either gonna need a trade, some value you can add to society, that society would trade you a place to live supplies and things you need to survive and live a life, or you’re gonna need a job, you’re gonna need something you can do as a job or a business that’ll provide you income. And, and you can use the money to then trade for the supplies and stuff you need. So either you’re gonna need to have some value within you that you can trade for it, or you’re gonna need to have some type of income or job or business to get there. So that’s kind of a major, you know, I was teasing my little cousin. I was like, I don’t know if the pizza guy is gonna give you a pizza if you just give ’em four high fives <laugh>. Like, it doesn’t generally work that way nowadays.

Jairek Robbins (13:40):

You, you’re gonna need something to offer, you’re gonna need some value to bring the life. And the most predominant value in the world right now is some sort of currency. And a currency is nothing more than agreed upon element of life that people have agreed, ah, this is valuable. I always thought about this. If you, if you take a dollar and look at the physical form of it, and you’re like, what is the tactical value of a dollar? Hmm, not much. Like if, I mean, you can’t do much with the actual thing. Like you could kind of eat it, but that’s not gonna work out well long term. You might be able to light it on fire, but that’ll last like 42 seconds. <laugh>, what do you, what can you do with it? Nothing. Yeah. But we carry this stuff around, or the digital version because society as a whole, this community or group or, or or tribe of people has come up with the concept and agreed that this is worth a certain amount of value.

Jairek Robbins (14:42):

Hmm. If people stopped agreeing that it was worth that, there’s no use for it. I remember I was flying to go see a client in London and I landed, ran to the train station, got to the, you know, central London, ran, hopped in a taxi, took off, got to the meeting a few minutes late, and I went to go pay the guy and I said, Hey, can I just pay with a credit card or Venmo or pay? Like, what do you got? And he goes, no, I only take cash. And I was like, can I pay you with US dollars? He went, no, how much is it? He goes, 66. You know, it was like 66 or 67 pounds, which is British currency. I was like, how about I’ll give you a hundred dollars, it’s worth more. Or I I 150. Like, I offered him significantly more than just a different currency. And he went, no, I don’t want that. What am I gonna do with it? <laugh>, I like to take it to the bank. They’ll give you pounds. You’ll have more pounds from this than I than if I just gave you pounds. She was like, no.

Jairek Robbins (15:40):

I was like, okay, gimme a minute. So I went inside, I went to the bar, I’m like, maybe this person’s smart. I’ll give you a hundred dollars if you give me 50 pounds or 60 pounds, whatever it was, like, you will make money on the transaction. Bartender looked at me and said, what am I supposed to do with that? I was like, you gotta be kidding me, <laugh>. So I went to my client at the table and I said, here, I’m in a weird predicament. Can I give you a hundred dollars or $200 in return for 66 pounds? And he is like, dude, here’s the money. Don’t even worry about it. And I started laughing. I’m like, no, no, I’ll pay for dinner. He’s like, no, no, you’re good. And I’m like, come on. And, and so I finally went and paid the guy pounds. And I just realized in the moment, they didn’t agree to the value of the bill.

Jairek Robbins (16:26):

That’s it. And when someone stops agreeing to the value of the bill, it’s not worth anything. Now, it’s interesting is that’s not true with your life. Someone else doesn’t have to see value for you to be valuable, but you have to be able to look in the mirror and see value for you to be valuable. So if you don’t see value in you, there’s no value there, no matter how much the rest of the world sees it. And so that there, there’s factors in here that are important of perception. Now we all agree that certain things are valuable. And so that’s kind of a major, you know, we have to agree on some type of value exchange in order to gather the resources in, in life you wanna live. So that, that would consider that a major, being able to add value of some way or some sort to be able to exchange for the things that you’re looking for.

Jairek Robbins (17:21):

 relationships, I’ve, I’ve met a lot of people and no matter how much value you add, and no matter how much you’re loved by society, and no matter how big of of a car you can get, or house you can buy or trips you can take, when you add all this stuff up, if you don’t find someone to share it all with, it doesn’t feel like it’s worth much. And so that’s kind of a major one. Can you find someone to share life with? Like, first, can you figure it out? But then second, once you kind of figured it out, can you find someone to share it with? Otherwise it gets pretty lonely. other categories that exist in there how are you gonna manage your resources every day? How are you gonna manage your time? How are you gonna manage your focus? You know, no matter how great your life is, if you sat there and focused on the one thing that was wrong with it all day long, you’re not gonna have a pretty great life.

Jairek Robbins (18:13):

You’re gonna have a horrible life cuz you’re focused on the one thing that’s wrong with your whole life versus no matter how challenging your life is, if you focused on the two things that are good about it, you’re gonna feel pretty good regardless of the circumstance. So I think focus is probably a, a pretty big major where you focus your time, effort, and resources. So there’s lots of these, but you can sort through ’em and just make pe you know, if, if you make yourself think, you’ll start to realize there’s a pattern in the pattern is if it’s not good for you, it’s not good for others and it doesn’t serve the greater good, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. But if it’s good for you, good for others and serves the greater good. Sounds like a pretty good idea.

Sam Demma (18:52):

<laugh>. I love it. I love the qualifying criteria. You mentioned earlier that maybe a last point could even be if it, if you enjoy it, if it feels good. And I know there’s young people that argue that playing Fortnite feels great <laugh> and playing video games. But, but you talk about the difference between, you talk about the difference between fulfillment and just taking actions or the difference between Yeah. Like what is the difference between fulfillment and just taking everyday actions?

Jairek Robbins (19:22):

Sure. So I, I would say the difference between pleasure and fulfillment. Pleasure is something that feels good in the moment, but quickly goes away. something that’s joy-filled is, or, or something that is, I’m trying to think of the right word. So fulfilling would be the other word is it’s something that not only feels good now, but if you look back 10 years from the future, it still feels good to think about. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, give you an example. pleasurable might be someone going to a party and deciding to just make it a rager. They drink alcohol, they eat a whole bunch of junk food. They, they stay up way too late. They, they just trash their body. Now in the moment they might, it might feel good. They’re like, yeah, that was great. The next day it feels horrible, but a week later they’re like, Hey, I’m the fun one.

Jairek Robbins (20:18):

And then they, it feels good. It’s exciting. People laugh, but 12 years later when they look back they go, I don’t know if that was so smart. And the reason it doesn’t feel so smart is because they’re in their hospital and the kidney stopped working. Hmm. And they go, yeah, I don’t know if that was such a great idea. I mean, I was screaming Yolo at the time, but now that I’m in dialysis, spending four hours a day plugged into a machine to filter my kidney just to stay alive, I don’t know if that was the smartest thing in the world. Now the hard part is you only realize that when you’re in the situation. Cuz most people say, well, I’ll never land up like that. And you don’t think it will until you’re there. And then you go, wow, I should have maybe taken a little bit better care of myself.

Jairek Robbins (21:10):

And so some of these things we’re talking about, you just have to learn how to decipher between pleasure and fulfillment. And again, that’s saying, Hey, will this feel good right now? Yeah. Do I think this will be a great idea 25 years from now? probably not, but who cares? No, no, no, no. Probably not. You said, okay, good. So if it’s, if it’s okay now, but horrible, then why don’t we just find something else to do that’s great now and great then that’s not that hard. You’re creative, you’re smart, you’re, I mean, use your imagination. Come up with something that qualifies for it feels good now and it’s gonna feel great then.

Sam Demma (21:53):

I love that. That’s such a great, that’s such a great difference or a differentiation and something great to think about because I think a lot of young people, and I’m not just, and I’m also young <laugh>, but we fall into this trap and you know, one of the reasons is because the five people you spend the most time with might pressure you into doing certain things. Now at the end of the day, it’s always your choice, but people are always gonna push their opinions, thoughts, and beliefs onto you. and I’m curious to know how you personally have defended yourself in those situations. And one, one against the opinions of others, even when it was family. you know, in your book you talk about how you wanted to travel and, and volunteer right out of your schooling and even your family were against it. I, I’m in a similar situation. I took a fifth year and a gap year, and both times my parents were like, Sam, what the heck are you doing with your life? And I’m like, no. Like, I know what I’m doing. so my question is, how do you go against other people’s opinions when it’s people you love the most or your best buddies and friends?

Jairek Robbins (22:58):

Sure. so in the book we have a little acronym we use on how to, how to navigate this and what to do to fortify your mind and emotions. but, but let me give you some bonus on top of that just to think about where I would start is, ah, I just saw this quote the other, let me see if I can find it real

Sam Demma (23:20):

Quick. Yeah, go for it.

Jairek Robbins (23:21):

It was a beautiful quote and it had, it was spot on with this. It might have deleted.

Sam Demma (23:29):

Ah, that’s okay.

Jairek Robbins (23:36):

oh, it’s gone. it was a great quote. It was talking about, I’m trying to remember what it was. It was something along the lines of the magic of life is how quickly you can align with what your soul’s calling you to do. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I remember reading that and just thinking, wow, that’s so true. Can you, can you quiet the chatter? Can you quiet the noise? Can you quiet the opinions? And can you deeply listen to what you’re genuinely called to do? I think it was Jim Carey who said, depression is nothing more than your avatar, getting tired of wearing the mask. And I was like, oh, this guy says some cool stuff from time to time, <laugh>. And I was like, you know, when you see people who feel depressed, when you see people who have anxiety, when you see people who are are, are caught most of the time it’s because they’re spending so much effort and energy trying to be something they’re not.

Jairek Robbins (24:33):

And it’s just, they’re trying, they’re trying so hard to, to fit into something when that’s not their way of life. That’s not how they were made to be. Hmm. And so when I look at that, I always ask the question of the foundation of any human, which is kind of three buckets. And each bucket has a label and the label of bucket one would say, I am enough. And I always ask the question, like, for you, what does it mean to be enough? Have you ever sat down with a pen and paper and said, top of the paper, I am enough, dot, dot, dot. And then filled in the paper, what makes you enough in your own mind? Not what society says, but what, what do you think makes you enough? What has to happen for you to feel like you are enough? Just you just breathing.

Jairek Robbins (25:20):

Not a human doing, but a human being, just being you. What has to happen for you to feel like you’re enough Second bucket? I have enough. It is an interesting one for people. I’ve lived in places with no running water, no electricity, no toilets. It’s rural farmland. You take a bucket. I mean, you walk a quarter mile down the road, you fill a little jerry can of water, you drag this thing home like a strong man competition. You boil it for 30 minutes just to get a glass of drinking water when it finally cools. As long as a bug doesn’t land in it, cuz if it does, it could possibly kill you. So, and if a bug lands in it, you gotta boil it again and then you gotta wait another 30 minutes for it to cool. So I’ve lived in these places and I’ve lived like that for a significant period of time.

Jairek Robbins (26:07):

And I can tell you it doesn’t take a lot of stuff for people to have a beautiful life. But that’s not what we’re told. That’s not what we’re shown. That’s not how, what we’re fed over and over and over again. We’re, we’re shown that if we don’t get in line and wait for 17 hours to just get the new merch drop that, my goodness, we’re certainly not gonna have a good life. And it’s like, really? I mean, I met kids there who have literally one outfit, like this is their school outfit, their play outfit, their church outfit. This was the one outfit they own. And they were just glowing with joy and they enjoyed every heck moment of their life. And they were out talking with their friends and hanging out and doing cool stuff. And I was like, man, they don’t have anything telling them that the one outfit they wear every day is good or bad.

Jairek Robbins (27:06):

Therefore they literally don’t care <laugh> because they haven’t been taught to care about that. Now they watched me, I had a book with me and I was highlighting a few lines in the book that I thought were interesting and they went, oh, you can’t write in the book. I was like, it’s my book, why can’t I write in it? And they’re like, no. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, that’s not allowed. And I was like, why? And I, I talked to some of the other kids and I asked them and they said, oh, because oftentimes we only have one of those books for the entire village. We have to share. Hmm. You, you can’t write in it because it ruins it for everybody else. I went, what a difference. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, what a difference that is. They value certain things that they’ve been taught to value, they value knowledge there. Where I’m sitting and watching people line up for 12 hours outside of a certain store in New York City to get a merch drop cuz they value a brick that says Supreme.

Jairek Robbins (28:07):

Think about that. Yeah. One group of kids is thrilled to get a new book. Another group of kids can’t wait to spend all their resources to get a brick that has a logo on it. <laugh>, now the brick is actually worth 30 cents or maybe 60 cents at Home Depot, but because they smack their logo on it, they’re gonna try to sell it to you for $300. And then some kid sits outside and feels like he finally has enough in life, or she finally has enough in life. I haven’t seen a lot of girls buy the brick. So I’m gonna say like he, he for some reason feels so fulfilled in life because he finally has enough, because he’s bought a brick with someone’s logo on it. Now I’m not mad at him. If that’s what finally feels like enough in life, that’s awesome. But for you, what does it take to have enough for these kids that I met when I was living in a village in Uganda?

Jairek Robbins (29:00):

It was just waking up with a breath in your body was more than enough. As a matter of fact, I met a young lady. I was, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this. You, you ever flipped through Instagram and like you, you see a girl that just catches your eye and you’re like, whoa, whoa. So I had that experience. I was flipping through and this young woman caught my eye and I was like, wow, holy Moses. And I’ll never, lemme see if I can find the picture real quick. I literally kept it cause it was so good. And I remember seeing this young lady and just being blown away at what was going on. And I was like, I have to know more about this human. So I did some research and I, I, I figured out who she was. I read her story, unbelievable story.

Jairek Robbins (29:51):

Hmm. And the more I learned about her, the more impressed I was. I was like, this is an unbelievable human. I need to talk to her. And so I reach out and I interviewed her, and then I also interviewed her husband. And I was like, I have to know more about this. And as I was interviewing her and her husband, they shared one of the most unbelievable stories I had ever heard. And I’ll, I’ll, I’ll tell you just a little snippet of it here the whole thing’s over on our podcast. But as I’m scrolling for this photo, I’ll, I’ll just share a little bit about what she shared. She was born with cystic fibrosis, which means after so long her lungs have a chance of literally just stopping, just stopping. Like one day she’s okay and can breathe. And the next day her lungs just stop.

Jairek Robbins (30:50):

Hmm. And that happened to her. She was rushed to the hospital and, and put on machines to be kept alive and, you know, waited and waited and waited. And at some point they found a match, or they call it a donor match. And they brought it in and they hooked, hooked her up to a machine. And, and literally they cut her open straight down the middle of her body, opened her up, cracked her ribs open, pulled out the lungs that were in there, put in a new set of lungs, sewed them in, put her back together and sewed her shut straight down the middle of her chest. Wow. And I paused right there and went, holy Moses, that is incredible. And that wasn’t it. Like she got done. And they said, okay, you know, hopefully these work, and if they do, you’re gonna live a great life.

Jairek Robbins (31:47):

 you know, you’re on your way. She left, met a, went out, lived a great life, met a guy, fell in love, got married. Fast forward. She, she told him, she’s like, Hey, just so you know, <laugh>, we fall in love. There’s a chance I might just cease to exist one day. Like my lungs just stop and I’m out. And he, he’s like, I love you. It doesn’t matter. We’ll do this together. So they got married and then one day she just had a seizure outta nowhere. And so she had a seizure. They rushed to the hospital, see what it was, and her lungs stopped working again second time. And they sat there, analyzed everything, reviewed everything, checked everything. And they came, the doctors came back and said, listen, here’s the deal. The likelihood that a second double lung transplant is gonna work is so low that it does not make sense for us to do this. It makes more sense for you to just go on hospice and slowly live out the rest of your days until you can live no longer and you die. Hmm.

Jairek Robbins (32:54):

PS our team can’t help you. And we’ve also notified the other hospitals nearby of what the situation is. And they said they can’t help either. And she went home crying and she told her husband, I didn’t fight this long to stay alive, just to give up now. So they wrote a hundred letters to a hundred hospitals asking for help. Can you help me? Four wrote back and said, we might be able to try. One of them accepted her in and said, come here, we’ll hook you up and help you. We’ll figure this out. Hmm. Good work, ucla. They brought her in, they took care of her, kept her alive on machines. One night, two in the morning, she gets a call. We found a match, meaning a donor. They bring her in, cut her straight, open down the middle again, the ribs, open her up, pull out the old lungs, put in the new lungs, sew everything together, close her back up, sew her shut, put her on machines to stay alive and see if it works.

Jairek Robbins (33:53):

The next morning, her husband said, I interviewed him. And he said, the next morning when my wife woke up, I saw the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on her face in our entire life. He said, I wish I could tell you that our wedding day, she had a bigger smile, but I would be lying if I said that I saw the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on my wife’s face. And he said she had this tube down her throat to, to breathe. So she couldn’t say anything, but she, she asked for a board and they were asking her questions, who are you? What day is it? What time is it? What year is it? And she scribbled something and had the biggest smile on her face. And as she turned the board around, it just said, I can breathe. And she said, the greatest feeling I’ve ever had in my entire life is the ability to take a breath on my own free will and fill my own lungs without needing assistance or machines to do so.

Jairek Robbins (34:50):

Greatest feeling in her entire life. I went, wow. Wow. And I, I, I can’t seem to find the picture, but the picture was the day after that surgery, she was sitting in a, in a wheelchair. She had the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on a person’s face. She had two thumbs up and she had her glasses on. Oh, here it’s, let me, let me throw this up on the screen so you could see it. It’s a little graphic if someone’s watching, but let me throw this up so you could see it. This was the picture that caught my attention. Wow. And I just saw her and thought, wow, what a great human. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And not only did she add stitches straight down the middle of her chest, but there was a tube coming straight outta the middle of her body. That tube was because after they did the double lung transplant, there was some type of hiccup and her heart started to fill with fluid. And so they had to do an open heart surgery to drain the fluid back out of her heart directly after the double lung transplant. And so her name is Kayla Haber. She’s a wonderful, wonderful, inspirational human. I highly recommend following her on Instagram and online. She has so much good news to share. Hmm. And the thing that stood out to me was circling back to the bucket that says, I have enough.

Jairek Robbins (36:32):

Realizing that if you can breathe on your own free will, you have more than enough to have a great life. And someone like Kayla’s fighting for the ability to breathe every single day. And she fights for something that so often we take for granted. And it’s just thinking about that. And it’s not saying, oh, my life is okay and I get it if I compare it to someone else. It’s not about comparison. It’s just the realization that if you can breathe on your own, you have everything it takes to have an unbelievably beautiful life.

Jairek Robbins (37:08):

Final part is, I’m loved enough so I am enough. I have enough. Final one is, I’m loved enough. This is an inside game. There’s not a person on this world that can make you love yourself and not love yourself in egotistical way, but truly appreciate who you are. You know, I always ask people, when’s the last time you turned your phone into selfie mode? And they always go, oh. And I’m like, no, no. Listen to the rest of it. <laugh>, when’s the last time you turned it in? Selfie mode. And the important part, look yourself straight in the eye. I’ve heard that the eyes or the windows of the soul. When’s the last time you looked yourself deep in the eyes, all the way deep into your own soul and told yourself three things you actually appreciated about yourself? When’s the last time you looked deep into your own soul through the window of your eyes and, and identified two things that you’re really proud of, of how you’ve shown up today? When’s the last time you’ve looked deep into your own soul through the window of your eyes and identified one thing that you really think you’re excited to go experience in life in the future?

Jairek Robbins (38:20):

For most people, the answer is, I’ve never done that. And how do you think you can pour love the people around you if you’ve never poured love into yourself? You can’t pour from an empty cup. You gotta fill your own cup every day. And I say, screw, screw a cup. Go for a bucket. Let’s go big

Sam Demma (38:41):

<laugh>. I love that

Jairek Robbins (38:43):

<laugh> fill, fill the bucket. Fill that bucket. And I think if you had a routine every day that talked about filling the three buckets, I am enough. I have enough. I’m loved enough. And if you were overflowing from first thing in the morning, my goodness. As you move throughout the day, imagine how you could pour into all the people around you. And what I’ve noticed is if you see peculiar behavior outta people, stuff that doesn’t seem healthy, doesn’t seem happy, doesn’t seem good. It’s usually because one of these three buckets has a hole in it and it it, there’s a deficit. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they’re feeling like they’re not enough. They’re feeling like they’re not loved enough, or they’re feeling like they don’t have enough and therefore they’re behaving in a way to try to compensate for it. Because when someone feels like they are enough, they have enough, and they loved enough, all they want to do is help others and share it.

Sam Demma (39:31):

I love that. And

Jairek Robbins (39:34):

Wow,

Sam Demma (39:34):

So much. There’s just so much great nuggets, <laugh>, and not a whole story. and I hope that if you’re listening right now, you’re taking notes and writing this stuff down so you can ask yourself these same questions, whether it’s tonight in the mirror, tomorrow morning, when you wake up, depending on when you’re listening to this. Yeah. How do you, how do you find purpose? Something that a lot of young people always ask me is, Sam, I don’t know what my purpose in life is. And I don’t know that you find it. I think you create it. I think you explore. Sure. And I think you have a, a phenomenal story in Uganda with a man you came across who, who created his purpose. And it was one of the most beautiful things. And I’m, I’m hoping you can share the story about the leaves. Sure.

Jairek Robbins (40:14):

So when I was living in that village there, you know, my thought is, how often am I gonna be able to wake up in a village in the middle of Uganda? Like, I don’t know, at least the months I was there. But besides that, I’m not sure how many times I’d get the chance to do it. So I was like, Ooh, I’m gonna squeeze the juice out of this. And so one of the things I promised myself I would do is wake up every morning and watch the sunrise. I was like, that’d be so cool. And so I woke, I set my alarm, figured out the time. Every morning I wake up to watch the sunrise. And I started noticing there was this little old man that every morning would come out of the, the kind of village clinic or hospital that was nearby. And he would just do the same thing every freaking day.

Jairek Robbins (41:02):

And he would do it every day at sunrise on the dot. Never missed. I was like, this dude is wildly consistent. Like he must have a really good alarm clock or something like he doesn’t miss. And, and like every day he come out and get this long fetched broom and he’d kind of stretch his back a little, and then he’d step down the couple steps and he’d work his way from the steps of the clinic all the way down the path to the, to the main road. And he’d just, you know, step, step, sweep, sweep, step, step, sweep, sweep. He’d sweep this whole road. And then he’d get to the, get to the main road, turn around, step, step, sweep, sweep all the way back and clear the leaves off this path. And I remember the first day just being like, oh, cool. It’s a dude sweeping leaves. <laugh>,

Jairek Robbins (41:48):

You know, 10th day, like, man, he’s pretty consistent. 30th, 40th day. Like, this dude has not missed the whole time I’ve been here. This is crazy. But by like month three, I was like, I gotta talk to this guy. Like what in the world? How did he learn such discipline? Like this guy doesn’t miss. I’m like, this is amazing. It’s like Steph Curry with three points. Like this dude just drains him every day. How does he do that? And so we, we, I went and interviewed him. I, he didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak lu ganden, which was his language. So I found an interpreter, a friend of mine who was like, Hey, can you translate? She’s like, sure. So he went over and I asked him, you know, why do you do what you do? And he was, he looked at me and he kind of shrugged and she said something and he kind like tilted his head.

Jairek Robbins (42:34):

And he is like, cuz I’m supposed to is what she said. And I was like, no man. Like, why do you do what you do? Like why? What’s the purpose? What’s the reason? What’s, and she’s like, she looked at me, she’s like, I speak English stupid. Give me a second. Like, I know what you’re saying. Let me ask him in a different way. Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever done that. You’re traveling in a place that, that isn’t English isn’t the main language and, and you just, you know, say it over and over again. Think you’re just finally gonna land. It’s like they have no clue what you’re saying. <laugh> try a different word. So I was like, no, why? And she’s like, shut up stupid, gimme a second. So she turned around when and talked to him again and said something different. And then she was talking to him.

Jairek Robbins (43:14):

All of a sudden this guy turned around and got like the biggest smile on his face that I’ve ever seen. And I, I was looking at this guy, I’m like, yeah, yeah, ta ta. She’s like, okay, hold on. And I was like, what did he say? And she said, wow, that was cool. Like that was beautiful. And I was like, no, no. What did he say? And she says, you know, he said, the reason I sweeped the leaves is I, because I believe every human being, whether it a small baby about to enter this world or a sicker elderly person about to leave this world, I believe they deserve a clear path to do so. And I remember thinking, wow, wow man, this guy found so much purpose in sweeping a dirt path every day. Hmm. Just clearing leaves off the path. And like you said, there’s millions of young people all over the world who can’t figure out what their purpose is, who can’t figure out why they’re here, who can’t figure out what they’re supposed to be doing.

Jairek Robbins (44:21):

What if it’s as simple as finding deep joy and purpose in just living your life every day. Now we live in a society that says, that’s it, that’s all my purpose is. But this guy found immense joy, unbelievable fulfillment in living life every day. And I watch people who own a brick with a label on it. <laugh> not happy. Yeah. And not fulfilled. That guy didn’t own anything like that. He lived in a broom closet. The most proud thing he owned was the fact that in his broom closet there was an electricity panel hooked to a hooked up to the one wire in the whole town that had electricity so he could charge a cell phone. He, he was so proud of that. The only other thing he had was a hat collection, which included three hats. So I gifted him my hat before I left and he thought it was cool. He had four hats by the time I left. That’s it. That was his whole life collection right there. And he was so proud of it.

Jairek Robbins (45:31):

And people like to say like, oh, finding joy in the little things. I was like, I don’t think that’s little. Finding your purpose in life is a big deal. And if this gentleman was able to find so much joy and so much purpose in something so simple, I think that’s unbelievably beautiful. And I think to challenge more of us to say, Hey, can you find your purpose in something so simple yet profound of your daily life? Can you find purpose in loving on the people you care about? Can you find purpose in doing simple chores throughout the day? Can you find purpose in meaning in supporting your family and community? Can you find purpose in meaning in, in doing something that brings you joy in sharing that joy with others? Hmm. It doesn’t have to be complicated, but we live in a society that’s been built to generate revenue from us.

Jairek Robbins (46:31):

I remember I was in Ecuador and I, I was on a tour and I looked up and I saw a billboard and I went, huh, that’s interesting. And I asked the lady who’s guiding the tourist, I said, Hey, is the lady on the billboard? Is she from here? And he, she was like, I don’t know n n not like from this city, but like, is she Ecuadorian? Like is she from Ecuador? And she looked there and she’s like, no, no, she’s not from here. And I was like, where is she from? And she’s like, maybe Mexico. Maybe Brazil. But like, she’s not from Ecuador, we don’t look like that. I went, that’s interesting. I wonder why they’d use a person not from there to advertise what beauty looks like. And then I started walking around in the US cities and looking at billboards and watching TV commercials and realizing that in the United States we use models, quote unquote is what they call ’em from Europe, central and South America. We use models from other parts of the world to show young people what beauty looks like.

Jairek Robbins (47:38):

And then I went to Europe and realized they used models from America to show people what beauty look like. Then I went to Asia and when you’re in one part of Asia, they use models from other parts of Asia. And I’m like, why would they keep doing this? And I realized, cuz when I asked the lady from Ecuador, why would they use a model that’s not from here to represent beauty? And then it clicked. I said, how do you know she’s not from here? And he says, she said, cuz our bone structure doesn’t look like that. Our cheeks don’t look like that. Our jaw line doesn’t look like that. The shape of our face doesn’t look like that. And I said, then why would they use that as the epitome of beauty, the aspiration of beauty, the thing you have to try to become. And it clicked. And I realized, because no matter how many times you buy their product and put it on, you’ll never get there, but you’ll feel a little bit closer. And I was like, no wonder people don’t feel like they’re enough. Hmm. An industry makes billions of dollars telling you you’re not enough. And if you just buy a little more of their crap, eventually you might be a little closer than you were. Wow.

Sam Demma (48:51):

It’s wow. <laugh>, I’m speechless. Like, there’s, there’s so many examples I could think of when you talked about that even in, you know, friend groups that I have and, and people that are my age and my life.

Jairek Robbins (49:06):

What

Sam Demma (49:06):

Our crazy realization, thank you for sharing that story and, and all the stories you shared were, we’re almost outta time here, <laugh> and I, I that I had a ton of questions that we didn’t even get a chance to touch upon but this is a beautiful conversation and I’m, I’m curious to know where can people reach out to you? Where can people learn more about you? Where can they buy your book? I just read it, live it. It’s a phenomenal book. And it’s not only a book you read, it’s, it’s a, it’s an exercise, it’s a workshop. If you follow along with the steps and, and you actually do them as you read, it’s a phenomenal exercise. Where can they find your book? Where can they connect with you? Where can they learn more about you and maybe even work with you if they wanted to?

Jairek Robbins (49:45):

Sure. Our books on Amazon, easiest place to find it. It’s worldwide. If you want to check out one of our programs, if you want to go through a program to help be happy, healthy, strong, fulfilled, stuff like that, you can go to Udemy I think the code is highperformancekw.com and it’ll, it’s like $129 program. I’ll give it to you for like 10 bucks or 12 bucks on Udemy. We have students, 5000 plus students in 119 countries around the world actively in that program right now. So it’s a great program. People love it. They’re people all over the world are, are just raving about it and really enjoying it. And then if you want to just connect and, and stay in touch, I mean find me on Instagram. I’m weary to use social media as a connection point just ’cause I know there, there the, again, the algorithm is built to keep you on there, not necessarily to make you healthy. So yeah, you can find me on there, and, and we just try to push out good thoughts every single day to support people in, in being happy, healthy, strong, and fulfilled.

Sam Demma (50:50):

I believe that educators deserve way more recognition, which is why I’ve created the High Performing Educator Awards. In 2022, 20 educator recipients will be shortlisted, each of whom will be featured in local press. invited to record an episode on the podcast, and spotlighted on our platform. In addition, the one handpicked winner will be presented with an engraved plaque by myself. I will fly to the winner’s city to present this to them and ask that they participate in a quick photo shoot and interview on location. The coolest part, nominations are open right now, and they close October 1st, 2022. So please take a moment to apply or nominate someone you know or work with that deserves this recognition. You can do so by going to www.highperformingeducator.com/award. We can never recognize educators enough.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Jairek Robbins

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Karl Fernandes – Teacher, Presenter and Life-long Learner

Karl Fernandes – Teacher, Coach, Writer, Guest Speaker and Life Long Learner
About Karl Fernandes

Teacher, coach, writer, guest speaker, life long learner: Karl Fernandes wears many hats as an educator. Blessed beyond measure in his career, Karl has taught in each academic division for the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Karl believes strongly in experiential learning and has an extensive history of engaging his students in local and international service projects. He is actively involved in mental health and natural health initiatives and has worked with numerous organizations to develop well-being resources for students and teachers.

Karl has also instructed at the post-secondary level, and currently serves as a course instructor and professional development facilitator at the provincial level for the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association. He has presented to OCTs and teacher candidates at conferences and workshops across Ontario.

Connect with Karl: Email | LinkedIn

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

Toronto Catholic District School Board

Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:01):

Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s special guest is Karl Fernandes. Karl is a teacher, coach, writer, guest speaker, and lifelong learner. He wears many hats as an educator. Blessed beyond measure in his career, Karl has taught in each academic division for the Toronto Catholic District School Board. Karl believes strongly in experiential learning and has an extensive history of engaging his students in local and international service projects. He’s actively involved in mental health and natural health initiatives and has worked with numerous organizations to develop well-being resources for students and teachers. I’m so grateful that a past guest that we had on the show, John Linhares, introduced me to Karl. Karl has also instructed at the post-secondary level and currently serves as a course instructor and professional development facilitator at the provincial level for the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association.

He has presented to OCTs and teacher candidates at conferences and workshops across Ontario. I hope you enjoy this insightful conversation with my friend Karl, and I will see you on the other side. Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator Podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today, we have a very special guest. We connected a few times before this podcast, and I’m so excited to finally have him on the show. Karl Fernandes. Karl, please start by introducing yourself so everyone listening knows a little bit about who you are and what it is that you do.

Karl Fernandes  (01:39):

Thanks, Sam. It’s my pleasure to be here with you this afternoon and to share a bit of my background. I guess I describe myself as both an educator and a lifelong learner. I am a teacher with Toronto Catholic, and I’ve taught in different communities in the city for years. All the grades, like from the little ones right up through high school, and I’ve also had the opportunity in recent years to teach post-secondary and to work with teacher candidates, and now I also work with the, at the provincial level with the Catholic Teachers Association. And I’m doing a lot of teacher training there. It’s just a terrific way to continue my own learning. As I said, lifelong learning is, it’s real.

Sam Demma (02:19):

Where did this passion for lifelong learning develop or stem from?

Karl Fernandes (02:25):

You know what? I think it, it, it comes just from the realization that you, there’s so much you don’t know. Hmm. And, you know, your mistakes inform you. So you, it’s tough because, you know, it’s your pride sometimes, but then you have to recognize well about all the things you maybe didn’t think of or didn’t know. And so it’s, it’s something you learn along as you go along the way. It’s really about the questions you asked, right? That’s what leads to better understanding and better thinking. So that’s something that comes from your work with students. But I think it also comes from just being intentional about how you live your life and how you have your interactions and your experiences. And if you allow yourself some space to be still and not to feel like it’s always about, like you have to look ahead, but sometimes you need to look back.

Karl Fernandes (03:18):

You need to be right here, and then you get a better perception and perspective on things. So I think that’s something life’s taught me a bit. And I don’t think you start off recognizing your lifelong learner, but it’s just that we’re all on this journey, you know, to try and make meaning of this time we have. And I think that’s where I started recognizing. I, I went back to grad school years after I’d got my teaching certification and all that. And I was, I was probably the most excited person in, in the rooms at times because I knew I was doing it because I just wanted to continue my education. It wasn’t about I need this to get that. And I did meet some people that were doing that and, and that’s fine. But I felt that for me it was more about, let me take this at this stage of my life.

Karl Fernandes (04:05):

And I didn’t wanna be thinking, oh I could have done it. I just decided not to. I, I knew it mattered to me. So I had a great support network. And in the end, I think it kind of reinforced at that stage in my life, a lot of things that you know, I was intuitively leading towards, you know, the idea of how knowledge is. It’s a reward in and of itself, right? To, to work through a problem, to think about different perspectives, to gain a better understanding, to hear someone else’s point of view. All those things are part of just being willing to learn. And hey, you know, we learn things when we get in the kitchen. We learn things, you know, in so many different aspects of our lives that I think it’s there for everybody. Just, you know, and when you see other people that are inspired to go back and learn something or take a course on the side, you celebrate that. Cuz I just think it’s, it’s such a pathway to their thinking and, and maybe something that becomes a passion project or whatever. Right. So yeah, I see it as natural

Sam Demma (05:02):

Stillness is something that’s very familiar to you. You’ve written about it in a few online teacher articles and magazines. You mean it both in a physical sense of sitting down and not moving, but also in a, I guess a metaphorical sense of not living in the future, but living here and now. but let’s talk about it from a physical standpoint. I know that being still and meditating or finding that pause is something that you practice often. Why do you do that? And do you advise other educators to explore trying that themselves?

Karl Fernandes (05:39):

Yeah, it, it’s something where you have to keep putting yourself in a position, you know, to, to learn and grow and to help your students do the same, right? So even pre pandemic this is something that, you know, the whole idea of mindfulness and meditation, we have to resist this thing that it’s the flavor of the day. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> as if it’s kind of like a trend or like a new way, right? Because it’s actually ancient in, its in, its in its wisdom and in its methods. So we, we need to sort of put that aside cuz that’s one of my, my cautions right now. I do a lot of real work in this area. And this has happened organically and authentically as someone that, you know, you have to be thinking about how you’re managing you know, your sense of wellbeing.

Karl Fernandes (06:28):

If you’re gonna lead others, you know, you’re gonna lead your students. And, you know, equally important, you have to think about your students and recognize that if they’re not feeling well, if they’re not feeling good the math lesson doesn’t matter, right? So what can you do? Right? Of course, you wanna be a present and a welcoming figure, and you wanna create a classroom that’s inclusive and dynamic. And, and those things are things that we take pride in, right? And you build through the year, but then you have these other, you know, I don’t wanna, like, it’s sometimes we use an analogy of a toolbox, right? Mm-hmm. And you pull things out and you know, you know what to use and all that. And I actually did a pilot, I was involved with a pilot project some years ago that involved bringing wellbeing practices to students.

Karl Fernandes (07:11):

And you know, through that I had a chance, I had already was committed to a lot of these practices, including the idea of meditating. But to be able to have my, you know, guide my students through these and learn some new things because the people leading it were really top rates. So it gives you a chance just to expand again, to expand your learning. But I saw firsthand, you know, I mean, we, I, if you’ve created an environment that’s safe and welcoming, it’s amazing where students will, you know, where like, they’ll, they’ll come along, you know? So they were, I, I had a, a beautiful group of grade eights that year. A lot of ’em, huge kids, you know, athletes, scholars, the whole, the whole nine. But they didn’t hesitate, you know, if I said, look at, this is what I like to try.

Karl Fernandes (07:54):

They, you know, they already, you had gained their trust and they, they, they also understood that you were putting them in a place where they had an opportunity to try something that could benefit them. It wasn’t something that would, was meant to make them feel self-conscious or, you know, put in a spot. So I, I witnessed it firsthand that they were willing to, to try these things. We did, you know, some of the elements of of breathing exercises and, and physical exercises that are connected to yoga that just would help them with their the relaxation and it, you know, then they’d write about it a bit and how they felt about it. So then you get that sense, and then you do other things, you know, that help them build a sense of community and their appreciation for each other in life.

Karl Fernandes (08:37):

You do things like gratitude circles and it just, you know, builds. And so what was fascinating is from there you know, we, we changed grades and assignments as the years unfold. And I was in with a younger group of students who maybe were a bit more challenged by issues around self-regulation. And this was just pre pandemic. So we started on this journey too, in the fall. And at the beginning, I know for some of ’em, it was really challenging because, you know, I would try to create the right environment, you know, dim the lights, close the door and all that. But then, you know, meditation really teaches you, it’s just like life. Like it’s, you can’t write it up the way you want it to be an expected to happen. So I’d leave the door open a couple times. Someone would walk in already talking to me before they actually saw what was going on.

Karl Fernandes (09:21):

And I just like, you know what, we’re present in this moment, so we’re just gonna stay with this. And it was something where I’ll catch up with that person later. But the priority right now is, you know, we’re gonna continue our breathing. And, you know, the thing I loved about ASAM is that was unfortunately the year where we had to transition to online learning. Mm-hmm. And these these habits that we had developed in person, we extended to our online sessions. And so we would have it as part of our, you know, I would always be throwing new things into the mix to keep the kids feeling connected and that, you know, that, that this matters. And that was one of the things we did. And it absolutely was a, a joyful thing. And I mean, it, it, it, the science is all there, but I can also speak to it from like, from the heart, from an emotional level, just to see your students to look up and see that they’re completely engaged in this.

Karl Fernandes (10:13):

At the beginning you got the kids that are eyes open looking around, you know, wanting to see if any of their friends are maybe looking around too. But, you know, little by little they kind of come to it. And it’s not for you to, to judge or to scold or whatever it is. You just keep the in imitation open. And it’s tough because our minds are just used to overprocessing and racing and, and jumping around and all that. So, you know, wanna go back to your original thought stillness, right? It just, it, it, it allows you to be just a little more aware and when you’re done. ‘Cause the kids at the beginning thought maybe they’d get sleepy. And I said, it’s the opposite that happens, right? Like, you can talk to ’em a bit about the science of your alpha waves and just help them understand a bit that this actually benefits you. You become more alert and more present. So I, I would en I would encourage it. I, I would think, you know, you need to sort of find out a bit, especially if it’s not something you’ve done yourself. And you can always, there’s so many great resources online and apps and really legitimate websites, platforms that are developed by people that are in this field, so that if you wanna get started, there’s always a, a pathway for you.

Sam Demma (11:19):

It’s such a cool thing to hear about that you’re doing in a classroom with students. I’ve benefited greatly from meditation, from silence, from nature. And I think it’s just awesome to hear that you’re creating those spaces with young students. I didn’t stumble into that when I was in high school. I stumbled into it listening to podcasts, and I would’ve loved to have a teacher introduce me to those things at a younger age. You mentioned you create these safe spaces, and I’m curious to know, how do you think an educator creates a safe space? Like, how do you create a space where students feel like they can be themselves, feel like it’s okay to fail?

Karl Fernandes (12:01):

Yeah, that’s important, isn’t it? Because if you don’t make it clear that we’re inherently gonna make our mistakes and we’re not always gonna have the result we want mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you’re creating a climate that isn’t really welcoming and isn’t really gonna, you know, reach the students. So I think, you know, it starts with just that idea that, you know, when you’re in education, you generally are guided by compassion and a and, and an interest in your students. And, and that comes out in many ways. Sometimes it’s just the being that stable, welcoming presence for them, because they may not have enough of that in their lives. And sometimes it’s just the, you know, the little conversations you can have if it’s in line or, you know, as you’re going out, extracurriculars, field trips, all that. I think what you’re trying to tell the student is that as much as their their homework, it sure it matters.

Karl Fernandes (12:54):

And, you know, all these other things matter. It’s the person that matters the most. And kids have this innate ability to sense when they’re in the presence of someone that welcomes them and will, you know, kind of encourage them. So if, if, if you’re just worried about the rule or the, the way it’s done, you could lose sight of the bigger picture. Whereas here’s someone who’s not that different from us, right? Who’s maybe messed it up a bit today or maybe forgot the thing they should have brought. And maybe, yeah, it is the third time, and that could be trying, but if the child understands that what you’re trying to address is the the actual action of the behavior, not the person, you know, there’s the real opportunity for them to, to reflect and, and children of all ages, like they, they, they, they can come to this place, right?

Karl Fernandes (13:46):

One of the fascinating things that you often, that, that I find I, I enjoy doing with students is when it comes to evaluating a piece of work ask them to evaluate themselves, including with the grade, it’s amazing how hard they’ll be on themselves. Mm-hmm. Right Now you get the occasional kid that’s gonna give themselves the flying a plus <laugh>, but, and you know, that’s all good. But you know, when you, when you’re, when you ask them a little further, they’ll, they’ll come down from that too. But so many, I mean, that’s our human nature, right? And I think there are all these studies out there that talk about how many negative comments we tend to absorb in the course of a day. And even the talk we do with ourselves tends to be a little bit more critical. And so I think as a teacher, you’ve gotta check that sometimes, you know, and you’ve gotta remind yourself that, you know, you can put a lot of positive energy.

Karl Fernandes (14:32):

You don’t have to be like singing songs and clapping hands and all that to show that you’re happy, right? Yeah. Sometimes it’s this calm and peaceful environment you create. I mean, gosh, remember with my younger students years ago, I’d played classical music while we were working, and that was one of those years of the EQAO tests where, you know, scores were like such a big concern and the province and all that. And you know, when your students are asking, can they have, can they listen to Mozart while they’re doing their math work or whatever, I mean, something’s happened, right? And it’s not always classical, but it’s just the fact that we can go there. And so you can just create these little dynamics and you also instill trust, right? So for me, like there are a lot of policies without getting too much into teacher speak, you know, the idea of needing to use the bathroom or get a drink.

Karl Fernandes (15:15):

Like that’s, to me, that’s, it’s automatic, but the only condition I place on that is you’re not going for walks around the school, right? Like, there are things you can do in the classroom if you need to get up, and you have to know when you’re, you know, you need to leave. But if I’m if I’m teaching a split grade, let’s say, and I’m teaching the other side, my students that are currently in independent work, they understand like they’re allowed to get up and go, but it’s a trust thing. If even once I find they’re roaming around or they’re, you know, there’s something that’s, you know, a bit of a disappointing choice they’ve made, they have to answer for it. So, you know, I think when you put all these things in place, it’s for everybody. It’s not just for the student that’s easy to trust.

Karl Fernandes (15:53):

Hmm. Right? It has to be for an invitation for all of them to reach a standard. And I think putting expectations forward, I, I’ve, I’ve talked to people over the years to try and understand this better, and I, I really feel it’s true because sometimes you have a group where you recognize they’re struggling, you know, maybe they’re struggling with expectations or with their academics or whatever. And the question is, well, do you lower the standard and just, you know, make sure everyone can jump right over the fence and get these high grades that may be inflated or whatever. Or are there other ways that you need to think about this? How do we, how kind of scaffold it so that they can, you know, see progress and start reaching. And I tend to prefer that. So I think when students are in a room where they understand their expectations, but there’s also, you know, acceptance and forgiveness and understanding all these things that kind of come part of saying, Hey, we’re all human. So I like that you mentioned failure, because if we’re afraid of it, there’s all this stuff about fear failure. And I think you’ve worked in that space as well about encouraging people to overcome that. It, it, it’s important because then we shift our mindset. There’s a whole thinking around the growth mindset, and that can only come if we see these things that don’t work out as opportunities as opposed to complete failures. Right.

Sam Demma (17:05):

I, I couldn’t agree more. I love that you mentioned this idea that you’re not addressing the person you’re addressing the action or the behavior. And that was a big thing for me as a student because I attached my self worth to my success as an athlete. And I thought subconsciously, if Sam wasn’t seen as a great soccer player, he’d be worth nothing as a person. Whereas in reality, soccer was just a game I chose to play outside of Sam Demma human being. and when I was able to identify that it was a lot easier to overcome the challenges, the mental barriers that I had to moving on and starting something new and continuing to build my life mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And I feel like you kind of addressing students by saying, you chose to make this choice. that doesn’t, that’s not necessarily a great reflection of you as a human being. It’s just a choice you made. I’m not addressing you. I’m addressing the choice. Let’s talk about the choice together, not you as a person. I think that’s a great way to have difficult conversations and it’s a lot more disarming. so yeah, I thought that was really, that was really great distinction and I appreciate you making it. Did you know when you were a student walking the hallways of the schools you attended that you wanted to work in education as a teacher?

Karl Fernandes (18:22):

Absolutely not. No <laugh>, I didn’t see it. I, I, I knew, I guess there were probably, it’s, it’s, you know, life is such a mystery, right? Like, where we go and the people we come across and all the things that we’re gonna do, it’s, it’s, you gotta love that, that it’s so unscripted. But I know some people say that they, they figured it out. They knew from time. And I, I just wasn’t in that camp. I, I think the things that probably I could occlude into us, I, I enjoyed presenting and I was pretty good at explaining things to my classmates. if, you know, we were working out certain problems, not in all subjects and not in everything, but, you know, oftentimes I could, could lend a bit that way. And I did get a chance to work with youth a co I took, you know, I was always, you know, on the move picking up a job wherever I could, you know, growing up just to sort of, you know, take care of things and, you know, self put myself through university, the whole nine.

Karl Fernandes (19:14):

So I had to I just, and I also wanted to try everything, you know, I thought, hey, life is about this. It’s not just, you know, one thin line to walk. So I did get a chance to work with students a couple times, including at a sports camp actually. And you know, that was an absolute blast. You know, I just found how much I loved being in that space and you know, all the things that come with it. Cuz when you’re with them all day, it’s a little bit like school, right? Except it’s all about sports, <laugh>, this whole, whole whole you have to learn a lot about your, I mean, know we, we refer to as classroom management, but people misunderstand that thinking. It’s about like managing kids and rules and expectations and it’s really about creating environment, you know?

Karl Fernandes (19:54):

So anyways, I think those things helped inform me, but really and truly, I didn’t sort of listen to that voice properly until I was into my university years. And it wasn’t a sort of a fallback or something. It was literally like, well, which path am I gonna take now? I was really interested in international relations and I had done some you know, like a number of studies and things and I was feeling strongly drawn to that, you know, cause I had an interest in politics and, and, and global issues environment. And so I felt that there was something there that was really calling me. And then there was this thing about, boy, you get to do so many amazing things in, in school and I wasn’t the model that you’d expect to become the teacher, you know? So it was something I had to reflect on a bit.

Karl Fernandes (20:43):

But I realized that, you know, there were certain things that were aligning for me that suggested, you know, even when I’d be in university and I was presenting or I was doing other things, I thought there that space is, is, is fascinating, so I should stay open to it. And then I kind of was, I I I was doing the two degrees concurrently, so I was pursuing my international relations and I was pursuing my work through teachers college. And I think if I was gonna be quite honest with myself, my international relations work was, was really lighting up. I was loving it. And I felt like, you know, my mind was alive and sometimes in, in, in teachers programs, I was a little bit more, you know, we’d be having debates about phonics and I wasn’t particularly excited <laugh> about stuff like that sometimes.

Karl Fernandes (21:27):

So I wondered, you know, even as I was going through it, I didn’t know where I was gonna land. But I kind of ended up lending both because I did some international development projects as a volunteer. And that took me into countries in the developing world where I really got to, you know, do the work and meet people and see things and, and, and reflect on them. And what it’s done is it’s kind of informed my practice because one of the things that I am, I’m homely proud of as an educator is that I’ve connected my students to service projects throughout the years mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And, you know, it, it is a bit of a leap. You don’t, it’s not a scripted thing. You figure out, okay, what are we gonna do about this situation? Or how can we get involved? And, and then you have to just have the courage to say, well, may not be perfect, but let’s, let’s put this together.

Karl Fernandes (22:11):

And, you know, so I think in a way, now that I look back at it, all the pieces were there for me. I just didn’t know, you know, what the puzzle was supposed to look like. And in a, in a unique way, I’ve kind of blended these different parts of who I am. So environmental work and international work and, and, and social justice work have all kind of combined. And of course I love the material I get to teach, but you know, your, your, your teaching extends so far beyond the lesson, right? And ideally you’re connecting students to the world in whatever form, and you take kids outside and they just, they just, they’re overjoyed. It’s like, wow, we get to go and do something. Right? So you don’t want to just think of it as a static, you gotta check off. Cuz that’s the thing. There’s this weight, you know, you gotta check off all these objectives and lessons and there’s so much more than that. So I guess that’s a wandering answer, but I guess that’s kind of reflective of my path in education. I don’t think it was something I, I recognized until it just aligned and I realized, yeah, this is, this is right for me.

Sam Demma (23:15):

I’ve had a diverse representation of answers when it came to this question. Some being, I used to play school with my, with my family members growing up and acted like I was the teacher to, I totally just fell into it randomly to, I like an answer like you shared. I liked certain aspects of education like presenting and realized I was passionate about it and, you know, during my university degree got into it. So I think it’s cool to hear that everyone has a very different journey to education because someone might feel overwhelmed or like they missed the boat if they’re a little bit later in their education and have started pursuing something differently. So thank you for sharing that. Your path was a little bit different. Steve Jobs always says you can’t connect. Well, he did say you can’t connect the dots looking forwards. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that at some point in your future, the dots will connect. And it’s a part of his commencement speech and it gives me the goosebumps whenever I’m really discerning a tough decision. And I try and remind myself that, ah, this seems very challenging right now, but I’m sure a year from now looking back, it will all make sense even if I can’t make sense of it in the moment. And that kind of sounds like your journey to getting into education <laugh>. So

Karl Fernandes (24:33):

Yeah. Yeah,

Sam Demma (24:34):

Yeah. Yeah. I appreciate you sharing that. At what point in your educational journey did you start presenting to other teachers and educators? it sounds like you always had a passion for presenting.

Karl Fernandes (24:47):

I think it’s more I was, you know, willing to step forward. I think that’s part of where you, you try to lead in whatever way you can. Cuz in the end, you know, in a school, you’re part of a community and you, you want to contribute in a meaningful way. And it’s tricky because, you know, it’s, it’s one of the tensions that sometimes can exist in schools where you can feel that things are being pulled in all kind of different directions. And so my initiative isn’t more important than another initiative, but perhaps, you know, it’s been in place, it’s been formed and it’s ready to be rolled out and then along comes something else. And sometimes you have to just, you know, move with it. So I say that because I guess sometimes it’s just you’re, you’re asked to do it.

Karl Fernandes (25:34):

I remember years ago, I have to think about this really, but I, I think in one of my first couple years of teaching I was asked to, it was more like, oh, just, I was the new guy, right? So I was like a year or two in, and we, we were at some kind of event and I think I was supposed to either do the welcome or the thank you to somebody and I was just, it was literally like, Hey, can you do this in two minutes, <laugh>? Yeah. So I thought, sure, you know, but it wasn’t exactly something that I knew. It was more like, well, we need someone to do it, let’s ask you kind of thing. And, which was fine. I but I was also, you know, asked by people that were friendly enough that I thought, sure, if I can help out I will.

Karl Fernandes (26:13):

But I remember after that some people came after me and says like, wow, do you do that stuff all the time? Like, no, I just did that cuz you asked me to. But I think, you know, ultimately what it is Sam, is that if you, if, if you’re trying to be purposeful, and I, I think thoughtful about things and that doesn’t mean you’re, it’s rehearsed and you’ve got it all right. But just you think about it, I think that just lends for more opportunities. But the rest of this is unfolded over time. Like sometimes it was school events where, you know, we’d put on, we’d put on some amazing presentations for parents, you know, where the students were, obviously the, the, the, the focus Nice. But you’d need to have it stitched together. And sometimes it was coming together, so, you know, last minute and like with different pieces, like, I’d be working, I, I also work with music in the school, so with one, some of my partners are like, okay, so which one we’re doing next?

Karl Fernandes (27:06):

And all that stuff. And then it would just, you know, I would, I would always wanna give students the mic wherever it’s possible, but where the, where situations are unfolding and it’s not maybe you know, like people can rehearse. That’s possible. Yeah. Yeah. And then, you know, sometimes it’s just like, Hey, this is just live to, so you’ve gotta be ready. Yeah, I’ll take it at those stages. And you know, when you have graduation ceremonies and stuff, one of the things that I felt was so important was to address the grads as a teacher and just thank them and wish them the best. And you try to do it in a poignant, meaningful way because, you know, not all of them gonna get called up for these awards and things like that. And I always think about those other kids that, you know, this is a big piece of their life, you know, this is the foundational piece, and they need to know that they mattered and this whole journey mattered.

Karl Fernandes (27:47):

And it’s not about, well, you know, who got the whatever award. So I kind of, I guess more and more would step forward in those lights. And then as you unfold in your career, you think again about what matters and where you can contribute. And part of that’s also finding the things that you are passionate about and that you know, where you can authentically discuss. Because if it’s something that, like, I, I can, I, I really enjoy teaching math and language and all that, but I, I don’t think I could get really jazzed up to do a presentation on some of that. I can help, you know, and, and, and learn with others and all that. That’s all good. But if I get to talk about, you know, mental wellbeing, if I get to talk about the environment or social justice or classroom management, I’m all in.

Karl Fernandes (28:32):

You know. So I think when I, when I went back to grad school, that kind of unfolded a series of interesting pathways where it went from being in class to, you know, I met someone who worked in I think it was the international education department there. And then I got a call from students asking, could I present at a conference? And then I said, sure. And so I did that. This is for university students. And then from there I was asked to teach a, a certificate course. And then, you know, it just one thing, I guess in the end, you get an opportunity and then it’s what do you do with that opportunity? And, you know, in, in recent years, I’ve been really enjoying my work with the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association. You know, it’s the provincial level for Catholic teachers in the pro in, in Ontario.

Karl Fernandes (29:13):

I see. And the, the professional development work they do is just fantastic. So, you know, when I came into this some years ago, you just apply and you know, at the beginning you’re in with a lot of really well established people. And so I was just like, I was, again, the new kid, so to speak, but I’m just happy to, you know, learn from others and talk. And then eventually you get tapped and I, I did a presentation and that led to something else. And then I think about within a year, I’m delivering the keynote at a, a conference for educators in Eastern Ontario. And I thought I was doing a workshop when I put my <laugh>, my, my work forward. And they said, no, it’s a keynote. And I was like, okay. And then I thought, well, that’s, that’s fine then, you know, I mean, I believe in what I was gonna talk about, and it was about a teacher’s journey and how we have to think about, you know, how we restore ourselves and how that in turn helps us to create these climates for our students.

Karl Fernandes (30:02):

So I believed in what I was gonna talk about, but they did select it. And then from there, I guess it’s, it’s rolled on. So I, I’m, I’m very, very grateful that I’ve had these opportunities, but I also take each one as, you know, extremely important that it matters. And I, I value the time of my audiences. And oftentimes it’s the conversations you have after the session’s done where you feel so good because you’ve reached someone and they come up specifically to tell you that, or they want to talk more about your ideas. And I’m sure you’ve had plenty of those moments, cuz I know how inspiring your talks are, but this is what we try to do. It’s just about taking what we know and then maybe passing it forward or helping people move along. And then we reflect too. So no two presentations are the same mm-hmm. <affirmative>

Karl Fernandes (30:44):

And each group, I’ve, I’ve spoken to teacher candidates, I’ve spoken to teacher groups, you know where they may be getting a PD session and I’ve done an online in person, it just, you know, you just, you just adapt to whatever the environment is and just try and figure out how can I contribute something here that’s, that’s meaningful. And what can you say, you feel so fortunate when you hear the feedback afterwards that people have benefited in some way. Right? But you don’t rest on that. You know probably, I suspect you have this too, as a presenter, you’re never satisfied. You keep thinking, oh, you know what, here’s a little something I wanna try and do a little differently for the next one. Or, this audience is a little different. I always wanna know a bit about my audience. I don’t wanna take anything for granted.

Karl Fernandes (31:24):

So I’ll be doing a presentation this week to some teacher candidates, and I wanted to know a bit more. And it turns out they’re graduate students, so that means that they’ve had a little bit more time with their program, and perhaps they’re coming at this from different lenses. They wanna look at things at. So that’s important to me to consider when I do the presentation. So, you know, I think it’s opportunities they come and I think it’s just that slow patient work where you put yourself in a situation, but I was never the one to sort of say like, like it’s, it’s, how do I say? Like, I need to get to the front of the line. I think I’d rather be tapped on merit than sort of try too hard to say, you know, me. And now I think I feel, you know, that I, I have a, a lot that I can contribute. And so if I am asked, I, I like to say yes. And so I think that’s a lot about life too. You know, just try and say yes and then invite the opportunities to come.

Sam Demma (32:19):

That’s awesome. You mentioned teacher coming up to you afterwards and how they often tell you how it made them feel and they wanna talk about your ideas further or how it connected with them. And it made me think about success because oftentimes we, well, in the presentation world, you feel like your presentation was a success. When someone walks up to you and says, oh my goodness, Carl, that was amazing. It really connected. I have these new tools to bring into my school. And I’m curious to know how you define success as an educator, not as a presenter, but as an educator. And the reason I ask is because

Sam Demma (32:56):

I think a lot of educators wanna make a positive difference in the lives of the students in their classrooms or the teachers they’re leading. If they’re the principal or the principals, if they’re the superintendent, it, it all comes down to helping mm-hmm. <affirmative> and changing people. But sometimes after a presentation, people won’t walk up to you and tell you how great it was, even though it was, and they still have the connections, but maybe they didn’t feel confident enough to come and tell you, or you changed the student’s life, by the way you talked to them in class for a semester. But they tell you about it 20 years later. And you’re left wondering, well, did I make a difference? and Tom, I’m curious to know, like, how do you define success as an educator? So you don’t, you don’t mislead yourself to believe you’re not making a change or a difference in those moments where people don’t rush up and tell you.

Karl Fernandes (33:51):

Yeah. That’s, that’s that’s a really thoughtful thing to, to ask. And I guess to reflect on, you know, that’s one of the dilemmas about being a teacher, right? Like every, most people think they’re doing it really well, and some people are very hard on themselves and maybe they are trying well, but they’re just, you know, presented with challenging circumstances. And, you know, we’re an egalitarian workforce in a way, right? A teacher is, you know, we’re presented with, you know, more or less the same conditions no matter where, I mean, there are variances of course, but by the nature of our employment, this is what it is. We’re not, you know, vice president of teaching and <laugh>, you know, like something like that, right? It’s just you, you, so what you try to do is, you know, learn to be effective, you know, learn to really succeed with your curriculum.

Karl Fernandes (34:42):

Like you need to know your stuff. And on that, I’m, I’m, that’s where I’m uncompromising, you know, like, you can’t teach something you don’t understand and you know, so you have to put the time in to know your material, to understand, you know, the nuances of it, the, the, the traps that students will maybe get stuck with and all that you need to consider changing grades to sort of see how the building blocks form. Like, that’s one of the things I really loved about going down to primary after years up with the older students and just sort of seeing how things come together at that age. And then I was like, oh, you know, I remember sometimes when my intermediate students would struggle with a concept and I’d be working with them at that level trying to figure out how to plug in for them.

Karl Fernandes (35:21):

And then what it probably turns out is this concept wasn’t fully grasped at a younger grade. They didn’t see it, and then they think they can’t do it. And then it just becomes something, whenever it comes up, it’s like, oh, not that like, you know, like, I’m not good at that. And so when you can sort of see it from all these different levels, you can plug in a little differently and you try to just reinforce it in a way that you hope they’ll carry enough forward, that they’ll feel, I can do this. You know, I’ve got this and that’s what you want to help them feel. But you’re right, it’s, success is abstract in a lot of ways. You know, it’s not performance based. It’s, it’s really a, an intuitive and a a reactive kind of thing, right? How do you feel when you walk out each day, right?

Karl Fernandes (36:08):

Or when you walk in each day at the end of the year. To me that’s an emotional time, you know, like it really is, as much as your birthday and a calendar year are times to take stock and to think about things the end of a school year, oof. When you get to June, I mean, I love my break, but that’s a tough month because, you know, you’re all sensing it, right? It’s kind of like a, a joy and also the bittersweetness of knowing this is gonna end and the students feel it too, you know, no matter what grade they’re in, they recognize this comfort, this, this, these dynamics that are in the room, these jokes that you share, these little routines that you’ve created. So when a student walks up to you in the schoolyard and you know, are waiting till they get to be in your class again, you gotta take that and, you know, just sort of just feel that you reached, you know, yeah.

Karl Fernandes (37:00):

That, that, that, that, that mattered there. And when they remind you, even if it’s repeatedly, do you remember when we did whatever it is mm-hmm. <affirmative> and including the online piece, right? Like, I’ve got students that talk about that. We used to go on these walks into the forest cuz we couldn’t really go very far. <laugh> you know, everything was for prohibited, so, yeah. You know, so it’s like, okay, so I’d make up reasons to take the students out and do science, you know, in front of the school. Like, Hey, we’re gonna look at these trees and we’re gonna look at whatever it is and just let’s get outside. Right? And so we’d go to the forest for these walks and then when we went online in whatever that was, January of that year, I told them, listen I, I searched this up when I found these online like ritual nature walks where someone go put, I guess puts a GoPro on and then goes for it and then you can walk along with them in a sense, right?

Karl Fernandes (37:45):

So I asked my students, would you like to try this cuz there’s some amazing places to go. And they were so enthused about it. And then of course, being these enthusiastic kids, it happened to be the first one I showed them as a winter walk in this forest, and they’re convinced it’s our forest. I’m like, that’s not our forest. Like there’s, there’s <laugh>, there’s almost a river running through it, right? <laugh> then, then they’re convinced it’s me. And like I went out there that morning, like I’m in my kitchen, like <laugh>. So, but you laugh about it together, right? And so I think if I know that those little things mattered, then you feel a sense of, okay, so when I, when when fully grown adults who were my former students, reach out, reach back need to come in and just wanna be in, you know, in your company, how can you not just be overwhelmed with gratitude that like, you know, they don’t have to, right?

Karl Fernandes (38:36):

Like they can be well on their way in this world, they can think back or not. And you can’t measure that. You can’t know, right? The, the test of time is what it is that you just have to trust that you’ve done what you can. And if you’re sincere as a teacher, you do your best and you also recognize that you, you weren’t perfect, you know, you did make mistakes and you hope that there weren’t ones that, you know, maybe you can’t get it back. So you just hope that, you know, they, they don’t take the wrong thing from you. But there’s that old expression I won’t say it properly, but it’s, you know, people may forget what you did and you know all that, but they’ll never forget how you made them feel. And so I think, you know, I, I’ve, for whatever it’s worth, like I’ve been invited to former student’s weddings and you know, like now some of ’em are playing in bands like, sir, you gotta come hear me play.

Karl Fernandes (39:19):

And I’m like, sure. You know? So I think those are the, those are some of the markers, right? And I think you, you know, when you get to talk about, they come back and they want to talk about how we won the football championship or the soccer championship way back or you did house league with them. And for some kids, like you see them score their first goal, right? <laugh> because they haven’t really played a much outside of the opportunity to have a House league or something like that. So I think if you were to somehow find a way to quantify all that and put it together, that’s probably a bit about what success would feel like. But ultimately I think you, you know, in your heart, if you’re, if you’re, if you’re being guided by principals and if you don’t stop seeing the students, you know, in front of you is who matters. I think that’s where you can sort of, you know, feel really good. Cuz I really appreciate all the other things I get to do, but none of that would matter very much if I was shorting it out on the, in the classroom side, right? Mm-hmm.

Sam Demma (40:18):

<affirmative>, I love that. Thanks for sharing. this has been a very insightful conversation. It’s already been almost 50 minutes. Before we wrap it up, I got some random rapid fire questions for you. Are you ready?

Karl Fernandes (40:31):

Oh, let me try. Okay.

Sam Demma (40:32):

What’s your favourite sport?

Karl Fernandeas (40:34):

Ooh, gotta be soccer.

Sam Demma (40:36):

What’s the last song you listen to?

Karl Fernandes (40:39):

Ooh, probably whatever my son’s made me listen to <laugh>. He’s always putting earbuds in my ear and says, dad, check this out.

Sam Demma (40:46):

<laugh>. That’s awesome. That’s awesome. what was the first grade that you taught?

Karl Fernandes (40:55):

As a professional? It would’ve been grade seven.

Sam Demma (40:58):

Nice. who are you cheering for the World Cup?

Karl Fernandes (41:04):

Sam, now I I, I gotta be careful with this one, right? Because I don’t know who you’re back in, but I’ll tell you what I mean, Canada was, I was so hopeful for them, you know, I went down and get a chance to watch them play at BMO last year before like everyone was in on the bandwagon and it was just a special night watching these guys just light it up. And so I, I think, you know, they, the moment may have been a bit much, I felt they had a really great opportunity in that first match and it just got away. And then from there, you’re looking uphill, right? Like, you know, the math of World Cup, if you get the first one, you’re in a good spot. If you get a tie or a draw, you still are in the conversation, you lose and suddenly the pressure’s on, right?

Karl Fernandes (41:40):

And they didn’t go from a difficulty easy, right? They went from difficult to more difficult <laugh>. So I think that was regrettable and I, it did kind of feel in the end they didn’t have their best showing. They didn’t look, they were kind of exposed at times. So that was tough because I was all up on Team Canada. I was ready to, I wanted for this city too. I really think I’ve said this to a few friends and family members, but I think what Toronto needs to see happen, they needed to see can’s team go for it, you know, have a little bit of a run and get excited about that. I think the city would’ve just been, you know, would’ve let it up. Yeah, exactly. And if, if this, you know, this beloved Toronto Maple Leafs team of ours ever <laugh> succeeds here. I’m telling you it’s gonna be unreal.

Karl Fernandes (42:23):

So I hope, but to answer your question honestly, I think the Final eight are really like, there are some powerhouse teams there. I would put in the top tier, I’ve gotta believe the way Brazil and France are playing. They’re the class of the, the tournament and right underneath that you’ve got a solid group of about three teams. And there, there are very few that I’d say, I don’t wanna say the wrong team and maybe have someone say wait, <laugh>, but there are a couple that I think are probably longer shots to, you know, get to the semis. But how about I gotta ask you too then, like who are you looking at?

Sam Demma (42:51):

You, you just never know. Right? Okay.

Karl Fernandes (42:54):

My, that’s safe. <laugh>,

Sam Demma (42:55):

My, my team was definitely, I was training for Canada. I didn’t yeah, think they were gonna win the World Cup, but I wanted to see them win some games. Yeah. next would’ve been Italy, but they’re not in it and Greek, which are both of my half, half and half my ethnicities and neither of them are in it. So <laugh> yeah, those are cut short. So now I’m just watching for the beautiful game, but I’m not exactly really cheering on anyone and it sounds like you’re in the same boat. So that’s I, I like you said, you know, you appreciate it. It is such a beautiful game and if you’ve, if you played it as you have it, you know your level and you just, you, you can appreciate it, you know, it is, it is such an intricate sport and all the little skills that go into the buildup, that’s what, you know, just makes it so special. Cuz you know, you can watch a basketball game and there can be 200 points scored <laugh>, you know, easily between the two teams and, you know, with soccer they can, they can 120 minutes and Yeah, exactly. Right. And yet the drama and the tension and all that is so, you know, so strong that if you, you have to just sort of appreciate it for, you know, it’s all the, all the things and make it up. So yeah, I’m, I’m all in for good soccer.

Sam Demma (44:03):

Last question for you.

Karl Fernandes (44:04):

Sure.

Sam Demma (44:06):

Educators tuning in, listening, if they wanna reach out to you, ask you a question, what would be the best way for them to get ahold of you or ask, ask a question?

Karl Fernandes (44:16):

Fair. Let me think. I guess if they’re, if they’re with the any Catholic school board, you can reach me through OECTA because I am part of the professional development network. I’m also with Toronto Catholic, so all teachers know how teacher email works, where, where it’s your name and then the name of the board. So there’s there. I’m really light on the social stamp to be honest. I think it’s one of those things that, it just didn’t really connect for me very much and I just felt that I’m, I’m happier in person and all the opportunities I could ask for have so many have come my way but a couple years ago I was encouraged to start a a LinkedIn profile. So I, it’s lightly used, but it’s there too if anyone, you know, needed to reach me that way too.

Sam Demma (44:55):

Awesome. Karl, thank you so much for taking the time to come on the show. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you. I hope we can do a part two maybe a year from now when we all have different, different perspectives and are on different parts of our journey. Enjoy the indoor workouts as it gets cold, and I look, look forward to staying in touch.

Karl Fernandes (45:15):

Sam, I’ve gotta thank you not only for the opportunity of being so great as a host and guiding this, but I think, you know, the work that you’re doing for young people and also just to recognize teachers because, you know, we’re, we’re in a really unique stage right now. You know, in society and there, there, there is a lot of frustration and, and, and, and everything else, and we see it at ground level, you know, with in schools. So for you to actually make a point of giving teachers a chance to talk about, you know, what we love doing and all that, that’s that’s a rare opportunity and it’s, it’s greatly appreciated. So I hope as well for you that, you know, your path continues to lead to all these really meaningful projects and so it’s appreciated.

Sam Demma (45:57):

Thanks, Karl. Appreciate it a lot. And again, we’ll, we’ll talk soon. Maybe I’ll bump into you in the forest <laugh>.

Karl Fernandes (46:03):

Love, love it, love it. But we’ll both be still at that time anyways. Right. So <laugh>, thanks Sam, appreciate it.

Sam Demma (46:11):

I believe that educators deserve way more recognition, which is why I’ve created the High Performing Educator Awards. In 2022, 20 educator recipients will be shortlisted, each of whom will be featured in local press. invited to record an episode on the podcast, and spotlighted on our platform. In addition, the one handpicked winner will be presented with an engraved plaque by myself. I will fly to the winner’s city to present this to them and ask that they participate in a quick photo shoot and interview on location. The coolest part, nominations are open right now, and they close October 1st, 2022. So please take a moment to apply or nominate someone you know or work with that deserves this recognition. You can do so by going to www.highperformingeducator.com/award. We can never recognize educators enough.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Karl Fernandes

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Dr. Ivan Joseph – TED talk (21 million views), Speaker, Author and Self-Confidence Expert

Dr. Ivan Joseph – TED talk (21 million views), Speaker, Author and Self-Confidence Expert
About Dr. Ivan Joseph

Dr. Ivan Joseph (@DrIvanJoseph) is a six-time Coach of the Year recipient and Director of Athletics at Ryerson University. He is a sought-after speaker on developing personal and organizational leadership. He has a BA in Physical Education and Health, an MS in Higher Education Administration and a Ph.D. in Sports Psychology. His popular Tedx talk on the skill of self-confidence has garnered over 21 million views. For more information on Dr. Joseph, please visit, www.drivanjoseph.com

Connect with Ivan: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

www.drivanjoseph.com

Ryerson University

BA in Physical Education and Health – Graceland University

Graduate Programs – Drake University

PhD in Psychology – Capella University

You Got This: Mastering the Skill of Self-Confidence by Dr. Ivan Joseph

Positive Affirmations

Expert Secrets by Russel Brunson

Workshops by Dr. Ivan Joseph

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:01):

Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s special guest is someone I have really wanted to interview on my podcast for a very long time. His name is Dr.Ivan Joseph. Dr.Ivan Joseph is a sixth time Coach of the year recipient and Director of athletics at Ryerson University. He is a sought after speaker on developing personal and organizational leadership. He has his BA in Physical Education and Health, and Masters in Higher Education Administration, and a PhD in Sports Psychology. His popular TEDex talk on the skill of self-confidence has garnered over 21 million views. Dr. Ivan Joseph is also an actor, a father, and a very amazing human being. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Ivan, and I will see you on the other side. Ivan, thank you so much for coming on the High Performing Educator podcast.

Sam Demma (01:02):

Huge pleasure to have you on the show after reading your book, watching your, your TEDx talk that has over 21 million views, I want to start this off in a different fashion. I’ve, I’ve listened to a lot of your interviews. I want to get vulnerable right from the start so you can have the chance to introduce yourself, but I want to ask you personally, what is an aspect of your life where you lacked personal confidence and you followed your own tactics and tools, systems and strategies, to change that situation and, and, and let us know how that happened?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (01:35):

Well, well, thank you for having me first of all, Sam, and, and I’ll say this, your question I can answer it at 10, 12, 15 different ways. You know, the, the situation with confidence is, is that you, you acquire it, but then once you achieve success, you move on or you get promoted that struggle comes back because you’ll feel imposter syndrome seep in, and then you’ll manage it, you’ll master it, because we’re hard workers. Then you’ll get to the next level, and again, you’ll feel like you don’t belong. You’ll feel like, oh my goodness, they’re gonna, they’re gonna catch me. And, and so there’s not one situation, I’ll give you one situation, but recognize that this is one of many. So I’ll give you the first example. When I became the Director of Athletics at Ryerson University, recognize that I came from a town of 1200 students from a school that only had 1200 people in it.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (02:29):

So to combine the school and the town, you had 2,500 people, no Walmart, no McDonald’s, no stop signs, no stop lights. And they plumped me into this director of athletics job where I went from managing one person and a budget of 30,000 to bud, to managing a budget that ended in millions, and having to wor work an administrative assistant, lead people, manage people. I didn’t know how to do any of that. And so here I was in this big city of Toronto, millions of people in charge of a budget rebuilding a hundred million maple leaf gardens, and I felt like I was an imposter. And so I did what I know and what I know worked well as a soccer coach, really, which was, I was first there, I was last to leave. Mm. I read everything I could. I found myself a mentor when I didn’t know. I didn’t pretend. I didn’t know, which is that instead of fake it till you make it, I said, I don’t know. Let me get back to you. I asked for help. And most importantly, and this is the criti critical piece, is when I, when I wanted to run away and push the easy button and quit, I just talked to myself out of it. Hmm. And that allowed me to grow into the job.

Sam Demma (03:47):

What did that self-talk look like? When, when we’re in situations where there’s a negative voice, one, how do you create that space to realize, like snap out of the initial moment and realize I’m having negative thoughts right now? And then what course of action do you take to reverse that?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (04:05):

Well, I’ll tell you, I remember it as Claire as day, right? Seeing myself walking down young street off the go train, and here I am, like in my briefcase, in my suit, a guy who never ever wore a suit. I was a tra, I was a soccer coach. I wore, I wore track pants and shorts, and I’m like, who is that guy? That’s not me seeing the reflection off the building. And I was like, stop it. Right? Stop it. I remember sitting in meetings and people are like, oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God. Oh my God, I don’t know what I’m doing. Stop it. Stop it. And so, I d I use what athletes use what I teach my students, which is sports psychology techniques, physical actions, right? These are called thought stopping or centering actions. You use those actions to say, stop.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (04:50):

Right, stop the negative thought and then replace it with the positive affirmation. And you’ll hear me talk about that later on. But with, you can’t stop that negative thinking. What had happens is it influences your beliefs. And soon when you start to believe something about yourself, then it influences your actions. And soon as your actions start acting out, then people, your peers, your bosses, your friends, they will start seeing you and treating you differently based on those actions. And when they see and treat you differently, Sam, it starts that cycle over again. Well, they don’t think I’m good enough. Well, I mustn’t be good enough. Oh, man, I made a mistake. Why is that guy making so many mistakes? I’m not gonna put him in that position. And this vicious self-defeating cycle starts over and over again that it’s hard to break out of.

Sam Demma (05:40):

And when you realize you’re having a negative belief, I understand the physical action, the changing of the rubber band onto your other wrist was something that you read about, you wrote about in your book for your athletes on the soccer pitch or any pitch. Once you realize it and you stop it, how do you replace it? do you use affirmations? Like what’s the next step to build the new confidence that should take that negative beliefs place?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (06:04):

Yeah. And you have to replace it with something, right? You, you can’t just say, stop. And that’s when these automatic affirmations need to come like that. Mm. And so the time isn’t when you’re having a negative thought to think about your affirmation. You prepare your affirmation, so it’s ready to go, and it comes just like that. And so my three are, nobody outworks me. I can learn anything. And I am the captain of my ship and the master of my fate. I use that one. I am the captain of my ship and the master of my fate. When I feel overwhelmed, when I’m like, I’m not in control. I use, nobody outworks me. When things don’t come easy, I’m like, I’m gonna, I’m gonna show up first. I’m gonna, it doesn’t matter how long it takes and when it’s, things are hard when I’m not getting it, oh my gosh, this is complicated. I can learn anything. These are reminders for me that just say, okay, get me in the right spot again. Recognize that my affirmation isn’t I’m gonna make a million dollars. Maybe some people wanna do that, but I subscribe to genuine, authentic affirmations that are about behavior.

Sam Demma (07:11):

I love that. I’ve been walking every morning after my buddy Nick comes over and works out in our backyard, you know, trying to stay covid friendly. So we do it outside on a little bar gym that I built, and I walk after he leaves every morning, and I listen to a three minute YouTube video. And I know you’re a big fan of Muhammad Ali. Oh, yes. And there’s a whole section in the video, and every time I hear it, I just get goosebumps. and it puts me in this mindset that just, it just forces me to take a hold of my day. And when he’s saying, you know, I am the greatest in this YouTube video, and he’s talking about how all these people are gonna doubt him you know, I’m trying to think of the exact words that he uses in the video. He goes, all you chumps are gonna bow when I whoop him, all of you, I know you got him. I know you got him picked. I’m gonna show you how great I am. And every time I hear it, I just imagine myself in that moment. And so I’m curious to know, in your own personal development of self-confidence in studying, does visualization play a huge part in this process as well? Affirmations are awesome and amazing. Do you also visualize

Dr. Ivan Joseph (08:17):

A hundred percent? I’m a, as a sports psychologist, I’m a big believer in visualization. Hmm. Let me teach you, let me talk to you a little bit about a study that what I teach my students. They, they went in and they tested downhill skiers. They put these electrodes onto their busts so that they could see when they were going through the gates and down a mountain, how would the muscles fire? And they were in their lab, and they could see, okay, the, this one fires at this amplitude. Oh, when he’s turning this quad fires, this arm goes, here’s where they relax when they go on the straightaway. And it was amazing, right? This was like, wow. Then they said, okay. Then they took those same skiers, and they said, now, just watch yourself going down. Right? And as they were watching themselves going down, they hooked up their muscles, and they found that their muscles still fired.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (09:01):

Not at the same level, of course mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but they were still firing significantly less, but in the same pattern, in the same racial as they were watching themselves go down that mountain. Then they said, close your eyes and imagine yourself going down the mountain as they close their eyes and imagine themselves going down the mountain again, their muscles still fired in that same pattern, that same frequency, not the same level of amplitude as when they were watching it, but in the same place. So what that was saying is that we are rehearsing that our mind could transfer that energy and that pattern of learning to our muscles, even just by imagining it. The power of visualization is a strong piece. I like to visualize, visualize everything that I’m doing, every little scenario, what I’m coaching, when I’m teaching, when I’m leading, I want to know what I’m going to do. I want to imagine what success looks like. I also wanna imagine what an adversity or a roadblock would look like, so that I have my plan in place so that I’m ready. And I’m not, I’m not panicked. I’m not frozen. Right? I don’t imagine just the great things. I do try to spend some time not imagining when things go wrong, but imagining what my plan of action will be in case things go wrong, so that I can see my way still to victory.

Sam Demma (10:17):

So powerful. When I think back to my own soccer days and the athletes that I had four of my teammates now play in the mls mm-hmm. <affirmative>, the ones who succeeded all had a, a super drive. Like they just all wanted to, you know, play soccer every single day. But I found really interesting was they all watched hours upon hours of soccer. They were obsessed with following every different league that exists in Europe and in Canada and the us. Does watching somebody else kick a ball also fire the same pathways in your brain that you would fire if you were kicking a ball? Like, does visualization also work when you watch somebody else do it?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (10:58):

I will say this the psychology behind is what you’re asking is the social learning theory by a gentleman by the name of Bandura. Right? And so what they will say is that you can learn through observation. This is what, like, you think about this whole YouTube world. Everybody watches YouTube and they learn how to do things before, back in the day. You have to go and watch somebody apprentice with them, learn all those things. So for sure, I, I can’t speak to whether the muscles are firing the same way, but I can say that you can learn through observation, especially if somebody is telling you what to look for. Look at the angle of the leg, look at the, look at the way the angle is locked. Look at how they land on their plant foot. And so you’re saying now you’re watching the things to look for, and now you can go back and mimic those same behaviors and model them in a way that will ensure success.

Sam Demma (11:48):

Hmm. No, I like that. And you just even alluded to some points in your TED talk, by the way, when you talked about planting the foot and leaning forward knee over the ankle, you talk about the importance of catching people while they’re good. This can be used from a management perspective. It can be used from a coaching perspective. You know, the importance of encouraging someone’s positive actions instead of coaching their negative ones. Yeah. That idea. Do you also use it for yourself? So in moments where you maybe didn’t have the performance that you expected, instead of focusing on all the things that went wrong, you focus on the one or two things that went right. Is that something you could also use personally?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (12:25):

Absolutely. I, I think it’s really important. What I use even more than that though, is about focusing on the positives, which is nice. I also say, what am I here to learn? Hmm. When things go south, when they don’t go where I want them to do, I wanna focus on what did it teach me? What are the teachable moments? Because as well as focusing on what went wrong, right? Or what went right, that’s great. Okay, what went right? I also need to think about the gap. Hmm. And, and that gap is, okay, what am I here to learn? And I’m not focusing on the negatives. I’m focusing on the teachable moments when I’m looking at myself. And if I can think of everything as a learning opportunity that prepares me for the next one, and that prepares me for the next one, then I don’t get caught up on the negativity. I get caught up on the teachable moments of that failure. And that’s, for me, key to moving forward.

Sam Demma (13:14):

And you have to stay open-minded, right? Yeah. That op, being someone who’s open-minded will give you opportunity to look at yourself objectively and take that feedback and use it to, to grow. Sometimes we get feedback and it, it, it hurts our ego because, you know, everyone has an ego. They care what people think. is there a difference between ego and confidence? Can you explain the difference? and especially for like young people that use a ton of social media and feel the need to validate themselves. Like, I just wanna know if there’s a bit a difference between ego and, and real confidence.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (13:52):

For sure. And let me go back, because the piece that will feed this is that feedback part when you said, sometimes we get negative feedback and it impacts our, our ego. So recognize that there’s two types of feedback. One is negative and one is critical. Hmm. Negative feedback. What’s wrong? Why it didn’t work? This idea is not good. You didn’t do this, you didn’t do this. You need to come back. Negative critical feedback. Here’s why I don’t think it’s gonna work. have you tried this? This is not good. Have you tried this, this, and this? Hey, I think you missed it. Here’s what I was looking for. Hmm. And so the difference is what’s wrong, but opportunities or avenues for you to go in a different direction. They’re giving you advice. And so that’s really, that’s really key for you to recognize that if somebody’s giving you critical feedback, they’re invested in you.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (14:41):

As I used to tell all my people when I’m coaching you and I’m giving you critical feedback, the willingness of me to expend energy on you means that I believe that, that you can deliver more, and that you’re capable and you have the potential to excel. When I’m not giving you any feedback, you should be worried because I don’t think you’ve got any more to give, and you’ve reached your ceiling. So that’s the first part. The second part is how does it not affect your ego? And when, what’s the difference between ego and confidence? Ego? Is this me telling everybody else how great I am? Mm-hmm. Look at me, look at me, folks. I’m a champion. I’m good. Think about it. When you’re in grade school, Sam, and you’re in the playground, or, or it was that track and field day, and you gotta do the three-legged race or the ball toss or high jump, or the hundred meter sprint.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (15:28):

And you win your first, your second, your third, whatever your ribbons are they used to give you. And do you put them on? And do you walk around the schools like, look at me. Look, I won the first place in the ball toss. I’m a three-legged race champion. Yeah. Ooh, no. The confident person doesn’t need anybody to know how good they are. All right. You put those ribbons in your bag and you go home at night, you put ’em on and in front of the mirror, you say, yes, I’m awesome. That is okay. Cuz you still should tell yourself you’re awesome. You should still remind yourself of how great you are, just egotistically. You don’t need to shout it to everybody else.

Sam Demma (16:06):

Sometimes you’ll have a belief in yourself that other people don’t see. And I know you’ve had firsthand experience with this, with a player on your team when you were coaching, who at first it seemed like this player was not gonna fit in and not going to excel, but that person’s self-belief propelled them forward. And if I’m not mistaken, became the captain of your team and went to a national championship with you guys. Yes. Yes. how do you cultivate that amount of belief in yourself when other people might not agree with you?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (16:40):

That’s a really good piece. So part of it is you’ve gotta make sure when other people don’t believe in you. And so you’re getting it from the left on all, you know, you gotta make sure you’re having other places where you’re getting the opposite, right? Because if you’re bombarded with your mom telling you you’re no good, and your brother and sister telling you’re no good, and at work they’re telling you no good and your boyfriend or girlfriend are telling you good, no good and all the media’s telling, then it’s gonna beat you up. And so you’ve gotta make sure that, let’s say it’s the coach, then you’re surrounding yourself with other people who are able to counter that voice, that you’re also making sure that you’ve written your letter to yourself, where you’re reading your confident thoughts, that you’re also using your affirmations, but most importantly, that you’re also working towards the goal diligently with great effort to close the gap.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (17:31):

Cuz it’s no magic button. You can’t just show up. A coach says I’m no good, and then the next day I just show up and expect a different result. He also gotta put in the work. And if you’ve put in the work and the repetition and the effort, good things will happen. They always do. But at the same time, Sam, you never know, just like you just didn’t make it as a professional athlete because of injury or whatever. Hopefully you’ve got the right people around you that will tell you when it’s the opportunity is right for you to pivot and go in a different direction.

Sam Demma (18:02):

No, I love that. And I think it’s so important. Who we surround ourselves with matters greatly. I think it was Jim Rowan who said, you become the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Yes.

Sam Demma (18:12):

Why is that important? You know, I remember when I was a soccer player, my coach always used to tell me before I asked for the ball, Sam, make sure you check your shoulders <laugh>. And I remember in the middle of the game, and you probably preach this to your players all the time, I played in the midfield. And so I’m looking behind me to check my shoulders and I don’t check. And as I turn around, someone comes and sly tackles me and my left leg. And that’s when I tore my meniscus in my left knee the second time. And I remember after, you know, years went by, I realized what a great analogy check your shoulders is for life. You know, how often do we turn around and say, who am I surrounding myself with? and if you don’t do it, you know, in life, just like in sports, if you don’t check and you turn around randomly one day, there’s, there might be some people there that shouldn’t be there and it might be causing you problems. So why do you think it’s so important to be aware of who we surround ourselves with?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (19:01):

Well, we know that in sport and in psychology, that emotion is contagious. Hmm. And so think about that. When you’re in a, when you’re in a dressing room, I could walk into a dressing room and I know when a team is on, you could feel it in the air. Hmm. You can feel it, you can cut it with a knife. Also, I can tell when one person gets angry, how that can just run through the entire room or panic or whatever that might be, or excitement or energy. We don’t know. Whatever that’s pheros, whether that’s hormones, what that is. But this science is, is irrefutable that, that we can catch the mood of other people. Hmm. And so when I think about that, I think about the group that I’m speaking with or hanging out with. Do they push me? Are they good for me?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (19:46):

Are they good to me? Are they drivers? Are they, are they ones? Like, yeah, yeah, yeah. You know what? You’re right. When somebody comes and gives you hard news, yeah, I can’t believe that coach doesn’t believe in me. I can’t that believe that boss didn’t gimme the opportunity. And they’ll say, yeah, you’re right Sam, you deserve it. I can’t believe it. You were robbed. Or do they say, Sam, you didn’t do what you were supposed to do. You know what? You should have delivered it like this. You need to go back. Do they push you up or do they tear you down? Hmm. Do they allow you to live in that self-belief of I’m a victim? Or do they say, no, we could do better? And you think about those kinds of people and how do you separate the weak from the chaff?

