FEATURE COLUMN – People’s perception of life and the world around them are vastly different at times. Two people can see something that is exactly the same, yet perceive it in ways that are not even close to being the same thing. Perception is defined as insight or intuition; it is a person’s view of an event, or happening. People usually only get a chance to perceive the same experience in one or two ways. I have had the privilege of experiencing the wonderful School of Life Foundation leadership class in four different ways: As a student, a guest speaker, a teacher and a role model. Each of them have been a unique experience, which is why I feel compelled to tell my story.
“What is attitude?” Michelle Orton, School of Life’s head motivational speaker and teacher, yelled with a smile on her face. No one answered, so she asked again, “What is attitude?” with a little firmer tone in her voice. If you know Orton, her beautiful voice and nature have the power to stop Congress in session.
It was my second night at Dixie Care and Share and I remember thinking, “What am I doing here? This is not for me.” I remember looking around the room at all kinds of students: Young, old; caring, not caring; some doodling, some talking, but most of them paying full attention. Myself, I was sitting in defensive mode with my arms crossed, ticked off, and looking at the clock. I had not wanted to attend the class, but since it was mandatory, there I was.
I decided to uncross my arms and answer her attitude question. Reluctantly, I raised my hand. When she called on me, I said, “Attitude is how you are perceived every day in your life, and the one consistent thing you can choose to control everyday.”
The stunned look on her face was like a Monet painting, priceless. What was even more remarkable was that she was rendered speechless, and that is classified as one of the world’s hardest things to do.
Attitude is one of the 10 A’s taught in the School of Life and I believe strongly in the answer I gave. Of course, Orton had a response as she smiled and told everyone that in all the classes she has taught, it was one of the best answers she had ever heard. I was hooked after that. One good response and a little encouragement within 10 minutes of being in the class changed my life completely, in so many ways that it would take a book instead of an article to cover it all.
Speaking as a guest in front of students was the easiest of the four ways I have experienced the class. In general, people are terrified of public speaking; I am not one of those. With a little advice and coaching, being a guest speaker came naturally to me. I was being perceived as someone important, smart, energetic, and a person that the students needed to listen to. Looking at the students as I was getting ready to speak, I thought to myself, “I am taking another step on my own staircase of success.” I did good enough in my first talk to be asked back again and again, and became a permanent fixture in the structure of the foundation.
It was March 8, 2012. I had been teaching with the School of Life Foundation for three months, but on this particular day, I perceived that this class was not an ordinary class. I had a few guests showing up on this particular night and for the first time, I was a little nervous. I guess it showed, because a couple of the students asked if anything was wrong. “Nothing,” I said, and started to teach the class.
I calmed my nerves down with a deep breath and asked in my loudest voice for someone to tell me an ‘A’ of the School of Life. Hands went up and I picked a few students to answer: Appreciation, Action, Aim, Align, Always, Assist, Avoid, Adapt, Associate and then finally, a student said Attitude, as my guests walked in the door. “My favorite one! Attitude!” I yelled a little louder than I should have, but I was fired up to teach that day. I wanted to show that I was a teacher, that I had a passion for teaching and that it was going to be perceived as a special part of me.
Teaching is one of my passions; helping students with the “straight A’s of life” is exciting and a great opportunity to get experience in teaching. I believe with everything in my heart that the more people you help become successful, the more successful you become. Again, I have taken another step up my staircase. Teaching, answering questions, sharing and critiquing students is a love of mine. I will be graduating within the year with a degree in history and getting ready for graduate school. I will continue with a doctorate and I dream of teaching history at a university.
A person would think that moving from student to teacher would be a full circle, but not in this case. Being one of the School of Life’s role models and the man that Jack Rolfe and Jeff Sherman refer to as “The Golden Boy” felt like living in a fishbowl, with everyone looking at me and expecting me to do nothing wrong and everything right. I’d never had this type of responsibility to live up to, and it was hard to accept. I didn’t feel like I was anyone special, just a person trying to get through college the third time around while trying to put the pieces of my life back together and work. This was difficult, and I was unsure of how to embrace it.
As I pulled over on the road one night, I prayed and felt an overwhelming exhilaration of peace come over me. I knew in my heart that all was right, so I accepted the gift that life had given me, and now I humbly welcome the opportunity to inspire others to be persistent in their dreams and never give up. I would like to thank all the people that have helped me on my stairway of success, with a special thanks for the support of my love, Gina Grissom.
Written by Scott D. Williamson for St. George Health and Wellness magazine and St. George News.
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