What Learning French at School Really Taught me……..
I have an anecdote from many a long year ago, but bear with me because it’s relevant; I remember the culmination of 5 years of learning at school being the so called ‘mock’ exams which we had to endure in the run up to our real ‘O’ Levels. And I’ll never forget that fateful afternoon when my French teacher pressed the red ‘record’ button on the huge tape recorder to begin my mock French speaking exam. She had a steely look on her face throughout, and it was difficult not to be intimidated as I tried to conjure some verbs and remember my vocabulary. But then it happened – she pointed to a picture of strawberries and asked “que est-ce que ce est?” I remember rifling through my mind for as many French words for fruit as I could muster, but this one eluded me, and what came out of my mouth was “ce’st les strawbes?” With that, my teacher’s steely face turned to thunder, she stood up and bellowed “get out, get out now, and if you think you’re going to pass your French ‘O’ Level you’ve got another think coming!!!!!!”
I ran away feeling defeated, and was initially resigned to the fact that I could cross an ‘O’ level in French off my list of potential qualifications. But as the hours passed a determination every bit as steely as the look on my teacher’s face came over me, and I decided that it was by no means a fait accompli (see what I mean, the 5 years weren’t wasted!) that I would fail the real exam. So, with my eye on the prize, and the commitment to do it, I hit the revision hard, and happily passed my ‘O’ Level in French at grade B.
But I fully understand that things don’t always work out in such a positive way, and we can’t always bat away what people say to us, and turn a negative into a positive. Sometimes we’re told that we can’t do something, or that we’ll never be able to change and we learn to believe it. We’re then effectively defeated and so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is so sad.
In my example, I took what my teacher had said, and used it to fuel my desire to prove her wrong. I knew that I’d been a bit lax in my attitude to learning French in my school years, but I was absolutely determined to turn it around.
You can apply the same principle to achieve a lot of things. For example, you may have been gradually gaining weight, and not putting much effort into your fitness for years, and it could be that those closest to you doubt that it’s possible for you to change. Take that doubt, use it to fuel your determination to succeed, and gradually prove them wrong – it’s such a great feeling when you do!
So, in a nut shell my message is that you should always wear your metaphorical tungsten steel jacket to deflect “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”. Rail against the negatives and doubters and always focus on the positives. Perhaps find a role model or mentor to help you in your quest. And my absolute golden rule is never ever compare yourself to anyone else – simply aspire to be the best that you can be because that’s a great feeling too