I had agreed to deliver a ten-minute address taken from my new book, Spike, to the pupils in Year 11 of Lilian Baylis Technology School in south London.
As they gathered in the gym, they were smirking and laughing as we would expect teenagers to do. As I was introduced by Gary Phillips, the outstanding and special head teacher, they were instantly polite and attentive.
As soon as I opened with my usual mantra, “everyone in this gym has a stand out inherent strength and we call that your Spike”, a number of teachers came in. Perhaps to help keep order but no marshalling was necessary, before long they were also sitting tentatively curious about their own Spikes.
After sharing that “time was better spent fine tuning your Spikes to the highest standard possible, rather than becoming obsessed with working on the things you were really not that good at and consequently, did not enjoy”. I had their undivided attention.
This was initially an anathema to all the teachers present, they shifted in their seats a little and smiled awkwardly.
I took many rapid-fire questions from my eager students. Most of the girls who asked questions that suggested that they didn’t believe that they had any of these ‘Spikes’. It didn’t take long to start winning them over with the conviction that everyone in the gym probably couldn’t master everything, but could definitely be a star at somethings.
They were soon buzzing.
Gary had briefed me proudly that his year 11 students were something very special indeed. They were in their final year and were bright and hardworking. However, the teachers felt many of the girls appeared to lack confidence and self-esteem.
As they now bounced towards the doors, the boys shouted their thanks and disappeared. With the boys now gone, most of the girls politely and sincerely came over to give me their gratitude and thanks. They carefully asked more about their potential Spikes – they were very classy indeed.
As we were preparing to leave one of the girls returned to the gym. She wore a hijab and held her rucksack firmly in front of her, it looked like it was her protection, as she tried to hide behind it.
She stood still and looked at her shoes and summoned up all her courage to ask me “I know what my Spikes are – its history and geography. But the Spike I really want to have is confidence. Can you please teach me the Spike of confidence?”
She was special and had touched all of us with her honest self-deprecation.
Luckily, we were able to help her on the road to confidence by later introducing her to a fabulous mentor. They meet at the school on a monthly basis.
I went back to visit them again a couple of months ago. She has been completely transformed. When she came to meet me, her rucksack was now hanging over her shoulder. She stood straight whilst speaking and was wonderfully self-assured with an unforgettable and infectious smile.
Confidence no less – quite possibly a well-hidden Spike.
Absolutely everyone can be a winner if they find and embrace their Spikes – there need not be any losers anymore.
Listen to my latest podcast about this: