Joyous Act 2/2011
My second Joyous Act of the year came to me.
About 15 years ago I took my A Levels. One of my subjects was business / economics. I enjoyed it. In fact I enjoyed school. Sixth form was an interesting time for me. It was the first time I was a day pupil – I had boarded since I was 10. I was living with my parents and it was a real novelty. Things changed again in the Upper 6th. My parents moved down south and I moved into a bedsit and was still a day pupil but living alone. Imagine the freedom for an 17/18 year old!
In Upper 6th I pushed my luck. Although I went to school, I really only went when I felt like it or I had to. I was a bit of a precocious 6th former – thought I knew it all. Liked to joke around and be funny. I studied, but in my own terms. My business / economics tutor was a guy named Garry Ryan. I don’t think I made his job easy.
When my predicted grades came through I panicked. They weren’t good. In fact, they were pretty bad. I mainly remember being predicted an E in business / economics and thinking ‘Oh, hell – I’m gonna have to turn this around’. I was studying media studies once a week in the back room of a pub 40 miles from where I lived – it was a night class and I took it because I’d quit chemistry (the equations were too hard) and my school didn’t offer media. It was a high risk strategy and at mocs time I was mildly worried I wouldn’t pull it off.
To cut a long story short – I got my 4 A Levels.
I pulled an ‘A’ out of the bag in Business / Economics and got B’s and a C in the others. That was a GREAT day! I’ll never forget running to get those results with my mum and praying that I’d pulled it off.
About a week or so after the results I received a letter in the post. It was from Mr Ryan. He wrote congratulating me saying he was proud of my achievement. He told me I should be proud of myself and said that he felt he couldn’t take much of the credit due given my attendance record. Of course he deserved some credit but he made me take note of what I had achieved. He wrote some other stuff in that letter – really encouraging words and I can honestly say that I have read and re-read that letter many times over the years when I’ve been in need of a bit of a pep up or an injection of self-belief.
Mr Ryan contacted me after I’d done the Apprentice. In fact he sent a brilliant email including a note he had received from a friend of his…I hope he won’t mind me sharing it here… His friend wrote…
“Congratulations are in order, I think, for producing an ex-pupil who got kicked out of The Apprentice so early. I think that the shame of having moulded a young personality that might be capable of the self-regard, brown-nosing, backstabbing and disloyalty required to thrive in SrAlan’s warped idea of the business world might have caused you very great pain.”
This really made me chuckle and it was exactly what I needed to hear at the time.
So when Mr Ryan asked me to visit his school and speak to some students and judge a Dragon’s Den style competition I didn’t think twice. Of course! I travelled back to Trowbridge – first time I’d been there in years and presented 3 times to different age groups at St Augustines School. I was worried they wouldn’t be interested but I tried to make my presentation relevant.
I went back to my time in 6th form and was totally honest with them and myself about how I had felt then. That very real fear that you might fail, the pressure of feeling as though your whole life depends on those few examination hours. I ran through what success means to me and warned them not to believe that an appearance on TV brings automatically brings you fortunes. Fame is one thing, fortune is something entirely different and actually, fame (not that I have or want it!) is a heavy cross to bear for many. I took questions and hoped to inspire in some small way. I wanted to give them confidence to know that we all have our own journey to take and that there really isn’t a right or wrong way of doing things if you stay true to yourself and know clearly what your personal definition of success is, you won’t go to far wrong.
I judged the Dragon’s Den style competition along with two other local business people. There were some great ideas and some real talent shone through. Everyone seemed to enjoy it and I received some emails afterwards from students asking for advice and saying they’d been inspired. What a buzz and how grateful I am to have been able to take part let alone having been able to catch up with Mr Ryan who had had an effect on my life in ways he didn’t even realise! I was certainly Joyous and I think he was too – so there, Joyous Act February 2011 – done.