Sam Demma (20:28):

I think, I think catching other people’s emotions could be even more dangerous than catching the flu

Dr. Ivan Joseph (20:35):

<laugh>. Oh, a hundred percent. They will, it will limit you

Sam Demma (20:39):

And it holds you back because like you explained, you know, your beliefs lead to your emotions, emotions to actions, actions to results. And if those, if those beliefs change because of the people you’re hanging out with, it changes literally everything else. It’s like a domino effect. Yes. I spend a lot of time hanging around people who don’t take no for an answer. <laugh>. And I know you’re one of those people and I remember you watching your TED talk as well, and you know, you asked out your, your wife for the first time you know, and she said no. And then her friend came back and told you, you know, there’s a small chance that if the world was falling apart and <laugh> and you know, we need to recreate to save humanity, then, then, you know, maybe we could, you know, maybe it would work. And, and you said, well, there’s a chance <laugh> and you kept going. Right. now maybe you could, you could share a little bit about where that beliefs was built for you. Cause I believe all of our beliefs come from past experiences, like where that belief came from that you didn’t take no for an answer. and maybe even how I reached out to you and what you thought

Dr. Ivan Joseph (21:44):

<laugh>. Oh my gosh. You know, it’s interesting. You know, first off, I’m an immigrant, right? I was born in, in Guyana, south America. My parents came to Canada when they’re 27 years old. Hmm. And so, you know, and immigrants have a very common theme that run through them, meaning work twice as hard, be twice as good. Yeah. Right. You know, like that, that your parents have drilled that into you, your grandparents have drilled that into you. And so you know that the opportunities that you have that will come your way, you gotta fight for. And I saw it in my mother and I saw it in my father. And so those were two, two role models for me that really helped put that behavior of twice as hard, twice as good, twice as like always mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so, you know, after a while people are gonna say no.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (22:28):

And so you gotta just decide what are you gonna do. You can either feel sorry for yourself or you can try again. You can try. And then when you get a little bit of success, then it creates this pattern of belief in yourself that allows you to keep going. Right. And again, I wasn’t stalking my wife, so I don’t want anybody out there to think, oh my gosh, this guy’s a creepy old man. Right? Yeah. It’s like, oh, let me try again. Right. She, you know, if she let me see. Right. And there’s nothing wrong with thinking that there’s another opportunity to try something different perhaps, whatever that might look like. You know, I, you know, you are a perfect example, Sam. I was not, you know, there’s a certain level of podcast that my partner sends me on Sonny’s like, okay, how many followers do they have?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (23:05):

Will it elevate the brand? All these things? Is this the message they want to go on? Right. And here you are a young whipper snipper, and you were persistent, right? You were, you didn’t take no financial, you came back and you didn’t come back the same way, which is an important piece. You came back with some, you did your homework, you were creative, you sent this message, this video that you were compelling. How could we not say yes to somebody who cared and was so intentional and put so much effort and time into preparing his pitch? We had no intention of saying yes, but you compelled us so that we could not say, no,

Sam Demma (23:45):

I’m writing a chapter in a book right now, it’s gonna be called Dear High School Me. And it’s like, it’s like lessons from my younger self from someone not far removed from high school. And your reach out is gonna be one of the chapters <laugh>. And you know, the whole lesson is that when we’re all little kids, I think it was before the age of four, we hear the word no a couple thousand times and it gets ingrained in our body. You know, we, we fall off the counter and you know, or hopefully you don’t fall off the counter, but <laugh>, you know, something happens and your parents say, oh no, don’t do that. And we associate no with never again. Yeah. No means never. And I’m trying to help people understand that. No, doesn’t mean never when you hear the word no. Although, like you said, there are some situations where no means no and don’t cross that boundary. Yes.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (24:31):

Thank you. Thank

Sam Demma (24:32):

You. Outside of those situations, <laugh> no, doesn’t mean never. It actually means how can you show this person that you care, build trust, and be more creative in your reach out? Yes. And every time that I’ve changed my approach whether it’s with you or other situations I’ve gotten, you know, great responses and, and great results. do you have any examples in your life aside from, from the relationship that you discuss in your TEDx talk where someone initially told you no and things thereafter maybe slightly changed?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (25:05):

Yeah, I think, and I think your point is really strong and make sure your audience knows we’re not talking about consent. Yeah. So let’s put that over there. Yeah. We’re talking in the business world that there’s always an opportunity to get your foot in the door. And so when I was, when I wanted to be a coach, I didn’t get the job. They said no a bunch of times. So you know what I did? I volunteered, I worked for free. And a month before or two weeks before the season started, the coach left and they were stuck. They didn’t have anybody else. They paid me less than the scholarship of my athletes. So as the head coach, I was the lowest paid person on that team, but I didn’t care. Yeah. All I wanted was an opportunity. And when I got the opportunity, I took the most of it.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (25:51):

I worked like a dog. We won the conference championship that year. We were 13 and one first ever championship they ever won. I was the conference coach of the year. Right. So recognized that, you know, no meant not yet. But what did I do while they said no? I went and got the coaching courses, I went and got the coaching license. I read this book about coaching. I spent an and learned this about coaching. I watched games on TV to learn and do everything I could. So when the opportunity gave me a small crack, I was ready to take advantage of it.

Sam Demma (26:25):

I love that. So powerful. And you talk about this in your summit, the speech you did, I think it was for jack.org back in May 5th, 2020. A young lady asked you the question, you know, how do you, how do you find what you love doing? There’s so many different, you know, opportunities available and there’s so many different options and you gave some awesome advice about, you know, maybe you volunteer and you know, that’s how it started. For you, what is your advice around helping, you know, maybe students or young people find what they’re good at or what they love doing?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (26:56):

I say we all know what we love because it’s the thing that we do. And all of a sudden time flies. Mm. In sports psychology, we call it flow. When have you ever done something, it’s like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe that. Like, where did the hour go? Yeah. Whether that’s reading a book, whether that’s playing your hockey, playing your game, like, my gosh, what are those activities that put you in the state of flow that you look forward to doing and you can’t wait? You know what they are? Put a make a list of them. When I, when that was asked for me, what do I volunteer to do? And I couldn’t believe it was soccer. You can’t make a living as a soccer coach. This is 25 years ago. I tell you that, that soccer coach led to me being and making a ton of money, which I never wanted to do. That wasn’t the reason I was driven towards it. But what happens is, when you do what you love, excellence happens. And when you become the best at what you do, people are willing to pay for the, for that service. And so, I I just remind you that even though you think, well, I can’t make a living doing what you love, there’s always a way.

Sam Demma (28:03):

I think it’s Russell Brunson, this guy who does a lot of internet marketing, he started a company called ClickFunnels. He, he started a business teaching people how to make potato launchers <laugh>. And this is the first thing he did. And, and I remember just reading it in one of his books, expert Secrets, him talking about there’s almost some market or an opportunity in every single field. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> what matters is how much you’re willing to give of your time, your effort, your energy towards becoming a master in that thing. Because there’s no, there’s no, there’s no job position just waiting for you. Sure there’s jobs out there, but I think you create it through your actions that you take every single day, day in and day out. Yes. and you’ve created a wonderful career for yourself. And I want to take this interview down a professional route for a second.

Sam Demma (28:53):

Yeah. Over the, over the past four years, I’ve been obsessed with helping students become real world ready, trying to figure out what makes a high performing young person. And based on my own personal success and conversations that I’m having with, you know, phenomenal humans like yourself, I’m taking this assumption and I’m putting it to the test. and so I wanna test this assumption here with you today. There’s six characteristics. All I wanna know is, do you think this thing was foundational to your success? And how did you develop it over the past couple of years? so here’s the first one, and you’re already someone who does this day in and day out for your job, but it’s professional and persuasive communication. So I believe that a high performing student, performer, athlete, whoever it is, has to have the ability to effectively share ideas with others that not only inform them, but inspire them to move into action. And you speak all around the world. So is professional communication something that has been foundational to your success? And how did you develop it as a skill?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (29:52):

A hundred percent. Right. Persuasive communication. And I will say it this way, I would put the other side of that as well. And maybe you have it in one of your six. It’s not just persuasive communication, it’s also empathetic communication. Hmm. Persuasive and empathetic because empathetic in insinuates that I’m listening and I’m hearing and I’m able to speak to the things that matter and resonate with the people. Hmm. And that is really key. Right. Because you can’t be persuasive if you don’t know what matters to the other person. I love that. Okay. So how did I put, how did I get when I was a teacher, when I was a professor, I probably did four or five different one hour lectures a day for 10 years.

Sam Demma (30:34):

Yep.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (30:35):

So I got to be really good repetition, repetition, repetition, <affirmative> repetition.

Sam Demma (30:40):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and variation. I’m sure you’re giving different lectures all the time, which helps you

Dr. Ivan Joseph (30:45):

All the time. All the time. And I never wrote ’em down. I’ve studied them, but I wanted them to be authentic and novel. And so, and I evaluated that didn’t work. That was no good. Okay. This was really good. Let me, let me do this part again.

Sam Demma (30:59):

Love that. Okay. That’s phenomenal. And thank you for the the additional feedback. If anything that I mentioned sparks a new idea or an extended version of the principle, please share. the second assumption is that these people have the trait of taking care of their mental and physical health, meaning they exercise their mind and their body. Yeah. Has that been something that’s been foundational to your success? And how did you develop the habit of exercising, meditating, and all these amazing actions that we should all take?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (31:29):

Yeah, and I like that you said meditating because that’s that mental, that’s the physical, it’s the spiritual. And so work-life balance is really important. I think that we recognize that, you know, we must work hard, we must work hard. That’s the only way to get ahead. But if you don’t shut it down, if you don’t restore, you don’t get the great ideas. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so that’s a really important piece. And so I haven’t gone out to say, I love to exercise. I don’t work out for the sake of working out. I play, I get my workout through play. Love it. Whether that’s playing on a soccer league, whether that’s whitewater canoeing, that’s, whether that’s playing squash, that’s my jam. But that’s my space for flow. Recognize that your workout might be something completely different. Don’t think that if you’re not doing physical exercise, you’re not good. Your workout might be mental. Just you’re the puzzle person. You’re the crossword person. What it is, is a thing that allows you to get to that stage where you restore and regenerate your soul and your spirit. So I really believe that’s a key principle.

Sam Demma (32:26):

I love that. I love that analogy too, that everyone gets it a little bit differently from different sources. One of the criticisms I had of a lot of self-help books were that they tell you that you have to wake up at a specific hour in the morning and do these three specific exercises in this row, and you’ll have a successful life. And I think it’s so false, right? We all have a goal in a morning routine to feel a specific type of emotion Yeah. Or to cultivate a specific type of belief. And there’s so many different activities that you could do to help you attain that goal. and I think it also applies like you’re saying to mental and physical wellbeing. So I love that. The third the third assumption is emotional intelligence. So these are, these are performers. These are people who are aware of how they feel and can give themselves a little bit of space to recognize the emotion and take action to support that emotion or despite the emotion. So you know how to say no properly, how to say yes. how to understand how other people are feeling in relation to a situation. I think there’s a ton of different definitions of emotional intelligence, but we’ll just define it as being self-aware. has that been foundational? And how did you develop that awareness?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (33:38):

Well, that’s a, you know, I don’t know how I developed it, but I, I think what I call is emotional awareness or intelligence. I call it insights. Mm. right. The ability to read the room, the ability to pick up when you’re being too much or too little, or when to walk away, when to push, when to just let this person have their moment because it’ll avoid a conflict. And that’s time for another conversation. You know, I think one of the things is in order to have insight, you have to be reflective. You have to really evaluate, well, that went wrong, or, I did really well there, what happened? Because I don’t know if you can read a book and say, this is who I am. But I think if you’re really insightful, you start to reflect on where you screwed up, where you hit it out of the park, ah, I didn’t get what I needed. Let me try it this way next time. And that’s how you acquire that level of emotional intelligence.

Sam Demma (34:30):

Hmm. I love that you talk about it in your book, or was it the interview with Louis? Hows the, the gut feelings, right? Yes. and you mentioned that when you shy away from those or act despite those little, you know, those little voices in your head or those gut feelings, that things typically go wrong

Dr. Ivan Joseph (34:48):

Every time,

Sam Demma (34:49):

Still holds true.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (34:50):

Every, every single time. It usually ends up costing me more money. Makes me unhappier gives me great frustration. Yeah.

Sam Demma (34:58):

Cool. Very cool. <laugh> love that. fourth assumption is that these, these students are grounded in the present moment, meaning they take lots of action daily mm-hmm. <affirmative>, but they do have goals and a vision that they’re working towards. So they have a future focus. I’m, I’m assuming from day one you wrote things down on paper and, you know, had goals and visions for yourself before anyone else even believed in you. but is that something that you think has been foundational to your progress and success And, and what, what made you from day one, grab a pen and paper and start writing things down that you wanted to happen in the future, if you can remember?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (35:33):

Well, yeah, I’ll say it wasn’t from day one. It was after I flunked out and was embarrassed and was ashamed and he was humiliated and I needed to start over. And when I needed to start over, I said, well, what am I gonna change? What am I gonna move and how am I gonna respond and react to this? So hitting rock bottom and reacting to failure, put me in this path. And then I started writing one year goals, three to five year goals and 10 year goals. I always do my, my goals in those three buckets, right. Because I want to have a long-term plan so I know where I’m going. You know, if I want to be a college university president, I better sit on a university panel that searches what they look like now. So in 10 years I can see what they’re looking for. I have time to start prepping myself. Mm. When I wanted to be a L’Oreal vice president, you know what I needed to get certain skills, I better start getting those skills now. So three years from now, I’m ready for when the opportunity comes. And so I’m a big believer in writing down your goals and not just your long-term ones and, but your short-term ones, but here’s the key, Sam, not too many. Mm-hmm. Because then you won’t become an expert in anything.

Sam Demma (36:41):

Yeah. It’s like the whole idea of don’t go a mile wide. Go a mile deep. Yes. and ah, it’s so true. And I hear it so much over and over again, and I love it. It’s such an important thing to remind yourself of. perfect. The fifth characteristic is building strong habits. Right? Excellence comes not from what we do once, but what we do day in and day out, even when we don’t feel like it. Do you think that habits have played a huge part in your life? Or do you act more sporadically? and has that been foundational to your success?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (37:15):

Well, I’ll say it this way, I wouldn’t say it’s habits. Okay. Right. I would say it’s values. Hmm. The values drive my consistent response and behavior to things. Cool. And so, because you know how they, I’ve tried 30 days to find a habit, 30 days to be, I like I, I tried to work out or be a vegetarian for 30 days. They’re they 31, thank God that’s over. Yeah. Right. I work out, I work out, I work out. I did 30 days of pushup, 40 days of pushup. Soon as I missed three days in a row, that habit’s gone. Yeah. Right. And so that is the one I’ll say that I struggle with. And it doesn’t mean it’s right, but I will say that habits are typically something that are about behavior. Mm. And what drives behavior for me isn’t habits, it’s values. Mm. And that is the key. And what I mean by values is you’re the core beliefs about who I am, what I’m about.

Sam Demma (38:06):

I love that. So key, so important. And I think, I think back to a situation that didn’t align with my values, that forced me to make a decision out of a couple things. I think of a relationship that I had that I, that I recently ended. I think about a speaker agent who, a speaker agency who at first I had written down, you know, I’m gonna be represented by these people and I’m super excited. And then they approached me with the contract and the terms totally did not, not align with my values or the vision I created for myself. And there was this internal conflict that just stirred up in me. And right away I was questioning everything <laugh>. And I had everyone in my life telling me, you have to do this and you have to do that, and you should do this. And then I couldn’t sleep at night knowing that it, I was about to go against that gut voice that I had. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. so I think knowing what your values are and taking actions based on those and in alignment with those is what’s really important. Is what you’re saying. Yeah.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (39:04):

For

Sam Demma (39:05):

Me. Okay. Yeah. No, I totally agree. I love that the, the fifth, the fifth, the sixth, the sixth characteristic that I believe is super important is being a perpetual learner. So someone who is one, always open to feedback, cuz you’re gonna learn from feedback, but two, reading consuming information, whether it’s podcasts, books, speeches you know, even something like this kind of sparked the idea at the, at the end of your book, you have a list of your favorite reads, and I think there’s six or seven books listed there. I think perpetual learners are people who read one book and then have six more that get added to their list, <laugh> Yes. That they wanna read in the future. do you think that that’s been foundational in your success? And how did you cultivate that desire to want to learn? It’s a lot easier to grab a b a bag of Lay’s chips and watch Netflix all day. <laugh>

Dr. Ivan Joseph (39:54):

No, you’re still, I, I’m glad this one is last because this is the one that needs to stick. Hmm. Right. you, I say often when I coach soccer, sometimes I win. Most times I learn. Hmm. Right. And, and this is the key, right? Learning helps sets you up for success if you’re willing to approach it really in a student-centric perspective. Meaning I’m here to learn not just from reading a book, not just from watching a podcast, but in every single aspect and interaction that you have. I remember watching a Disney movie, oh, I love the way he said this about Simba and leadership. How can I employ that to my soccer game? I remember watching and reading Graham Henry’s book on legacy from the New Zealand, all Blacks. How am I gonna use this about how I build culture? We can’t learn enough and learning should never stop. I think about all my great mentors, some of them are 70, 80 years old and all the work they’re doing, and you know, in the old days it used to be just reading books. But in today’s world, it’s YouTube, it’s podcast, it’s Instagram, wherever it is. But make it an f make it a a thing for you to do and make it a part of your routine.

Sam Demma (41:07):

Hmm. I love that. And was that desire cultivated in you because you came to a realization that you wanted to know more, you wanted to learn more. Was it, was it a teacher that prompted you to it or was it because you failed? Like, because like, I tell students this all the time, but sometimes the switch doesn’t go off. And I’m curious to know what the trigger is to help someone understand like, learning is, is, is necessary <laugh>, you know, it’s needed.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (41:32):

Well, I’ve got intrinsic motivation, meaning I always want to be the best. Cool. And in order to be the best, I I don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Yeah. Who else has done this and what can I learn in order to expedite my learning, my advancement, my progress? Because I could still do it, but what might take 10 years of me trial and error. I could shorten the one year by somebody’s teachable moments. And I think that’s really important. And if you’re not a book reader, then find a mentor and apprentice because that learning can happen the same way, maybe even better.

Sam Demma (42:06):

I often say mentorship is probably the, the lost form of teaching. Maybe watch it in movies, whether it’s Star Wars with OB one Kenobi or the Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi. Right. so that’s awesome that you’re, you’re enthusiastic about that. Yeah. Those are the six As, those are my six principles, six assumptions. I’m curious to know, and I’m not gonna put you on the spot if one doesn’t come to mind, but is there anything that you would instantly add to that list?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (42:32):

Yeah, I think the, for me it’s that whole thing about you are steeped in grit and resilience. Hmm. Meaning how you respond to f failure setbacks, you know, that’s my jam. Whether you call it confidence, whether you call it mental toughness, resiliency, grit, hardiness. But that is a key piece that should be part of your mantra because whether you like it or not, you could be as, as insightful and as persuasive as you want. You will experience failure as you progress through life. And your response to that, your coping mechanism will really determine whether you continue on your path or you jump off and you give up.

Sam Demma (43:11):

I love it. No, that’s awesome. And you have a course coming out for students? I think, I believe it’s coming out in the spring or sometime in the future. Yeah. what, what is it all about? Tell us more. if you’re listening, tell the listener where they could find it as well.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (43:26):

Sure. the Skill of Self-Confidence masterclass, if you go on my website, dr ivan joseph.com, you can go ahead and there’ll be a time where you’ll sign up for that. And I think it’s coming out this spring, I should know that sort of stuff. <laugh> or you, if you were just saying, you know what, I’d just rather learn about this confidence. I don’t wanna join and pay money for a class go to dr ivan joseph.com front slash confidence and you could download a a workbook, 15 steps to self-confidence free workbook for you.

Sam Demma (43:54):

And if you’re wondering, I’ve downloaded it as well for the, for the listener, and it’s phenomenal. So definitely check it out. Ton of great gold in there. Yeah. It’s, it’s, it’s good stuff. And if someone just wants to connect with you or maybe even ask a question what would be the best way for them to do so?

Dr. Ivan Joseph (44:09):

You know, you can find me in all the socials. @DrIvanJoseph is my handle on Instagram. @DrIvanJoseph is my handle on Twitter, so I’m out there LinkedIn, anyone. And I’m happy to respond and, and give any feedback that you folks might want.

Sam Demma (44:24):

You talk about an Apple video that was featured, I believe it was 1966 and 97 97. That’s my, that’s my dad’s birthday. I shouldn’t forget that one. <laugh>. <laugh>, you know, here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the troublemakers. I just wanna say I hold you to that regard and yeah. This was phenomenal. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this, and I look forward to continue reading your books as you publish them and taking some of your courses in the future.

Dr. Ivan Joseph (44:52):

Thanks, Sam, appreciate it. You did a great job. Thanks for having me.

Sam Demma (44:55):

I believe that educators deserve way more recognition, which is why I’ve created the High Performing Educator Awards. In 2022, 20 educator recipients will be shortlisted, each of whom will be featured in local press. invited to record an episode on the podcast, and spotlighted on our platform. In addition, the one handpicked winner will be presented with an engraved plaque by myself. I will fly to the winner’s city to present this to them and ask that they participate in a quick photo shoot and interview on location. The coolest part, nominations are open right now, and they close October 1st, 2022. So please take a moment to apply or nominate someone you know or work with that deserves this recognition. You can do so by going to www.highperformingeducator.com/award. We can never recognize educators enough.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Dr. Ivan Joseph

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Sarah Wells – Olympic Athlete, Speaker and Founder of the Believe Initiative

Sarah Wells - Olympic Athlete, Speaker and Founder of the Believe Initiative
About Sarah Wells

Obstacles don’t scare Sarah Wells (@SarahWells400mh). As a 400m hurdler, this Olympian’s reputation was forged through overcoming challenges and achieving the incredible. Take her debut at the London Olympics in 2012, which came despite an injury that had her sidelined her for months just the year before.

Outside of competitive sports, this athlete is coaching people to pursue excellence through the Believe Initiative, an organization founded on—fittingly—a message of resilience. Most recently you would have seen Sarah pushing her limits on the latest season of The Amazing Race Canada.

Evidently someone who understands the importance of building resilience and self-belief, along with the power of purpose, you’ll want to listen-up when this Olympic semi-finalist and Pan Am Games silver medallist takes the stage.

Connect with Sarah: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter | Facebook

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

sarahwells.ca

London Olympics

The Believe Initiative

Become a Chapter Head – Believe Initiative

The Amazing Race Canada

Pan Am Games

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:00):

Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today is a very special interview with a very special educator. She is not one that works directly in the classroom every day as a teacher or a principal or support staff, but she works with thousands of young people every single year with an amazing program called The Believe Initiative. I’m so honored to call this individual a very close friend of mine. Her name is Sarah Wells; might ring a bell. Obstacles don’t scare Sarah Wells. As a 400 meter hurdler, this Olympian’s reputation was forged through overcoming challenges and achieving the incredible. She debuted at the London Olympics in 2012, which happened despite an injury that had her sidelined for months, just the year before. Outside of competitive sports, she’s coaching people to pursue excellence through the Believe initiative, which you’ll hear about today. An organization founded on a message of resilience. Most recently, you would’ve seen Sarah pushing her limits on the latest season of the Amazing Race Canada. She is a phenomenal speaker to youth and organizations and has so many amazing stories to share. I hope you enjoy this conversation with my good friend Sarah, and I will see you on the other side. Sarah, why don’t you start by introducing yourself and sharing a little bit about what it is that you do.

Sarah Wells (01:32):

So, my name is Sarah Wells. I am an Olympic 400 meter hurdler. I am a adoring fan of Mr. Sam Demma <laugh>. No, I’m honored to be here really. Excited to share a bit of my story, who, where I got started, honestly, in track and field. I wasn’t good at any sports and I had a high school teacher see me in gym class and he was like, you need to do track and field. And at that point, it was early into my high school experience, like it was like near the end of grade nine. And I had already been cut from every single high school team, like basketball, volleyball, soccer, badminton, cut from every team. So when the teacher is like, you should, you should come to the track team, I was like, no dude, I already got cut from every team at this school. <laugh>

Sarah Wells (02:16):

Like, you don’t want me on your team. And he was like, no, no, no. I just saw you run to the ball, do nothing with it, <laugh>, but then run away like really fast again so you can accelerate. I I wanna teach you how to hurdle. Hmm. And so I was like, okay, sure. So I go out and I end up finding hurdles and falling in love with the sport and end up setting my sights eventually on the Olympic games. And that high school teacher and I, we stayed coach athlete for the next nine years until we made the Olympics together, which is pretty unheard of and not, you know, your classic story. But yeah, it was a wild ride. I was convinced I wasn’t athletic and then suddenly I was <laugh>.

Sam Demma (02:56):

And at what point did you turn back and decide it’s time for, for me to share these experiences and stories with other people? You speak for clients like r BBC and huge schools and you start your own initiatives that we’ll talk about later as well. At what point did you turn back around and say it’s time to share and give back in speaking?

Sarah Wells (03:12):

So I was kind of head down into sport once I realized that I had some potential. But once I made the Olympics, I had a story to tell of what had gone on. And you know, the <laugh> short form of that is really, I had an injury. I sat out for what was supposed to be three months and turned into nine months. Wow. And I had never touched Olympic standard before. And so everyone was telling me like, you’ve just sat out for nearly a whole year, like you’re not gonna make it. And on my first day back to training, I got the word believe tattooed on my wrist. And I said, when I make the Olympic Games, I’m gonna put the Olympic rings underneath here. And six months later, <laugh> you know, shockingly even to myself, I make the Olympic games. And I finished that tattoo and I put the Olympic rings underneath exactly where I said I would.

Sarah Wells (03:59):

And so I’m like, holy mo, believing in yourself works. And my parents, they were really proud and so they were te telling their friends what I had done. And my parents’ friends were like, come talk to my kids’ school. And so I was like, okay. And so I walk into a gymnasium, I’m like, this is what happened. And like, I got a tattoo. Don’t get a tattoo though. Don’t tell your parents. I told you that <laugh> and like, just believe in yourself because if you believe in yourself, you achieve your goals. Look, I did it and I started sharing that story. And for four years while I was still training cuz I wanted to make a second Olympic games I was getting to speak and share that and inspire others and realize, you know, how powerful this what had happened to me could be used for good to help inspire other people. And so it was so exciting and it helped me fund my training and training camps and, and competitions and helped me continue to develop and get faster and stronger. And, you know, right before my next Olympics at it was the 2015 PanAm games, I ended up winning a silver medal and only losing to the number one ranker in the world. And so it really set me up to be like, okay, the next Olympics, 2016 Rio Olympics, I plan to go win a medal and call it a career and speak all I can <laugh>.

Sam Demma (05:12):

That’s so cool. I gotta be honest with you, when I think about any running athlete, like the first thing that comes to mind is like, fors, Gump, <laugh>. I’m just like running for hours. And I’m curious to know because as a soccer player myself, like training is fundamental to the game. Like, if you don’t train, if you don’t go to a track and you don’t run, you don’t become a faster sprinter. You know, you have to go to the track and you have to run. But I have to imagine that there’s, there’s certain days where like the running just became so melodic and you just, you know, it was like, it was like you didn’t wanna do it. Like I have to imagine there was times where you just didn’t wanna do it. And how did you get yourself through those moments and continue to push yourself past your limits every training session to get to where you were when you competed in the games?

Sarah Wells (05:55):

Oh yeah. There was a thousand moments I could probably think of, of days. I was just like, dang, why do I do this? Like this sucks. Like I laugh at the shirt that one like Nike made that shirt for runners that said, running sucks. <laugh>, <laugh>. Cause it does, it sucks. It’s so hard. Like, and it’s like a bunch of other teachers that say like, my sport is your sports punishment. Like that is what track and field is. Yeah. And even though I just joked about how I wasn’t good at sports and then I just said like, eventually I found track and field, it’s like I wasn’t good at sports, I was good at exercising <laugh>, I was good at just running, you know, and being able to put in work. And it wasn’t always fun. Like you said, there was many days I wanted to give up and just say like, ugh.

Sarah Wells (06:36):

So it’d be so much better if I could just like stretch for the whole practice, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, like, I don’t wanna push my body hard. But the ways I was able to rise above that in moments you just really didn’t want to was I think kind of twofold. Like one, there’s a little bit a around the like remembering your goal and like picturing yourself, like vividly picturing yourself what it’s gonna feel like and look like when you do get that goal. Mm-hmm. And there was moments in workouts where like I would show up kind of like a soggy cracker, like, ugh, am my coach, I wanna cracker <laugh>. Yeah. That’s saving a lot. and I would just be like, I don’t wanna be here today. Like I’d be cranky for whatever reason, maybe I had a bad work at the previous day or I didn’t get a good sleep and my coach would be like, you know what?

Sarah Wells (07:28):

Like get to it. Like I don’t care. Like this is what it’s gonna take. And what he would do sometimes is mid interval, like we’re approaching the end, this is where I’m, I’m wearing thin on grit and motivation and energy and I remember specifically this one workout we were doing hills and you are basically walking by the time you get to the top of this hill, like it is so challenging. We had done a bunch of figure eights, like you run diagonally all the way across and all the way up and then you jog down and you run diagonally all the way across and all the way up to draw figure eight. And we had to do like six sets of this and it was terrible. And I had already thrown up, I think at this point once <laugh>. And so I had to keep going.

Sarah Wells (08:06):

And my coach, I remember this like second last interval, which is one of the hardest intervals because you’re not done, you still have one more, but you’re so beat by that point. And so it’s like one of, it’s the second last interval, I’m running up this hill and as I like am getting to the top, I wanna give up, he can see I’m slowing down and he just yells to me 55 seconds, which is the time I needed to run in order to make the Olympic games. And it’s just like, just hearing him yell that in the moment, I was like, I’m tired, I’m exhausted, I don’t wanna keep going. But the second he yelled 55 seconds, it just anchored it all back to like, why am I doing this? What is this gonna help me? What brick does this help lay? And finished that workout and was like so pleased with myself of like, because he said that I didn’t give up because he said that I crushed the last workout or the last run.

Sarah Wells (08:56):

And like, I think a big part of how you push forward on any day, you don’t feel like doing your homework. You don’t feel like going to school, you don’t feel like doing the job that you signed up to do, you know, is by remembering like vividly what is the thing that this lays a brick for, whether it’s in a week from now, a month from now, a year from now, whatever that is. so that’s one thing. The, the second thing is a bit more anchored, less big picture and long term and more tangible on like a daily, weekly practice is I would keep a workout journal that would have, what was my workout? What times did I run, how was I feeling during the workout? And what I could do is every training season is cyclical. Like you have a base season where you do a long, like a bunch of hard long intervals.

Sarah Wells (09:44):

Then you have specific season where you’re doing, it’s kind of long and it’s really fast. And then you have kind of race season where you’re doing less volume but really high intensity and you follow these cycles every year. And so the workouts might be mildly different, but they’re a little bit the same at each time of year. And so I would keep a log and I could look back years and years worth of my, of my log and say, look, at this time of year last year I was only at this point and I don’t feel like running today, but look how much further ahead I am. Where else can I go? What other new heights can I reach? Or it holds you accountable of like, ugh, I was faster at this point last year. I need to keep going as much as I don’t wanna work out today.

Sarah Wells (10:25):

If I have this big goal then I, I need to push today. Like regardless of whether I wanna be here or not. And it just is a little bit of an accountability partner being held to that log. And you know, it might not be a daily practice for you if you’re doing this like with school or anything like that, but I would encourage you to keep a log of like things you were working on, what went well, what were the practices you were doing like character building practices, not like athletic sport practices that were enabling you to become the best version of yourself that were enabling you to take a step forward in your goals. And when you can see that and look back of like, oh, last fall in September I was so organized and I was committed to blocking time to work on school and I was committed to networking and reaching out to organizations I could volunteer at so that I was building my brand and my volunteer opportunities, then you can suddenly motivate yourself to be like, shoot, I better be doing that again. And you can push on the days you don’t want to because you’re held accountable to what you know works cuz you have tangible qualitative science to show that it does. So that’s really the kind of the two ways I would push beyond motivation is one remembering and anchoring to that big goal vividly. And the second thing would be keeping a log so you can hold yourself accountable to things that work and things that don’t.

Sam Demma (11:43):

Sorry. Do you have a second tattoo that says 55 seconds somewhere <laugh>?

Sarah Wells (11:49):

No, not yet. Not

Sam Demma (11:50):

Yet. That’s awesome. So cool. I love that.

Sarah Wells (11:52):

Love my believe tattoo. I’ll share this like quick story by I got the tattoo and I had been injured and my parents knew I wanted to make the Olympic games, but they really didn’t believe it was possible. They really didn’t like, not that they don’t love me, but I don’t really don’t think that they believed that it was possible. And I, I got the tattoo secretly. I finished my very first after the doctor cleared me to run, I finished my first workout and I was like, you know what I’m doing? I took my friend and I was like, let’s go. And I walked right from the practice to the tattoo parlor. I didn’t have an appointment. I literally walked in and I’m like, I need a tattoo blue, I believe on my wrist. So I get it. I didn’t tell anyone. And then I was at school so my parents didn’t see me. And I went home at Thanksgiving and I showed my dad and I got this believed tattoo and my dad said, you ruined Thanksgiving. <laugh> <laugh>. It was amazing. It was like kind of hilarious because yeah, he did not believe that was necessary. No pun fan. He’s a fan of the tattoo. Yeah, right. Yeah. Yeah. He’s a big fan now though. He’s like, that’s awesome. Great job. Love that. You made the Olympics good work.

Sam Demma (12:56):

Yeah. Now, now it all makes sense, right? It’s funny, I, when I was 18 after my first knee surgery, I got this tattoo and it’s a, it’s a Latin phrase. Yeah. and it says Vinke keur, which means he who endures, conquers, you know, if you can endure pain, suffering, hardship training, now you can conquer and <laugh>. Well, did I know that I was gonna stop playing soccer after two more injuries, but <laugh> But I applied to all areas in life. Like I think it’s a, it’s a mindset Yeah. More than anything. Totally. But I’m curious, like from your perspective, what do you think makes up the mindset of an Olympic athlete? Like if I was to take some surgical equipment and like poke your brain and like figure out like what makes up Sarah’s mindset what do you think, what do you think the things are that would be included?

Sarah Wells (13:42):

So I think there’s, there’s people really put Olympic athletes on a pedestal Yeah. And think that they’re these like special humans that they must ha like you just ask me, can you get into my brain and look around and say our brains are gonna look very similar. Yeah. Like anyone, like while Olympic athletes, yes, it is a, is a unique thing that we are one of the best in the world at one specific thing. But so many of us, we had opportunities presented to us that we were able to, to take advantage of. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And there’s a professor, a Canadian professor that studies resilience that talks about how we admire the rugged individual, but we should be admiring the resourced individual. And really it’s about resilience and grit and all of that. Like there there’s some nature aspect of it of like, yes, someone might be willing to to harness or take advantage of an opportunity that’s presented them.

Sarah Wells (14:45):

They might be more inclined to do so. But it’s more about are those resources presented to the person? Like that’s how you can be resilient is when you have more opportunity, when you have resources in front of you. Now someone might say then, okay, so am I screwed? I’m in an underprivileged neighborhood and my school system doesn’t have a lot of things in front of me. Like, am I screwed? Then it’s like, well no, because there are, there are resources that like now it’s just like unfortunate that you have to take more of a role in choosing to go find those resources. Mm. But don’t blame yourself of like, I’m not resilient because like clearly I don’t know how to push past challenges clearly I don’t know what to do. Like, instead it’s like, okay, get, just acknowledge that it’s not, it’s not you, you’re not the person who’s not resilient.

Sarah Wells (15:35):

You’re not the person that’s not rugged, you’re not the person that’s not gritty. There’s not enough resources. And so ask for help in that moment. Like, I had a year where after having a very successful high school career, when I went to university, I got hurt right away. Like within the first few months I got injured and it was one of my first like really big injuries and I didn’t perform provincial on that provincial level. I like barely performed well on the national level. And I was so convinced, like, okay, it was the end of the road. I was a good high school athlete, this is it for me. And I had coaching staff and in a support system around me that never stopped believing in me. Mm-hmm. And they kept pouring resources into me. They kept providing the opportunities, they kept putting me on the track because one of my coaches said, talent doesn’t go away.

Sarah Wells (16:27):

And he said that to me. Did I believe it in that moment? No way. If you looked in my brain then, oh, let’s look for the grit in here. It wasn’t there. <laugh>. Yeah. It wasn’t there. What I had was, I had this amazing coach around me that said, talent doesn’t go away, Sarah, go get back on the track, try again, do it again. Do it again. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> until suddenly I realized myself like, oh shoot, he’s right. <laugh>, here it is. I found it. It took a while though. And so I think asking for help, like I I, when my coach said, look, what do you need? When I said I I just don’t know if I can make it. And he was like, Sarah, tell lets go away. What do you need? I said, I just need reminders. I just need you to keep telling me that this is possible then.

Sarah Wells (17:07):

And by doing that, I was able to open a door to find, to have him understand what I needed and then I got the resources I needed to then be resilient and be gritty and become an Olympic athlete. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so as we are all struggling with how do we be gritty? How do we become more resilient? How do we become more resourced? It’s like ask for help. And it, you know, ask for help has become quite trend right now on, on the like mental health space. And, and I think it’s so important there, but it doesn’t have to be like asking for help. Cuz I’m like, I’m so struggling that I’m like in the deep end over here, but asking for help for like literally simple things like, oh, you know what? I ha you, I could come into practice one day and be like, I’m having a rough day today.

Sarah Wells (17:49):

So in the last interval, remind me my big goal mm-hmm. <affirmative>, because you know what? I’m gonna start to let go of it then I’m just gonna, it’s gonna start slipping. And so I could at the beginning of practice, just tell my coach, Hey, I’m gonna need you to remind me why we’re here today. And because having him there, because he would remind me of that, like those external resources is like really what helped me get to the place I’m in. And even what I’m doing now, and I know we’re gonna get to that in a bit. Like, I’ve now built a youth organization and we help others build resilience and self-belief. Even what I’m doing now and how I’ve been able to build this organization and impact 120,000 youth and get on stages and do all these incredible things, it’s not because of me, it’s because of amazing people.

Sarah Wells (18:32):

I’ve like said, Hey, this is the mission I’m on. This is what I’d like to do. I don’t know how I’m gonna get there. But just so you know, <laugh>, that’s what I’m planning on doing <laugh>. And because I say that out loud because I’m brave enough to believe in myself and just put it out there, even though it might not come true, well suddenly that person who hears it is like, oh, I know someone you should talk to that might be able to help you with X. Oh, actually you wanna do that? I specialize in that. No way. Crazy. Yeah. And then I’m like, leapfrogging forward has nothing to do. Like, I won’t say nothing. My mom would be so mad at me, Sarah, you should be more. She would be like, want to. Yeah, exactly. You gotta believe in yourself isn’t your whole thing. Yeah, exactly. and I do like, I do believe in myself. I, I constantly say like, I believe I, if anyone can do this, I believe it’s me, but I believe I can do it because I’m willing to put the goal out there to ask for help and find the resources necessary. And I think, you know, if you looked inside of the, the mindset of an Olympic athlete, I think you would find an incredible incredible ability to ask and receive help.

Sam Demma (19:41):

Hmm. That’s such an interesting play on the idea. And I, I love that you went that way with it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, it, it even got me thinking about this idea that like, you could be so prepared, right? Like the fastest runner in the world may have never mm-hmm. <affirmative> ran on a track and we just don’t know it yet. Like there could be someone who’s faster than Ussein Bolt who is better at swimming than Michael Phelps and Yeah. And, and we just don’t know it. Why? Because maybe they’ve never been presented with the opportunity to swim or run or mm-hmm. <affirmative>, they didn’t even know it was a thing and they haven’t asked for help. Right. You know what I mean? Like, I think it’s oh hundred percent. That’s such an interesting perspective. So asking for help and the mindset piece aside, what does your schedule look like back when you’re like full out training for the Olympics? Like, what does the work look like? Because I’m, I wanna make sure everyone listening knows, like despite the fact that you asked for help when you had opportunities, you still had to show up and like give your heart out to the training process every day.

Sarah Wells (20:40):

Yeah, absolutely. It was a ton of work and, and you have to be putting in, you have to be willing to put in that work. and I certainly was, my coach would probably tell you that there was workouts. I would come cause I would be so like if I had a bad workout the previous day or I had a bad race, then to me, like the only way to get better is like, you just push your body like crazy. Like I just wanna give it everything tomorrow, <laugh>. And so like there was days I showed up to the track and I would be like, I wanna run today till I throw up. I was just so committed to the thing. He’s like, okay, you crazy person. and of course we had a program and the way that program was lined out is we trained like five or six days of, of the week depending on time of year.

Sarah Wells (21:20):

So if it was base training season, we might, we trained six days a week with one day off. If it was closer to race time, we would, we would take two days off because you wanna have even more recovery to be ready for your race. So in, in the fall, I’ll paint, I’ll paint you kind of that picture, but so Mondays would be like speed. We would be doing like fast, like 60 meter sprints, 40 meter sprints, like block starts, like super, super speed. and that’s really about pushing the glass ceiling of your ability to go fast. You’re recruiting more muscles. you’re learning how to connect your nervous system to develop power and be like quick outta the blocks, kind of that stuff. So that day is speed and it includes weights and stuff. Tuesday would be lactic threshold. So if you’ve ever tried to run as hard as you can and your muscles start feeling like goopy full of like a burning sensation that’s lactic acid <laugh>.

Sarah Wells (22:15):

It’s like a milky kind of substance that goes all over your muscles that prevents oxygen from being able to like get inside of the muscles. And so as you run your hardest and fastest, your body develops, lactic it, it produces lactic acid, it starts making your muscles kind of milky and you have to train the system to then say, as it gets milky, take that milk and then turn it into energy. <laugh> learning that system is a it, you have to train your body to learn how to do that. So Tuesdays are brutal because all I’m trying to do is teach my body how to deal with that misery and pain and uncomfort and like discomfort. And like, my goodness, it’s a rough day tho those days I would hang out in your garbage cans over top of ’em a lot. So Tuesdays was terrible. Wednesdays would be like weights, like it would be pretty light, really focused on strength.

Sarah Wells (23:01):

Thursdays would be speed based, but this time it would be long speed. And so it wouldn’t be about 60 meters. It wouldn’t be about 40 meters, it would be about 220 meters. So it would be half my race, but all out. And so, you know, it would be a a rough, you’d, like, you’d still be put in a lot of work. You’d, your nervous system would be exhausted by the end. Friday, again a very like kind of light day because we wanna prepare for Saturday, which is another day, like Tuesday, which is the muscle milky, get to a garbage can and throw up at the end like, and not <laugh>. Now I’m making a picture like as if like two times a week I’m constantly running, but like certain times of the season that was the case. but yeah, you followed this, this and then Sunday off recover.

Sarah Wells (23:48):

You know, and for me, anyone who knows me knows I’m a treats fanatic and so I’d be like eating chocolate chip pancakes or breakfast on Sunday and <laugh>, you know, eating dessert at dinner and like ice cream galore and you know, it wasn’t the best fuel ever, but I, I couldn’t eat garbage on the day I had to do a workout because I would feel worse and, or I would throw it up <laugh> and so it would be Sunday I was like a yeah sleep, do schoolwork and try to like eat the food that I wanted. so that’s what a, a overarching week would look like. Now in a four hour practice, five hour practice, it would be my warmup alone takes like an hour where you’re doing jogging and drills and ankle mobility stuff and just getting ready, primed to go. And then once you’ve done that hour long warmup, well now you do a few biometrics to work on recruiting muscles and, and fast off the ground kind of stuff.

