The word ‘coasting’ perfectly sums up the majority of my secondary school experience. Coasting is when an individual knows what they are capable of (let’s call that a 10 out of 10) whilst also being aware of the failing criteria (let’s call that a 2 out of 10) so sits perfectly in the middle where it is both safe and not too difficult (a comfortable 6 or 7).
I tended to do ‘just enough’, this meant that I would always put in just enough effort to stay out of trouble whilst not stepping too far out of my comfort zone and stretching myself. For a period of time I was absolutely fine with this; it meant that I did not have to work overly hard and knew that my results would most likely be just enough to pass.
This attitude changed one day after a conversation with my Dad after what I had thought was a successful parents evening. I had approached the evening with the same tactical mind as always; this meant planning the order I would see teachers in, to ensure that the teachers whom I knew would be kind to me where at the beginning and the end of the evening with the bad reports spaced out in the middle. Of course I had also been working extra hard in the approaching week which in my mind meant that the teachers wouldn’t be too harsh. Each meeting was generally the same, “Kamal has a lot of potential but…” followed by a list of things that were not so positive such as talking too much, getting distracted or not completing homework on time. I was happy with this as the word ‘potential’ to me meant that I was able to succeed even if I wasn’t right now! However once I got home the very opposite was to be expected, my Dad told me that when I “hear the word potential” I should start “worrying”. I was encouraged to learn the meaning of the word so after grabbing a dictionary I found out the true meaning. Potential – Capable of being, but not yet in existence.
It was like a slap in the face! This whole time I thought teachers were voicing their confidence in my natural ability whilst actually they were telling me I need to get my backside in gear! Just in case that wasn’t enough I also got my mock results back which fell far below what I expected and I remember being extremely disappointed and upset with the results!
I brought these results home to my parents who were not impressed. My Dad told me to sit down and said “from now on, C stands for Crap!” I was shocked! I nervously asked what B stood for and he said “better”. Better?! Better?! I was baffled, better than crap? That’s just average! I thought there would be a saving grace with the A grade. I thought he would say amazing, awesome maybe even astounding. I asked what A stood for… his answer shocked me even more and changed my whole attitude towards grades from that day. “Acceptable”.
Raising My Standards
My standards had to rise and they had to do so quickly! I evaluated where I was at and figured out what I needed to change and there were three main bad habits that I knew would hold back my progress. Firstly turning up late. I had an awful habit of walking in to lessons 5 to 10 minutes late. In my head it didn’t matter as in that space of time I would surely only miss the register being taken. But I wouldn’t just walk in late and subtly take a seat. I’d try to make an impressive entrance; this could mean trying to dart across the class to my seat whilst the teacher was facing the computer or waiting until the moment she/he was about to say my name then walk in just at that moment and say “here” or of course thinking of the funniest excuse I could to get away with…“ah Madame, I was on the way to school when a car hit a dog, I got off the bus to help and had to carry it over my shoulder all the way to a vet, then the owner gave me a £10,000 prize for finding the dog… but I didn’t want to keep it so I had to go and figure out which charity to give the prize money to then get back to school”. It was amazing how much time I ultimately wasted with all of these late arrivals but I knew in order to get my results I had to become punctual! So I stopped the random conversations in the corridors and just got to my lesson on time!
The second issue was I hated revision and I hated the concept of homework. We spend 6 hours at school a day why on earth do we need to do work in our own time? As part of me waking up and realising I needed to start working harder I decided to put time into improving in subjects in my own time and attending classes after school. After all, it’s not the work you do on the pitch that makes you great, it’s what you do off the pitch in preparation for your big games!
The third and final issue was my constant mission to make my friends laugh and turn every lesson into a social opportunity. I made the conscious decision to stop trying to sit at the back of class or with my friends and begin to sit near the front. I learnt to enjoy the social aspect of school at playtime (or break-time, sounds a lot cooler) and get my head down in class!
Obviously I had occasions where I fell below par on these three habits but I was able to build some consistency and continued to grow and to cut a long story short let’s skip to results day…
I woke up ready to go and collect my results (by myself) but my parents were instant on joining me so all three of us made our way to the school. I walked in and saw my Head of Year, she looked at me and smiled. I was unsure if she was smiling because I had done well or because she was about to see me get my butt whooped! I wasn’t sure so felt even more nervous. I walked over, opened the envelope and was shocked at the grades.. I had 7 A’s , 2 A*’s a C in French which I was taking in my own time, a Distinction in Business Studies and a Merit in ICT.
I was over the moon, my parents were extremely proud and I realised the importance of setting high standards an sticking to them.
Once I reached Sixth Form I was offered the opportunity to become Youth MP for Peterborough. At first I was very reluctant, especially as it meant volunteering for a whole year and I was not particularly interested in politics. After thinking about it and realising that I needed to take advantage of every opportunity presented to me during my time in Sixth Form I decided to do it! At first all I needed to do was turn up to a meeting every couple of weeks for a few hours but I felt like that was not the best use of the position. So after receiving my AS Levels I made a big decision to leave Sixth Form and spend the year as the Youth MP. I had an absolutely fantastic year and learnt so much about the real world and myself. I learnt how to carry myself in front of many different types of people. One day I could be sat in a room full of councillors and the next working with young people in a hostel. I absolutely loved the year and was surrounded by an awesome team.
Towards the end of the year I received a phone call from the Olympic Select Committee. I had been nominated and selected to be one of 8,000 Olympic Torchbearers in the country! An honour that I humbly accepted (after initially believing it was a prank)! The day was absolutely fantastic and I was able to keep the Torch and the uniform and have video footage of the day!
Passion for Inspiring
Once I had completed my year as Youth MP I realised that I had absolutely fallen in love with the impact I could have on other young people and wanted to continue this aspect of the year but did not want to pursue politics. I began to deliver free speeches for a handful of schools through contacts I had met within the council. I delivered many speeches and began to develop programmes that I believed would help other young people experience the same change in mindset and results that I had. I met a man called Jackson at an Anthony Robbins event and found out that he was currently travelling the UK working within schools. I approached him via Twitter and explained that this was something I wanted to do I absolutely loved inspiring other young people, he responded by simply saying ‘cool’. That was it. All contact stopped. I decided that I would go ahead and do it myself! I set up a website, began creating YouTube videos and built the Aim A Little Higher brand. After a year of doing this I received a message saying that Jackson and his team were ready for me to join. He had been testing how much I wanted to be a Professional Speaker. He took me under his wing and taught me about the industry and how to grow my business at the same time. I have now spoken to over 25,000 students across the United Kingdom including Northern Ireland and Wales and loved every second of it. I’ve learnt how to provide value to teachers, inspire students and make a lasting impact for those I work with.
My girlfriend managed to convince me to go back to College and gain some extra qualifications in my spare time. After a lot of resistance I decided to join the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy. I chose this course because it was based purely around my business and having a year experiencing life as a College student, gave me a fantastic opportunity to learn what more I could do to help students and tutors alike.
The amount of growing up I did in the space of a year as amazing, I learnt a lot about business, moved in with my girlfriend and asked her to marry me! Then to top it all off towards the end of the college year I had the opportunity to enter a competition to become Peter Jones’ National Entrepreneur of the Year! I entered the competition and got through to the final 6. This meant pitching my business to Peter Jones himself and a panel of business experts including the CEO of Jessops! In July I was named the winner and crowned Peter Jones’ National Entrepreneur of the Year 2015 and given a £5,000 investment into my business!
The experience of speaking in schools and colleges for 2 and a half years, the change of mindset and results in school and my time working in business and with College and Sixth Form tutors taught me a lot about the gaps that need to be filled for both the students and tutors. There are thousands upon thousands of students out there with the potential to achieve amazing things but just need to boost their self-belief and understand what they are capable of. I realised that there are many students who come out of College or Sixth Form not prepared for the real world and could use guidance in knowing how to approach personal development. Plus, teachers now have the added pressure of needing to support their students’ personal development as set by Ofsted. This drove me to create the My Student Brand programme. A programme with a crystal clear mission: to create a new generation of student, one who: settles for nothing less than excellence academically and personally; takes and creates opportunities for their personal growth; and builds a strong personal brand that inspires others.
I feel as though my entire journey has been leading up to the creation of this programme and I am so excited to bring it to Sixth Forms and Colleges across the United Kingdom!
Article by Kamal Ellis-Hyman professional speaker and student brand development www.KamalHyman.com