After finishing a “must read” in ‘Tribe of Mentors’ by Tim Ferris, I decided I wanted to take on the 11 questions that largely underpin the entire book. They are cleverly structured, and he uses them to draw inspiration, advice and experiences from a host of people in various sectors. The first thing that happens is a small profile of the person being interviewed, but I will not do it on the scale he does – simply:
@pairupinthrees is a PE teacher who has worked in Scotland, the Middle East, Kazakhstan and will shortly be relocating to Hong Kong. After graduating from the University of Edinburgh, he has had the opportunity to work in some large international schools, and has experience as Head of Department. He hosted the U13 BSME Games 3 years ago, and also has been involved in opening 2 CrossFit gyms in his previous 2 schools.
Here goes with the questions:
What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life?
Chasing Excellence – Ben Bergeron. I follow the majority of Ben’s work (podcast, programming, reading) and have really bought into the philosophy he shares. This book has a CrossFit bias, but the principles that are the driving force in the book are transferrable to life. I have gifted this to a few people and I only read it for the first time last summer – it is the first book in years I have gone back to read repeatedly in quick succession.
How to Win Friends and Influence People – Dale Carnegie. Old but one of the best self help books on the market. The title isn’t one that will lure people in, but the content and message should.
Black Box Thinking – Matthew Syed. Marginal gains, focusing on the small things – this really sparked my own thinking about teaching, life and progressing in general. If you are someone driven by the finer details, this is a must read.
I blogged about my most recent reads (the last 12 months or so) about 3 months ago.
What purchase of $100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? My readers love specifics like brand and model, where you found it, etc.
The Habit Bull app on my phone (£5 I think). The most I have ever spent on an app, so I gambled! I use it all the time, tracking the essentials in my day so that I do not forget them. It has also really improved my commitment to things like contacting my parents and family, as living so far away means I can lose track of what is going on. I pick up the phone to my folks once a week – this was something I was okay at before, but now I am fully accountable via the app as I am uncomfortable when a habit is not checked off! I also track things like blog reading, listening to podcasts, doing my pre-hab etc – there can be a lot going on in a day, and this is a good visual way of me tracking progress.
Along the same theme, a nice lined Moleskine notepad – it goes nearly everywhere with me, as I love a good scribbled note. A5 with lined or plain paper if you are buying.
How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favorite failure” of yours?
I have had a significant amount of these in my time! One that stands out – as a youngster, I was released from a professional football club. I was heartbroken, and I also struggled to find the lessons in being released, but over the years I finally started to connect with some of them – I wish had worked them out sooner. This happened probably 17 years ago and I still remember it well – it has certainly been a pivotal “failure” in my time.
At work, I nearly got my P45 for forwarding an email from a Principal to an outside agency (the email was very short and informal – also the content had some contentious politics in there) – I nearly got hung for that! I had to take it on the chin and move on, and what followed was one of the most significant additions to my CV since I started teaching (hosting the BSME Games). It wasn’t a pleasant learning curve, but one that stood me in stead. That same Principal has a lot of time for me as he knows I was always prepared to put myself out there and try to improve things for the children – with that came the potential to mess things up. I learned my lesson, and know that I can always go back to him for a strong reference as he appreciated my work capacity and passion for the subject (despite my tendency to push some buttons!).
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it — metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” Muhammad Ali – I have this as a tattoo in Arabic – I have a lot of time for Ali and what he stood for.
“Hard work pays off”. Enough said.
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)
Money – the investment I made to move abroad in my teaching career. I was paid back immediately in terms of finances and more importantly, I was given fantastic opportunities to develop as a young man and in my career. It also gave me the chance to meet my other half which would have been worth it in itself.
Time – working with an Ethiopian charity (#projectbishoftu). While we have helped raise a lot of money, I have found after visiting 3 times in the past 5 years, it is the time you spend there that is the most valuable thing you can donate. I just love coaching the group of lads I have worked with in the last 5 years – to see the journey they have been on really is so special and is a constant reminder to me about why I do what I do – the chance to make a difference is incredible.
What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?
Not necessarily absurd, but I love hats – any type really. Irrelevant if others think it is ridiculous (which a few people including my dad have pointed out) – for example I will wear a beanie hat with shorts and t-shirts, even if it is way too hot for one. And beanie’s probably went out of fashion years ago, but I have loads of them! In general I might own around 40 or 50 different hats! My girlfriend would say I have loads of lots of “things” – I could probably be shortlisted as a hoarder – but I like to find the value in different things! All of these “things” stay in my man cupboard – I cannot wait to own a shed, like my late Papa whose shed was an epic array of “things”! I will be the only one with the keys!
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?
I have always been a hard worker, but would have been influenced by peers and colleagues and maybe not shown my full capacity as it wasn’t the done thing. Over time (and as I have matured) I have cared less about what others think around me, and strived to be the hardest worker in the room, and always trying to better myself for the sake of the people I work with and for. My attitude at work and in life can sometimes be taken as out of the ordinary, but I think it is relatively simple and I find others who do not want to push themselves as the strange ones!
What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?
Specifically those graduating with a degree in PE teaching – don’t believe you cannot come back to Scotland/UK to teach if you go and teach internationally (or take time out of the profession completely). Do not be afraid to take on a new challenge or path just because it does not directly align with your qualification or experience. Go out there, work hard, listen and look to add value wherever you go and whatever you do. The rest will take care of itself.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
The focus on having students “pass” over having students walk out of school as better human beings. Having taught only core PE for the past 2 years it has been refreshing to find our departmental focus is directed towards the importance of developing the children and not necessarily improving their GCSE grades. If you help them become better people, the likelihood is their report cards will be better anyway. We are not in a job to help them become better sports people or athletes – we are there to help them become better at life.
In the last five years, what have you become better at saying no to (distractions, invitations, etc.)? What new realizations and/or approaches helped? Any other tips?
Social events. I am 29 now, and the drive to go out and have a few drinks has certainly eased off. I actually went for a long period of time without drinking at all, while still socialising, and it was great. That was a constant cycle of saying “no” but eventually the answer started to have more weight over time. I still socialise (I am not a hermit!) but I have a better handle on my priorities.
I am also “slightly” better at saying no to management over some aspects that are not priorities in my eyes or that of our department. While I understand I answer to those above me (and often there are people above them) my priority is the students – and therefore their development is at the forefront of decisions that are made in the office.
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do? (If helpful: What questions do you ask yourself?)
Earphones go in when at work – it is an indirect “do not disturb” to all of those in the office. I am not a regular for putting them in – but unfortunately sometimes a task needs your complete attention and in a PE office, there are a number of potential distractions. By only doing it for short windows and rarely, it has more effect with my colleagues (and any students who fancy popping down to ask a nonsensical question!)
I train regularly – that is my sanctuary from some of the negative aspects that you have to deal with in a day, and also my chance to prioritise “me” over anything else. I prefer to train in a group environment, but if not an option, getting out for a run/cycle/swim is great and provides all the meditation I need.
I had a lot of fun answering these questions – I would love to see others have a go!