Sarah Wells (24:46):

Then you would do sprint drills so that you start training your body because when you’re running really fast, it’s hard to rewire the way you move your body. So we’d do sprint drills before we’d even sprint to try to like anchor in the way you should be sprinting. And then I would do hurdle technique drills because I’m a hurdler, so there’s a whole technique side around that. And so then I would have to do those drills. Then I might start doing reaction time stuff out of the blocks. I’ve just done my plyometrics. I’ve just rewired my brain of like, this is how you should be sprinting so that I do my out of the block stuff. Now I might actually start my runs. And so I would do things that we call strides, which would be at a certain pace. Cause whatever workout we’re about to do, we wanna start priming our body to prepare to run at a certain pace.

Sarah Wells (25:29):

So we do strides at a certain, like, okay, if I wanna be running 13 second one hundreds or cuz I’m about to run a 300 that I, I wanna be able to run 42, 41 seconds with like, and I need to be doing that. So I would do strides. Then we’d take like five to eight minutes recovery to like, almost just reset that your heart rate kind of come back to normal. And then after that five to eight minutes, now you start the actual interval training. And now the interval training is the like, you know, run milky body, you wanna die curl up in a corner. So like, depending on what the workout is like that can take, it could take an hour, take an hour and a half, like who knows how long that ends up taking depending on what the workout is. and you’re not running for the whole hour, an hour and a half, but the faster you run, the more recovery time you need.

Sarah Wells (26:17):

But that recovery time isn’t spent like just chilling on the sidelines because if you ran really fast, you’re, you’re in cheetah mode, right? So you run super hard, you throw up, you curl up in a corner, you feel like you’re gonna die, you’re waiting for your heart rate to come down before you have to walk to the start line and do it again. And I’m painting a very like dr. Dramatic picture and it’s not like that all the time, but I wanted to like give you the, the a day that we would go through more than one time a week.

Sam Demma (26:41):

I love that. It’s awesome.

Sarah Wells (26:43):

<laugh>. Then we’d finish the intervals and now we would do our like cool down jogs. We’d do med ball circuits. You’re throwing around that really heavy medicine ball. And then you go down to the weight room, finish your weights, then you get into a cold tub where you go above your belly button, full tub of like ice, icy covered water. Stay in there for 10 minutes and then you try to warm up, like get back, get your muscles back to like normal temperature and go fuel protein, carbohydrates. Like get ready for your next session.

Sam Demma (27:14):

<laugh>.

Sarah Wells (27:14):

That’s crazy.

Sam Demma (27:16):

<laugh>. You can write a whole book on it <laugh>. That’s so cool. what would you tell someone listening right now who has been told that what they wanna do with their life isn’t possible? Like I’m sure that, you know, when you don’t believe in yourself, you have little chance but mm-hmm. <affirmative>, you know, when you don’t believe in yourself and other people are telling you it’s not possible, but you know, there’s a student listening who still wants to do something. Like what, what would you tell them? What pieces of advice could you share?

Sarah Wells (27:44):

I would say find someone to show you what’s possible. Hmm. And what I say, what I mean by that is I had this perception in my brain. I wasn’t good at sports, right? I wasn’t good at sports. So how am I ever gonna be an Olympian? Like Olympians, they’re superheroes, they’re people that have perfect seasons and they never get injured and they’re, they win every race and they’re the best in the world. You know, they, they can’t have a bad day. They’re the best in the world. If you’re the best in the world, you don’t lose to Sally on your team because Sally on your team isn’t making the Olympics. And if you lose to Sally, you’re not going to the Olympics. And guess what, Sarah, you’ve been sitting out for a year so there’s no way you’re going to the Olympics and all of that.

Sarah Wells (28:24):

I believed all of that had to be perfect, had to be flawless Olympians pedestal. And then in 2008, four years before I made the Olympics, I had a teammate who I trained with day in, day out. I saw him get injured, I saw him miss training. Sometimes I saw him lose races. Guess what happened? He made the Beijing Olympics on a not flawless season on a you know, moments of defeat, moments of whatever. And he still made it. And he showed me what’s possible. Hmm. He helped me realize that you don’t have to be perfect and it’s, you have to work hard. You have to like want it, you have to do the thing, the things that you can do, but doesn’t have to be perfect. And as impossible as it may seem, cuz halfway through the season, I don’t think people thought he was gonna make it either.

Sarah Wells (29:13):

And then he did. And so it was like he showed me what’s possible. And so the next four years it was like, head down, let’s do this. And then when I got rocked <laugh> the year before, it was like absolutely. People told me it was impossible. I thought it was impossible at times. But I also just like tried to keep reminding myself of this thing of like, what he had shown me, how much like you did not have to be flawless. And of course like that, that sense of self-belief, like, okay, and mom, I don’t need you to believe in me. I believe in myself right now, you know, <laugh>. Yeah. And so while it’s hard to see and people are telling you it’s impossible and you yourself might feel it’s impossible, I would encourage you to just like, you know, we, we have such privilege and opportunity to have access to so many resources online through social media like YouTube, like podcasts that show you what’s possible. And so if you feel right now your goal is impossible, like go research someone who’s done what you wanna do, because I bet you there’s someone out there that maybe hasn’t done the exact thing you wanna do, but has done something in that ballpark, has done something in that arena or has reached the same height in a different industry or capacity in some way. And it’s just like by, by fostering a bit of that, that spark, you remind yourself what’s possible.

Sam Demma (30:30):

Hmm. I think what’s so unique is that you’ve now created an entire organization that gives that feeling to thousands of young people like <laugh>, like if they don’t believe in themselves, like you come in and you like, you like shove the belief in them <laugh> if that’s the right way to put it. But like, tell me about the Belief Initiative and what it looked like when it started, what it looks like, what it looks like right now mm-hmm. <affirmative> and why you’re super passionate about it.

Sarah Wells (30:59):

Cool. So I mean, yeah, the Believe Initiative came about for, for a few reasons. Like one I, that high school teacher that saw me in gym Classon told me to do track and field. That teacher believed in me before I ever believed in myself. And so the Believe Initiative can really play a role in being that coach for as many people as possible because of what we talked about. Resources are important, having access to opportunities are important and not everyone’s gonna have that coach or teacher in their high school. So how can I come into as many high schools as possible and be that teacher for them and say, Hey, try out for that thing. Go do that thing, pursue that passion. Show yourself what’s possible kind of thing. So it, it really, it has like an spark in an essence way back from the first time I ever even explored the support of check meal.

Sarah Wells (31:44):

It also comes from, I told you the story here and now about how I made the Olympics. but there’s another story of how I, four years later don’t make the Olympics. Hmm. And it was shocking to me because I was in the best shape of my life and as I had mentioned previously, I had just come off winning a PanAm game silver medal. And so I was supposed to, and I’m using air quotes right now for the audio listeners, I was supposed to win a medal. And so when I didn’t even make the Olympics <laugh>, it was, it was I don’t know, like I felt completely defeated and I felt I had failed and I thought I had lied to people because previously I had been telling people, if you believe in yourself, you achieve your goals. Hmm. And now I believed in myself and I did not achieve my goal.

Sarah Wells (32:27):

And so when this happened, I actually took a whole year off sport. I quit sport for a year. And in that year off I did a ton of reflection and thinking and I realized you don’t build self-belief through achievements. You build self-belief through action. Mm. Because I actually believed myself more strongly after not making the Olympics even more so than when I did <laugh>. And I think that’s cuz you build it through, you build self-belief through action. And I was willing to go to the Olympic trials a like in the 2016 year when I ended up not qualifying. I was willing to not let my circumstances define my outcome to go for it anyways. And so I was like, oh, okay, like you build self-belief through action. How can I help other people build self-belief through action? And that’s when the Belief Initiative was founded and I was like, I wanna help students connect a passion they have and a problem they wanna solve and they can use that passion to solve that problem and build self-belief through action.

Sarah Wells (33:23):

Hmm. And so we started this out by just going into schools and doing like one-off assemblies. Like, okay, this is how I believed in myself, this is how you can believe in yourself here. Let’s talk about ideas that you have that how you can build self-belief through action. And it started like that and then it grew and it grew and we signed a corporate partner that allowed us to do cross country tours. And we’ve been in like most provinces in Canada and a handful of states. And we went way up in Northwest Territories in like, you know, 40 degrees north of the Arctic Circle. We did authentic Dogsledding. It was so cool <laugh>. but you know, it’s been so, I’ve been so fortunate to travel all over and get to inspire young people everywhere. And when Covid hit, we couldn’t go into schools and we couldn’t do what I had been doing, which was more of these like tour based summit experiences.

Sarah Wells (34:13):

And teachers were also completely overwhelmed and did not want to, nothing did not have time or energy or resources to be able to deliver this program with their students. And so I totally get that <laugh>, I completely understand. It’s like been a wonky year. And so what we’ve decided to do is actually say, okay, if teachers are overwhelmed, well there’s some pretty awesome students out there that they can, they can lead this. Like why do we need the teachers? We don’t need them. And so, you know, if you’re listening to this and you are a student and you are a student leader looking for a leadership opportunity, like we want you, because the way that this works now is we have students apply to become a Believe chapter head. And you lead that chapter and we give you the training and resources and everything you possibly need to run a successful chapter.

Sarah Wells (35:03):

You have other peers, you get access to chapter heads from all across the country, actually all across North America. Cause we have some US chapters as well. Nice. And you can run this belief chapter at your school, you get a leadership opportunity. We actually provide you different training and access to mentors and things like that. And then you get to empower your chapter members to build these believe passion projects, which helps them connect that passion. They have problem they wanna solve and they use the passion to solve the problem. So the chapter heads, they really become the champions because while we enable them and equip them, they really are the the ones that help gather these members and then empower them to do really great things in the community. And it’s a great story for them to tell as a leader to say, Hey, university applicant application.

Sarah Wells (35:48):

Like, here’s what I’ve done and here’s how many students I’ve inspired as a young person. And it’s been so cool to see on my end because I used to be limited by how many planes I could get on and days I could be in a school and how many, you know, days I could spend overnight in an airport. But now it’s like with being able to empower these other, these amazing student leaders and I’ve no doubt, whoever you are listening on the other end of this you student leader. Yes. You, I would like you to apply <laugh> to become a chapter head because it’s this incredible group and it’s been so cool to watch the chapter Heads from All Over, connect and support each other and share best practices. And so you know, personal plug here, you can go to believe in aship.com and if you hit the Believe leadership tab, you’ll find where you can apply and become a belief chapter at your school or in your community.

Sam Demma (36:40):

I love that. And I just wanna plug you times too <laugh> you know, not only will you be able to have awesome stuff on your resume and you know, build an awesome initiative in your school, but like your peers will look at you like a freaking hero for <laugh> for bringing something together during a time where everyone is so far apart, you know Right. Physically and emotionally. yeah. So I feel like this is needed now more than ever. And so if you’re listening to this, like take it as a sign, take it as a signal to go to Believe initiative.com, sign up become a chapter ahead, spearhead an initiative at your school and also meet Sarah Wells, the freaking Olympian <laugh>, you know, it’d be pretty cool. so I love that. That’s amazing. And you’ve impacted 120,000 students so far, is that, is that right?

Sarah Wells (37:32):

Yeah, 120,000 students. we’ve had like approaching 10,000 students who have initiated projects. Yes. we haven’t been able to track impact of projects on everything, but we just started tracking it in the fall. And so just, you know, 2020 fall we had projects that impacted 19,000 people. And so that’s, that’s only tracking the projects we had in the fall <laugh>. And so I know it’s gonna go far and wide from there and we’re gonna start tracking and reporting that more so bigger numbers to come

Sam Demma (38:03):

<laugh>. All right, cool. Sounds good. Believe initiative.com Leadership tab?

Sarah Wells (38:07):

Yep. The Believe leadership tab.

Sam Demma (38:09):

Okay, cool. Sounds good. And if anyone wants to reach out to you, send you a, a note or a comment or a message, what would be the best way for them to do so as well?

Sarah Wells (38:18):

So I’m on Instagram and Twitter @SarahWells400mh, which is like Sarah Well’s 400 meter hurdles, which is a really big regret and I really should just change my social media handle, but I don’t think is that bad, like <laugh>, will you change your social media handles? Does everyone just be like you’re gone? But yeah, @SarahWells400mh on Instagram and Twitter and then you, you can contact me through the website as well, so.

Sam Demma (38:42):

All right. Awesome. Sarah, thank you so much for taking the time to come on here and share a little bit behind the scenes about yourself, your story, your initiative. I really appreciate it and I wish you all the best in the future.

Sarah Wells (38:53):

Thanks, Sam.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Sarah Wells

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Chapter One: Empty Your Backpack (Read Along)

Sam Demma: Global Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author
About Empty Your Backpack

In Empty Your Backpack, Sam Demma demonstrates that your dreams are within reach, and it’s the beliefs you carry and the actions you take that determine whether you will achieve them.

Demma guides how to move closer to your dreams faster than you ever imagined. He shows that by cultivating empowering beliefs while committing to consistent actions that fuel your creativity and growth, you can make things happen in your life the way you envision.

Are you weighed down by people dismissing your dreams as unrealistic? You have big dreams. There are things you want to accomplish, but maybe they feel out of reach-especially when people tell you they’re impossible. That heavy feeling of doubt is your backpack. It’s full of limiting beliefs and dreams crushed by the opinions of others. It’s time to empty your backpack and release that weight from your shoulders.

Demma’s guide offers actionable ideas to help young people keep faith in their dreams even when those around them lose theirs. He reveals pathways that can help bring dreams to life and empower you to be the best version of yourself.

Empty Your Backpack is an easy-to-follow guide filled with tried-and-tested principles and inspiring stories from Demma’s remarkable life that will help you optimize your beliefs and actions to get you where you want to be.

Connect with Sam: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

Empty Your Backpack on Amazon

Empty Your Backpack (Signed by Sam Demma)

Empty Your Backpack Animation

Empty Your Backpack Project

The Story that Inspired the Project

The Backpack of Beliefs

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:00):

Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today’s episode is a special one. It is not a normal interview. It is a read along from my most recently debut published book; “Empty Your Backpack.” It was released on November 18th with an in-person book launch in Pickering, Ontario. There was just under 300 people in attendance and the book has started to make its way into classrooms. We had our first class set ordered from a school in the Toronto Catholic District School Board and have sold just over 400 copies. If you enjoy reading along with me in this chapter, number one, Empty Your Backpack, please reach out and we’ll make sure to get you some books as well. Without further ado, I’m gonna go ahead and read to you chapter one, Empty Your Backpack, Belief: You Define You.

Sam Demma (00:59):

It was an ordinary evening and I wasn’t prepared for what was about to unfold. After eating supper with my family, I returned to my office in the basement to prepare for an Instagram live. That night I was being interviewed by a young leader and we’d be talking about leadership, the importance of service, and helpful ideas for young dreamers. In the first 40 minutes of the interview, there was great conversation and lots of laughs. Then we invited viewers to ask questions or share a little bit about themselves. One viewer jumped on and explained that they had two goals in life to become an actor and to get 50,000 followers on social media. I politely challenged the person to explain what gaining followers would help them accomplish. What they shared blew me away. If I became an actor and had thousands of followers on social media, people at school would stop bullying me and calling me a loser.

Sam Demma (01:55):

This person explained that their life was filled with bullies, that they spent most of their time crying and that they had considered ending their life on many occasions. They then turned off their camera and went silent. The hairs on my arms stood tall. I could feel their pain through my screen and my eyes welled with tears. I found myself at a loss for words. This bright young individual had considered ending their life because of other people’s hurtful words. Those words repeated over and over became personal beliefs, beliefs that they carried with them. The interviewer and I reassured this individual that everyone watching loved them and wanted to see them do well, and then we shared some resources that would allow them to find the help they needed that was beyond what we could provide. After the call ended, I couldn’t get this situation outta my mind.

Sam Demma (02:47):

I felt compelled to reflect on my experiences dealing with words that other people used to define me. What I wish I could have helped that viewer believe in that moment is that other people’s words don’t define your worth. Words are meaningless jumbles of letters until you the person hearing them give them power. Often the negative things people say about you are a reflection of their own internal battles and have little or nothing to do with you. How would your life change if you truly believe that and allowed others words to slip off your back like books in an open upside down backpack, your invisible backpack? Each of us walk around with an invisible backpack strapped to our shoulders. In this bag, we carry our experiences which inform our beliefs. We also carry the beliefs, expectations, and opinions that other people give to us, some good and some bad.

Sam Demma (03:45):

These also inform our own beliefs. Other people’s words can hold real weight. If you let them, they can become bricks that you carry on your back and they can occupy space in your mind. They can stop you from acting or they can propel you forward. Words can unify a divided nation or cause mass destruction. Unfortunately, as humans, we tend to give more energy and attention to the negative things people say about us rather than the positive things. This is the negativity bias. It explains why you can forget hundreds of compliments but not the one terrible thing someone said about you. Like most humans, you probably spend a disproportionate amount of time focused on the one negative comment wondering what’s wrong with you, rather than feeling grateful for all the positive ones. After I speak at conferences in schools, attendees often fill out feedback forms to rate my performance.

Sam Demma (04:40):

I’ll never forget the feedback from one event I did in Alberta. It was all extremely positive except for one comment, typical motivational speaker. The last thing I aim to be is typical, so I took this comment to heart. It made me feel sad and frustrated. It wasn’t extremely negative and the event organizer still hired me to speak the following year, but I spent over an hour thinking about that comment and allowing it to bother me before I shifted my focus. Maybe you can relate. Maybe you got a fantastic grade on a test but couldn’t get over that one stupid mistake you made. Maybe you’ve allowed the negativity in your life to overshadow all the spectacular things that make you you. Maybe you’ve been carrying around hurtful words in your invisible backpack and they’re weighing you down. Can you recall something negative someone said to you that had a lasting impact on your confidence and self-belief?

Sam Demma (05:38):

If you’re like me, you not only remember what the person said, but you can rebuild the entire situation in your mind. You remember the name of the person where and when it happened, and most importantly, how it made you feel. Left unaddressed. Thoughtless comments from careless people can take root your mind and over time become your limiting beliefs. Imagine that a belief that was never yours to begin with ends up being the thing holding you back and weighing you down. Even a comment someone made to you when you were a child can inform the decisions you make for the rest of your life. You might believe you’re not good at music because your parents told you that at the dinner table. You might believe you can’t play basketball because your high school coach said you are too short. You might believe you can’t build a new skill after the university because someone told you it’s too late and you should stick to what you know.

Sam Demma (06:34):

Over time, your backpack fills up and if you don’t stop to remove the beliefs that aren’t yours, you may end up living a life that’s not yours and fall short of your true potential. Shortly after my second knee surgery, my soccer coach jokingly yelled at me from the sideline in front of the entire team. Hey bud, are you going to get up off the bench and play or are you going to retire soon? At that point in my athletic career, I was routinely breaking down in tears in front of my family and friends. I’d limp around school on crutches with a bag of frozen peas strapped to my swollen knee at home, I’d perform every exercise possible to speed up my recovery so I could get back on the field to play the game. I loved the mental and physical stress of rehab. Doing an internship at a gym and driving an hour and a half to attend practice only to sit on the bench and spectate was overwhelming to say the least while on earth with the coach, the person I’m supposed to look up to and learn from, say something so needlessly hurtful.

Sam Demma (07:40):

It was comments like this along with my own mental battles that created my resentment toward the sport. My backpack became so heavy that after I decided to stop playing soccer, I unfollowed all of my former teammates on social media and block the coach. Seeing or hearing anything about that part of my life stirred up deep sadness and anger. I hope that some of my teammates read this book and realize it had nothing to do with them and everything to do with my insecurities and internal battles. It took me over two years to find my peace and rebuild myself. My grandma was the one who taught me that if you have nothing nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all. Now I understand what she meant. Words cut like knives when they’re aimed at insecurities and you never know what someone is going through. Just because you can’t see someone’s backpack doesn’t mean they’re not carrying it.

Sam Demma (08:33):

It’s obvious that my coach didn’t understand the impact of his words, but the negative thoughts they created stuck with me for a long time. There are still nights when I wake up in a panic from a dream about playing professional soccer. My coach’s comment isn’t the only one I’ve needed to remove from my backpack. Teachers who never taught me approached me at school reunions to offer unsolicited lectures on why I should be in school because they want what’s best for me. Relatives at picnics have tried to convince my father to encourage me back into formal education suggesting that I’m wasting my time in life. Luckily, I regularly take the time to empty my backpack and my parents continue to witness the 10 to 12 hour days that I work in my basement studio and support me without hesitation. Find peace knowing that people rarely see the full picture of your life. Let everyone share their thoughts and nod vaguely If you don’t feel like arguing, but don’t internalize or hold onto the things that stop you from following your path. It’s important to respect others, but you don’t need to consume their beliefs and opinions. You are your own best advisor. No person on this planet has gone through.

Sam Demma (09:59):

No person on this planet has gone through and experienced exactly what you have. Your experience matters. Don’t buy into the limiting belief. That experience comes from age. That’s probably a message someone put in your backpack a long time ago. Sure, time gives you an advantage because it gives you the chance to try different things, but time can also be wasted. I know 20 year olds who have had more experiences than some adults in their forties or fifties experience comes from experience, so be confident in your decisions and stop discounting the power of your beliefs and choices. Whose beliefs are you carrying? Your backpack accumulates beliefs from many sources including family, friends, school, media, religion, and most importantly, past experiences. The latter includes others’. Past experiences, often close family and friends will project their beliefs onto you, so be careful which beliefs you place in your backpack.

Sam Demma (11:00):

Let’s say your dream is to open a restaurant and you have a cousin who failed attempting something similar. Ask them if you should open a a restaurant and they’ll tell you absolutely not simply because their past experience involved failure. Find someone who runs a successful restaurant and they’ll likely tell you it’s the best business in the world. In both cases, the other people are projecting their past experiences on you in the form of their positive or limiting beliefs. Be aware that you may also come across successful people who will tell you not to pursue the thing they’re doing carefully consider their opinions as they may help you avoid a future disaster, but ultimately make your own choice. Even if they seem successful, they may not find the life they’re living meaningful. Remember, your definition of success is personal and someone else’s dissatisfaction with their work has nothing to do with you.

