Leaders are those individuals who live by empowering beliefs and teach others to tap their full capabilities by shifting the beliefs that have been limiting them. One great leader who impresses me is a teacher by the name of Marva Collings. You may have seen the 60 Minutes program or the movie that was made about her. Fifty years ago, Marva utilized her personal power and decided to touch the future by making a real difference in the lives of children. Her challenge: when she go to her first teaching job in what may considered to be a ghetto of Chicago, her second-grade students had already decided that they didn't want to learn anything. Yet Marva's mission is to touch these children's lives. She doesn't have a mere belief that she can impact them; she has a passionate, deep-rooted conviction that she will influence them for good. There was no limit to the extent she would go. Faced with children labelled as dyslexics and every other kind of learning or behavioural disorder, she decided that the problem was not the children, but the ways there were being taught. No one was challenging them enough. As a result, these kids had no belief in themselves. They had no references of ever being pushed to break through and find out who they really were or what they were capable of. Human beings respond to challenge, and these children, she believed, needed that more than anything else.
So she threw out all the old books that read, "See Spot run," and instead taught Shakespeare, Sophocles and Tolstoy. All the other teachers said things like, "There's no way it can happen. There's no way these kids can understand that." And as you might guess, many of them attacked Marva personally, saying that she was going to destroy these children's lives. But Marwa's students not only understood the material, they thrived on it. Why? Because she believed so fervently in the uniqueness of each child's spirit, and his or her ability to learn anything. She communicated with so much congruency and love that she literally got them to believe in themselves--some of them for the first time in their young lives. The results she has consistently produced for decades have been extraordinary.
I first met Marva and interviewed her at Westside Preparatory School, the private school she founded outside the Chicago city school system, After our meeting, I decided to interview some of her students. The first young man I met was four years old, with a smile that would knock your socks off. I shook his hand.
"Hi, I'm Tony Robbins."
"Hello, Mr Robbins, may name is Talmadge E.Griffin. I am four years old. What would you like to know?!"
"Well, Talmadge, tell me, what are you studying these days?"
"I'm studying a lot of things, Mr.Robbins."
"Well, what books have you read recently?"
"I just finished reading Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck."
Needless to say, I was pretty impressed. I asked him what the book was about, figuring he'd say something like it was about two guys name George and Lenny.
He said. "Well, the main protagonist is..."
By this time I was a believer! Then I asked him what he had learned from the book.
"Mr Robbins, I more than learned from this book. This book permeated my soul."
I stared to laugh, and asked , "What does 'permeate' mean?"
"To diffuse through," he said, and then gave me a fuller definition than I could give you.
"What touched you so much in this book Talmadge?"
"Mr Robbins, I noticed in the story that the children never judge anyone else by the colour of their skin. Only the adults did that. What I learned from this is that although I will someday become an adult, I'll never forget the lessons of a child."
I started to get teary-eyed because I saw that Marva Collins was providing this young man and so many others like him with the kinds of powerful beliefs that will continue to shape his decisions not only today, but throughout his life. Marva increases her students' quality of life by using the three organizing principles: she gets them to hold themselves to a higher standard, she assists them in adopting new, empowering beliefs that enable them to break through their old limitations, and she backs all this up with specific skills and strategies necessary for lifelong success. The results? Her students become not only confident, but competent. The immediate results in terms of their academic excellence are striking, and the processional effects generated in their everyday lives are profound.
Finally I asked Talmadge."What's the most important thing that Mrs Collins has taught you?"
"The most important thing Mrs Collins has taught me is that
SOCIETY MAY PREDICT, BUT ONLY I WILL DETERMINE MY DESTINY!"
Maybe we all need to remember the lessons of a child. With the beliefs young Talmadge expressed so beautifully, I guarantee that he, as well as the other children in the class, will have a great opportunity to continuously interpret their lives in a way that will create the future they desire, rather than the one that most people fear.
Extract: AWAKEN THE GIANT WITHIN--Anthony Robbins