Thank you to those attempting to cut-down tall poppies

I recently underwent an hour long sustained personal verbal attack from an older “professional” speaker I had sought out as a colleague and teacher for advice. In my reaction I felt; shut down, self-doubt, hurt, disappointment, shock, emotion etc.

Huston we have a problem!

Problem resolution step one: Communicate

My intermediate principal would say “talk to me when you’re happy, talk to me when you’re sad” – thanks Iain Taylor – you still the man!

If you don't communicate it’s harder to resolve an issue. Make sure you choose to do so with a person that is in a position to make a difference, i.e. headmaster, manager, human resource, top management rather than spending time by the water cooler complaining to colleagues.

Problem resolution step two: Take time to process information

What the cutter said:

“I don't understand how you get standing ovations”

No and you probably never will. But I’ve had more than enough feedback from clients over the years as to why I do.

“Are your audiences not disappointed by your physique? You show them a toned athlete and come out as you are”

Well no. At that point in time I was a high performance Athlete at peak of physical fitness. A personal best, you could say, and one I continue to be proud of. The All Blacks won't always have the physique they have today either, and I credit my audiences intelligence to work this out. The picture is however evidence of what can be achieved by a lot of very hard work, commitment, and dedication to the exclusion of almost everything else.

It was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made to sprint away from Athletics. As I had been inspired by others to achieve more than I had thought possible, I decided to take a path of service to others.

Problem resolution step three: Why do we do what we do

The cutter spoke at length about how success is measured by monetary reward. I wonder if this was maybe their primary motivator. It is not however an attitude adopted by the likes of high performing musicians, surgeons, lawyers who take on pro-bono cases.

I hope to continue to speak to low-decile schools with little or no budget in the future. Money may be a primary motivator for some, it is not mine.

In teaching (well in all jobs) there are some teachers who are in it for the money, there are some who are in it for love. I have personal experience of the difference

Problem resolution step four: ‘Deflect and Reflect’ on attack

What does it reveal about them? What does it teach me about myself? What do they fear? Am I seen as a threat, or competition?

By taking the steps of communicating and reflecting, a process of deep discovery was initiated, which was very timely with a personal development workshop that positively challenged me to write my first White Paper (know who you are and know what you bring to your event organisers, bureaus, employers situation. Give examples which demonstrate clearly and simply that you understand their problem. That’s why they are engaging you. They want what you have)

Problem resolution step five: revolve it into fuel for achieving awesomeness

I am strong, resilient, and have a suit of armor. Thank you for pointing out my strengths to me. Revealing where I needed to go in my professional development, knowing who I am what I have to offer, why I belong in such a competitive environment and why I will continue to thrive within it.  By processing your verbal attack I am standing stronger in my Turangiwaewae  (strong place), and may well acquire more standing ovations as a result, for the disbelievers out there keep puzzling about why I do.

This is not the first time I’ve received a verbal attack and due to the ‘tall-poppy’ syndrome, unfortunately, it won’t be the last. However it does excite me that many whom I really admire have experienced such and gone on to achieve higher levels of excellence then many can imagine. I remember at the end of one of my talks to the New Zealand Defense force the MC said “let’s not cut-down the tall-poppy but grow fields of them”. Let’s grow!

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