Sam Demma (11:54):

In this example, however, you should give the successful restaurant owner’s perspective and advice more attention than your cousins because the restaurant owner is currently doing what you wanna do. Fill in your backpack with the thoughts of people who’ve never done what you wanna do is pointless. A pilot would never ask a passenger how to fly the plane. When someone gives you unsolicited advice or tells you why you can’t do something, ask yourself, what past experience did this person have that resulted in this belief? And remember, people who are hurting often hurt others. Someone you know might be trying to tell you how to live your life because they’re dissatisfied with their own. Sometimes when a person can’t do something themself, their ego wants to believe that you can’t do it either. Don’t listen to their words or place them in your backpack. Instead, find someone successful who is doing exactly what you wanna do and ask for their advice.

Sam Demma (12:50):

The rapper La Russel said it best during our interview. Impossible is the opinion of the incapable. Start repacking. After taking other people’s negative beliefs, comments, and opinions out of your backpack, it’s time to fill it with things that will support you along your journey. The first things to repack are people who push you to grow personally and professionally. As a soccer player, I was a midfielder. My main responsibility was to receive the ball from the defense and successfully pass it forward to the offensive player so we could score goals. My coach would always yell at me, Sam, check your shoulders. He wanted to ensure I was aware of who was around me so I wouldn’t receive the ball and then turn toward an opposing player. Similarly, it’s important to constantly evaluate who’s surrounding you in your life. The people you invest time in will rub off on you whether you like it or not.

Sam Demma (13:47):

You’ll assume some of their beliefs and habits. This doesn’t mean you need to cut off all of your friends and become a lone wolf. Just take note of how your friends’ actions influence you. You want friends who will keep it real with you while also being your biggest supporters. My best friend Lucas is one of those people for me. When I decided to drop outta university, he consistently reminded me to bet on myself. He believed in my abilities more than I believed in myself, and we would make time to meet up and talk about our dreams. I’m so grateful for our friendship. You don’t need a large circle, but you need at least one person who will hold you accountable and believe in you. Next, fill your backpack with the beliefs and opinions of people who’ve achieved greatness. Their beliefs are the blueprint for success.

Sam Demma (14:36):

These can be individuals who inspire you even if you’ve never met them. Weeks after I got my driver’s license, I started driving to and from soccer practice on my own. The drive was 45 minutes each way, so every day I spent an extra hour and a half in the car. That quiet time alone inspired me to begin listening to podcasts. One of my favorites was the Sports Motivation Podcast, hosted by a former professional football player, Niho Bo. In each episode, he’d break down the mindset and habits you need to dominate your sport and reach high level performance. I made a habit of arriving at practice 15 to 30 minutes early so I could jot down notes from the podcast in a Dollar store notebook. I still have those notes and eventually Nee became a personal mentor. He’s responsible for a large part of my belief system in early business success.

Sam Demma (15:26):

On average, I consumed two to three hours of music and interviews daily, and I encourage you to listen to and watch content that reinforces powerful thoughts and helps you dream bigger, find role models you relate to, and listen to their content on repeat. Emptying and refilling your backpack starts with awareness over the next few days, weeks and months, try to catch yourself. When a negative belief enters your mind, write it down and spend some time figuring out where it came from. Once you see that it’s not yours, let it go. Remove it from your backpack. Set aside time to do this again and again until you reach your goals and find peace of mind, life becomes more meaningful when you stop carrying around and acting on other people’s thoughts and opinions. The fact is, no one cares about your life as much as you do, and along your journey people will say negative things.

Sam Demma (16:20):

People might tell you that your dreams are stupid. They might call you ugly or a loser. What you do with their words is up to you. Be selective about which ones go into your backpack. Their words do not and never will. Define your worth. From this day forward, whenever you feel your backpack getting heavy, flip it upside down, allowing the unsupportive words and beliefs to quickly slide out and onto the pavement behind you. Emptying your backpack is a lifelong process. Chapter one, takeaways other people’s words, don’t define your worth. The negative things people say about you are a reflection of their own internal battles and have little to do with you. You have an invisible backpack strapped to your shoulders. Check it often to see what beliefs you’re carrying along your journey. Take out the ones that are weighing you down. Other people’s beliefs are often a projection of their own past experiences. Not all opinions are equal. Repack your backpack with supportive friends, inspiring media, and the beliefs and opinions of people who are currently living your definition of success. In the next chapter, we’ll explore a belief that will help you navigate another reality that can be very uncomfortable. Your journey will look different from everyone else’s

Sam Demma (17:46):

<laugh>. I did not just clap for myself on my own podcast <laugh>. I hope you enjoyed listening to me read chapter one of Empty Your Backpack. Feel free to share this episode with your class to listen to it all together to have a meaningful discussion about what it means to empty your backpack and what it actually means to have a backpack at all strapped to your shoulders in the first place. If you’re looking for some follow up activities that can go along with this audio recording, please send me a message, and if you’re at all interested in buying some copies of the book, you can do so on Amazon and by searching Empty Your Backpack, or if you’d like a class set or signed versions, you can go to shop.samdemma.com. Again, that’s shop.samdemma.com and buy them directly from me or send me an email at sam@samdemma.com. Have an amazing rest of your day. I hope it’s a very productive one, and wherever your journey in life takes you next, make sure that your backpack remains empty. I will see you next week on another episode.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Sam Demma

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Empty Your Backpack (Spoken Word Poem)

Sam Demma Speaking on Stage
About Empty Your Backpack

Here is the link to watch the animation on Youtube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwlHs-Mkvnc

Empty Your Backpack is a spoken word poem created by Sam Demma that encourages you to realize that people’s words don’t define your self-worth. It is a video filled with emotion, hope and perseverance. It was directed and animated by Ben Clarkson, a Juno-nominated illustrator, artist and animator.

If you enjoyed this poem, you can check out the entire project, book and poem at www.emptyyourbackpack.ca

Connect with Sam: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

Empty Your Backpack Animation

Empty Your Backpack Project

The Story that Inspired the Project

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:00):

Welcome back to another episode of the High Performing Educator Podcast. This is your host and youth speaker, Sam Demma. Today we have a different type of podcast interview, one that will leave you feeling very emotional in a very hopeful and inspiring way. Over a year ago now, I hosted an Instagram live call with a student. If you don’t know what that means, think of a video call, but with a live audience with 50-100 students watching on Instagram who can comment live while you have a video call and bring individuals up on screen to have a conversation. A student joined who I had never spoken to before and after we started talking, he told me very quickly that his biggest goal in life was to be an actor, and his second goal was to have 50,000 followers on social media. Slightly confused, I challenged this young man who we’re gonna call Josh for the sake of today’s podcast, to explain to me what in his life would change if I snapped my fingers and instantly he had 50,000 followers.

Sam Demma (01:10):

What this young student said, I will never forget. “Sam, if I had 50,000 followers, kids at school would stop bullying me and calling me a loser. My life is filled with bullies. I hate myself. I hate going to school, and I’m turning off the camera on my phone because I’m ugly.” Josh remained silent for a few moments while every student watching started filling the chat box with the most positive stuff, the most amazing comments. We connected him with his guidance counselors to make sure he felt supported, sent him merch in the mail to make sure he felt like he was a part of a community. But after the call ended, I couldn’t get this question outta my mind. How is it that this young man who has such a bright future is allowing the words and opinions of a select few individuals who don’t even care about him to affect the way that he sees himself every single day and the choices he’s making?

Sam Demma (02:14):

You know when you have a conversation and five minutes after it ends, you remember what you were really trying to say? I was sitting in my basement at my office desk on my rolling chair. When the call ended, I got up. I started walking to the first floor of my house up the staircase, and as I got midway, halfway up the staircase, what I was really trying to say to this young man, Josh finally came to mind. What I wished I could have helped him realize live on that call is that people’s words don’t define your self worth, that you don’t have to carry around the thoughts, expectations, and opinions that other people or society, places on your shoulders. What I wished I could have helped Josh realize was that he had the possibility, the potential to empty his backpack. I believe every one of us, yourself included, carry a giant invisible backpack on your shoulders and in your backpack.

Sam Demma (03:18):

You have your own personal beliefs that you have built and picked up based on your unique life experiences. But as you went through life, you also started picking up the thoughts, expectations, and opinions that other people gave to you, whether you asked for them or not. Things like, you’re not good enough, you’re too fat. Who do you think you are? What makes you believe you’re credible for this? This is never gonna work. Any of these sound familiar? If you and I never take the time to empty our backpacks of these lies, these negative beliefs that other people have given to us, we end up starting to believe them and we tell ourselves these lies, which become our internal dialogue and stories and ends up holding us back.

Sam Demma (04:12):

Imagine that the one thing holding you back is a belief that was never even yours to begin with. After the call with Josh, I started reflecting on my own experience, dealing with the words and opinions that other people placed on me. Growing up, I got extremely emotional and I started working on something minutes after that call that has finally come to life and I am so excited to share it with you right now on this podcast. It’s something I have quietly worked with Ben Clarkson, a Juno nominated illustrator, artist and designer. He took a spoken word poem that I put together titled Empty Your Backpack and turned it into a beautiful animated video. Here on the podcast, I’m going to play the audio portion of that three minute spoken word poem, and if you enjoy it, there’s going to be a link to the YouTube video where you can watch the animation and hopefully share it with the young people in your life who might benefit from hearing a message just like this one. Okay, here it is. Grab some popcorn and enjoy.

Sam Demma (05:31):

Yo, you gotta stop carrying around the thoughts and opinions of everyone else. You gotta stop. They put the world on my shoulders. I couldn’t carry it. With each appointment, doctors words getting scarier, those walls became my second home. I mean a barrier that put my heart in my hands where they were tearing it. They say, you gotta love the game. That’s why I married it. But by 17 divorced a dream and buried it six feet underneath my skin. I was embarrassed that life was black and white when I didn’t wear my jersey. Words cut like knives when they’re aimed at insecurities. Yeah, thank you, coach. I’ll never forget what you said. Your words still went through my mind while I try to make amend, I wish someone would’ve told me that my words define my journey, not the name on my back or the number on my jersey. So hear me out people’s words. Don’t define your route. You bet on you since day one. You define yourself. It’s time you grab your backpack and empty it out and stop carrying the opinions of everyone else. Grab your backpack and let it all out. This is your life. Ain’t nobody else.

Sam Demma (06:41):

It’s been five years since I stopped playing, but someone grabbed the piper cuz I’m still paying. I passed gold 22 times that I was collecting, but my boardwalk is not what you’re expecting. You see my mind is like a broken record. It keeps repeating. I mean, why do I still dream about when he was speaking? I feel five years of new journals. I feel five years with new hurdles, but this one I can’t seem to jump. Call me Jeffrey Drum swear you could search it up. This is nonfiction and whoever said words will never hurt me must have been burdened by insecurity. Cuz I can tell you firsthand that sometimes people’s words can feel like quick sand that gets you stuck. So when you find yourself sink, and let me lift you up cause people’s words don’t define your route, you bet on you since day one. You define yourself. It’s time you grab your backpack and empty it out and stop carrying the opinions of everyone else. Grab your backpack and let it all out. This is your life. Ain’t nobody else.

Sam Demma (07:43):

It’s time someone gave you your permission to forget what they said and focus on your vision. You only got one life to make it happen. So quit carrying the comments and all their reactions. You see, people are gonna say what they say, but unlike Nintendo life is a game that you can’t replace. So stop searching for the button, and I know it’s hard when their words put you outside and people these days seem to speak more boldy when they’re on line. That’s why I’m taking this moment to rewind and remind you that what matters most is how you see yourself in your mind. You see people’s words. Were never define your route. You bet on you since day one. You define yourself. It’s time you grab your back pack and empty it out and stop carrying the opinions of everyone else. Grab your back pack and let it all out. This is your life, ain’t nobody else.

Sam Demma (08:42):

If you enjoyed the poem, it would mean the world to me if you sent me a message at sam@samdemma.com via email, I would love to hear from you. There is also a book titled Empty or or Backpack that goes along with this project. And April 3rd, we will be traveling across Canada with the giant four foot backpack of beliefs bringing these messages into schools in front of students all around the country. If any of this sounds interesting, send me an email or check out the official tour website that includes the book, the Backpack, and all the information. emptyyourbackpack.ca. Again, that’s emptyyourbackpack.ca. I will see you very soon for the next episode and I hope you have a fantastic week ahead.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Sam Demma

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.

Small Consistent Actions Sam Demma – TEDxYouth@Toronto

Sam Demma: Global Keynote Speaker and Bestselling Author
About Sam Demma

Sam Demma (@Sam_Demma) is the youngest board director of the Canadian Association of Professional Speakers. A highly requested keynote speaker in the education space, Demma has delivered over three hundred presentations for clients who want to create a culture of hope, service, and self-belief. He is routinely invited for interviews on national media outlets and has been featured on the TEDx platform twice.

As a high school student, he co-founded PickWaste, a grassroots initiative that mobilized youth to pick up garbage in their communities. Within five years, the organization filled more than three thousand trash bags and provided students with six thousand meaningful volunteer hours. The initiative’s success confirmed for Demma how small, consistent actions could have a significant impact, and he lives that message in all he does.

Following his keynote presentations, students and educators often commit to performing more acts of kindness, taking small, consistent actions toward their personal goals, and proactively looking for ways to serve others. In his spare time, Demma dances the bachata, eats handfuls of tacos, and works to convince people that pineapples do not belong on pizza. For more information and booking inquiries, please visit www.samdemma.com.

Connect with Sam: Email | Instagram | Linkedin | Twitter

Listen Now

Listen to the episode now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or on your favourite podcast platform.

Resources Mentioned

Canadian Association of Professional Speakers

TEDx

TEDx Talk, “Small, Consistent Actions”

PickWaste

Top 25 under 25 Environmentalists

www.samdemma.com

The Transcript

**Please note that all of our transcriptions come from rev.com and are 80% accurate. We’re grateful for the robots that make this possible and realize that it’s not a perfect process.

Sam Demma (00:13):

When I was in grade 12, my teacher told me three words that totally changed my life; small, consistent actions. It was April, 2017, and I was seated in his world issues class. Growing up, I have to admit, I wasn’t the brightest student and I didn’t like school all that much, but for some reason, every time I was in his class, I always felt engaged. And on this particular day, he was not talking about any ordinary topic. Instead, he was speaking about figures in history who have massively changed this world. People like Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Gloria Steinham, Gandhi. The list went on and on, and he took these figures and he wrote their names on the board. This was the only teacher I ever had who still used the blackboard.

Sam Demma (01:21):

But then he began breaking down their lives, trying to figure out what common characteristics they all shared that enabled them to make a massive change in the world. We found they had many distinct traits that made them each different and unique. But there was this one thing, this one thing that was common among them all, they all took small, consistent actions that led to their global massive changes. You see, that day in class, my teacher proved to me and all of my classmates that if we wanted to make a massive change in the world, we could, and all we had to do was commit to a small, consistent action. I left class that day with a burning desire within my chest to try and make a change within my community. But like many of you, at the age of 17 years old, I had absolutely no idea how I was gonna do this. I didn’t have a job. I didn’t even know where I wanted to go to university, let alone talk about something like changing the world, right? Well, like many students, every day after school, I would walk home and my walk was about 30 to 40 minutes. I would take my headphones out, pop in my ears, listen to some music and podcasts. But after that day in class, I decided to change my routine. I took my headphones out, I put them in my pockets, and I began asking myself the questions,

Sam Demma (03:03):

Sam, how are you going to change the world? What is your small consistent action going to look like? Now, before I continue with the rest of that story, I need you to understand where I was personally at that point in my life, or else the story won’t make that much sense. Because two years ago, if you told me that I would be standing on this stage here today talking about a lesson that changed my life, I would’ve told you that you’re insane. In fact, I probably would’ve told you that I will be in the United States on a full ride scholarship playing division one soccer. Like many of you, I had a dream for my life from a very young age, and my dream was to play professional soccer. At the age of 13, I had the opportunity to travel to Europe and live by myself for six months and experienced the professional culture. And when I came back to Canada, I came back with a new passion for the sport. And throughout my four years of high school, I sacrificed everything to pursue my dream of playing professional soccer. But in grade 12, at the age of 17, everything changed. It was mid-November, maybe one week before the biggest opportunity in my soccer career, and I was playing in a friendly match with my team. It was just before half time, maybe five minutes before the whistle when I went shoulder to shoulder with this 250 pound beast.

Sam Demma (04:48):

And after our initial contact, I caught myself, but very quickly I realized that something felt a little funny in my left knee. And for the next five minutes, I ran around with some pain in my calf before deciding to put my ego aside and get off the field. And as I crossed the line, I immediately burst in the tears because deep down I knew that something was terribly wrong. And the worst part about it is that my parents weren’t even there, and I had to hit your ride home with my teammate. And for the whole 40 minute drive home, I pted in the backseat like a little child. Fast forward one month, I ended up getting the results from my mri, and it turned out I had torn the meniscus in my left knee. I felt absolutely defeated mentally and physically because I just missed the opportunity I had been training for so emphatically.

Sam Demma (05:50):

But you see, I wanted this dream so badly, so I would not give up. I got the surgery done and I got back onto the field. And just as things began to improve, I ended up tearing the meniscus in my left knee a second time. And this time around, looking back, I realized I broke down uncontrollably crying in front of my family, my friends, and my teammates. I couldn’t understand why life seemed to be beating me to the ground for no reason. I then had a second surgery, and I even took a fifth year of high school or grade 13 for you old folks back here to try and keep that dream alive. And just when I thought things could not get any worse, it happened again a third time this time in my other knee, which forced me to quit and give up the sport that I loved. It was at that point in my life that I realized I had so deeply attached my personal identity and self-worth to the sport I played. I mean, raise your hand if you have an email address here. I’m pretty sure we all do. Just to put it in perspective, it was so bad that my email was soccer, Sam 99, soccer was all I knew, and I feared that I would be worth nothing without it.

Sam Demma (07:16):

So that’s where I was at this point in my life when my teacher taught me this lesson about small, consistent actions. The reason I shared with you my soccer story is because I want you to understand you do not need to go through extreme adversity to knee surgeries and give up a lifelong dream only to realize that doing good things that benefit others also fulfills yourself. And my teacher proved that to me through his personal passion for solving world issues. And so while walking home from school, after that day in class, when I was asking myself the questions, How are you going to change the world? What is your small consistent action going to look like? I didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, I now see that I was taking the first small step towards building some serious momentum. And it took me 14 days to finally come up with an answer to those questions.

Sam Demma (08:21):

I was walking home when a coffee cup blew across the sidewalk, and I still can’t explain this portion of the story, but for some reason on an impulse decision, I decide to put my teacher’s theory to the ultimate test. I walked up to the cup, I bent down, and I picked it up. And for the next four months, I made my small consistent action picking up litter while walking home from school. I had no intentions of building something outta this, but to, to my surprise, my teacher was correct. And that small consistent action would soon thereafter grow into a citywide initiative. Because five days before summer break, my good friend Dylan saw me driving home and like any teenager, he pulled over, he rolled down his window, and he looked at me like this.

Sam Demma (09:17):

And then he said, Sam, what the heck are you doing? Why are you picking up garbage? And when I explained to him the theory that small actions lead to a massive change, he absolutely loved it. And then he made this statement that changed my future forever. He said, Sam, let’s do something with this. And that was the day that Pick Waste was born. Pick Waste is a community initiative that was started outta the necessity to play our small part in solving a global issue, while at the same time inspiring individuals like yourselves to realize the potential you have on this planet. It began on July 1st, 2017, and since that day, we have kickstarted four different cleanup crews in four different cities, completed over 80 cleanups, filled over 850 bags of garbage and picked up over 21,000 cigarette butts. It has also given me the opportunity to speak in front of over 8,000 individuals just like yourself, to spread this message and to raise awareness.

Sam Demma (10:29):

You see, our movement exemplifies the power of consistency. It was one small action, one small idea that led to this citywide initiative. But please do not get me wrong. The reason I told you about pick waste is not because I want you to go and start picking up litter, although if you do see it, please do pick it up <laugh>. But the reason I told you about pick waste is because I wanted to give you a real life example about how this theory of small, consistent actions played out in my personal life. But what is 10 times or even a thousand times more important is how this theory could play out in your life. Because there are thousands of social issues facing the world today that need courageous leaders like yourselves to step up and face these problems. The biggest lie we have ever been taught, told, or heard, is that one person is too insignificant, that one person is irrelevant in the bigger picture or on the global scale.

Sam Demma (11:36):

And I am here today to tell you that that is absolutely false, and I can even prove it to you in less than 10 seconds. Are you ready? Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Gloria Stein, and Lewis Tapp in Salman north of Will and Will before is Gandhi, Bill Dre and Forres, Nan, Gail, Fabio Rosa. The list goes on and on of people no different than you and I. You see, they’re just human beings who decide to commit to small, consistent actions, and it allowed them to change this world. What is stopping you from being the next person that I count on my fingertips? Tips Because my teacher told me that those figures in history are not anomalies. We can all change the world. Never underestimate the power of small actions executed consistently. Never underestimate the power of momentum because things in motion tend to stay in motion and never underestimate yourself because you are no different than any other change maker who has ever walked on this earth.

Sam Demma (12:47):

Now, before I wrap this up, I have one piece of homework that I wanna leave you with. As you leave this conference here today, I want you to think about one problem that you are passionate about, one problem that you wanna start solving. And over the next two weeks, the next 14 days, I want you to come up with some small, consistent actions that you can begin implementing in your personal life to start solving this problem. And I promise you, you’ll begin taking these actions, and it will start gaining momentum, and you will build a little initiative. And as you start to have an impact, people will begin asking you the question, “How do you plan on changing the world?” And when I was 17, in grade 12, I did not have ‘an answer to that question. But I hope that after hearing this presentation here today, if anyone ever asked you, how do you plan on changing the world,” you would take a little step back, put a big smile on your face, and respond with those three, simple but extremely powerful words; small, consistent actions. Thank you.

Join the Educator Network & Connect with Sam Demma

The High Performing Educator Podcast was brought to life during the outbreak of COVID-19 to provide you with inspirational stories and practical advice from your colleagues in education.  By tuning in, you will hear the stories and ideas of the world’s brightest and most ambitious educators.  You can expect interviews with Principals, Teachers, Guidance Counsellors, National Student Association, Directors and anybody that works with youth. You can find and listen to all the episodes for free here.