January 26, 2005, champion cyclist, Michael Phillips addressed
forms four to six students of Barrackpore Secondary Comprehensive
School and Barrackpore Secondary School
Phillips, champion cyclist and artist.
by Michael Phillips
of the things that I would like to speak to you about today
is based on an experience that I had. This morning I went
to a funeral in Diego Martin for a gentleman who was a member
of the Queens Park Oval, he was very involved in sports.
Most importantly he was very kind to the people that he
met and was always a joy to be around. As I looked around
there were people from all different levels of society from
the grounds man at the oval to the CEOs of RBTT Bank
and all these people were there to pay their respects for
this man. They also showed genuine pain for his passing.
Thats the impact he had on people.
Let me tell you about an experience which I had about ten
years ago that was a big turning point in my life which
caused me to reflect on the type of person I was. I was
approaching what I consider to be the tip of my cycling
career. All I thought about really was cycling, everything
was cycling. When I got up in the morning I thought about
cycling, going to sleep at night I was thinking cycling.
I was always thinking about the next training day or the
next race. So much so that I was only concentrating and
only involved with my cycling, everything that I did was
I went to Cuba to train for the Pan American Games and while
in Cuba I got into a car accident. I went from driving down
the road one minute and the next time I was conscious I
was actually in a hospital covered in blood. The other people
in the car were seriously damaged and I made a decision
that no matter what, I was going to take part in this race.
I told myself I am still going to go ahead for the
next week and a half to ride in the trials. The Doctors
told me dont do it, but I said to myself I am going
to do it. When I was finished that trial my head started
spinning and I started to blackout and at that point in
time I remembered saying to myself I dont care
if I dropped dead once I was riding ....... but then
I started thinking if I really dropped dead what would my
life have meant? What impact would I have had on other people?
What purpose or good would I have done to make sure that
people were inspired to do other things, or be all they
And that was the turning point in my life, when I realised
that I had to give back and ensure that people within the
community who came into contact with me were inspired. So
it encouraged me to work harder, it encouraged me to be
better than I could be and also it encouraged me to think
about other people.
Now I want you all to think about this - what is your life
going to account to at the end of your years? One of the
things I have always spoken about was name recognition,
character building. Everyone here knows Nike & Adidas.
They are brand names. But tell me, if you were to see Puff
Daddy walking up the street, lets say he decided
to take a vacation in Trinidad and he was taking a drive
through Barrackpore would you walk up to him and give him
$100? What about Michael Jordan would you walk up to him
and give him $100?
Most young people while growing up, especially now the way
advertising goes, believe that if you wear this brand you
will stand out and if you dont wear this brand you
are not cool. Lots of students feel pressured and they lose
focus. Based on my experience I could tell you one of the
most difficult things to do is say no all the time. What
Im trying to get over to you is the fact that your
purpose, who you are, your dream is not determined by who
you are with, or what you are wearing, but is determined
by your level of focus.
If you look at an awards show the interviewer comes up to
the celebrity and asks who are you wearing?
How can you make that work for you? By becoming your own
brand name. Let me tell you how I developed this. I chose
my friends correctly. I wanted to be a business person so
a lot of my friends were older than I was and I learned
from them. I was not going to ask people my own age, who
were in school, they were not business people. So you learn
by starting to choose your friends correctly. If you open
The Guardian everyday there are vacancies for lots of jobs
and I think there are jobs in there that you would want
to do, you would have to start asking yourselves questions
like what do I have to do to get that job? Prepare for the
Yesterday I was at Queens Park Savannah giving a talk
on substance abuse which is quite prevalent throughout Trinidad
& Tobago. Personally at 32 years of age I have never
drank a beer, rum and coke, vodka or anything like that.
Alcohol is something thats legal and its your
choice after a certain age. It is also something that can
destroy a family and a career. We all have to face our weaknesses.
One of my weaknesses during my cycling career was sugar.
Sugar for an athlete is detrimental to their career, yes
you need some for energy but after that what you dont
burn stays on as fat. That for me was my personal challenge
dealing with a sweet tooth. We all have our personal weaknesses
and challenges and we have to make an effort to fight them
and remain focused. Again its what you do to find inspiration
from the people around you.
Anyone here like bicycles? This is a poster for an event
which I promote, West Indies versus the world cycling championship.
My reason for doing it is to develop and take the sport
far wider than it has ever been and also to establish a
West Indies team which includes Cuba, Santo Domingo. This
year my challenge is to bring one million dollars to this
competition. Thats the amount of money I have to raise.
Last year I raised $750,00.00. Each of these logos on this
poster represents a product or a company. These people who
sponsored this event gave money but they also trusted me
with their name. I needed to be credible.
So too you have the opportunity to add credibility to your
name. That means study hard, do what you supposed to do,
find yourself pointing in the direction of your selected
career. Remember the first set of credits you are going
to get from your school are your passes. You will also need
recommendations from your teachers to be able to go for
a job interview. Instead of saving money to buy an expensive
pair of jeans to go to a party, save your money and buy
a business suit. One of the best investments yo can make
is buying yourself a business suit. Remember you may be
going to an interview with someone who has the same qualifications
as you, they may look very familiar to you, with the same
presentation in terms of speaking. The difference may be
that you have taken the time to dress better.
To be able to do what I am doing here today I had to practice.
I listened to the news regularly and I started playing back
what was being said in my head. I then started to repeat
sentences and I paid attention to how people structured
certain sentences. I practised constantly. If you have to
go to an interview be prepared to be sharp in terms of your
speech, pronunciation and how you look. Practise from now.
Now getting back to the trademark or brand name. Your ability
to perform tasks and complete them in the time you said
you would all adds credit to your name. Whatever it is you
are involved in, whatever job you may be in you are building
a name for yourself. How many of you started practising
your signature? I want you to go home today and start practising
your signature and start becoming proud of that signature.
Why? Because the value of that signature, the value of your
name can enable you to be able to buy a house, a car, whatever
it may be. Or you may be an international athlete and that
signature may enable you to get an endorsement. So practice
your signature and build credits to your name.
This is a brochure from one of my art exhibitions. Its
important for me to show you what you can do if you put
your mind to it. When I reflect on what I was doing in primary
and secondary school it was certainly not at this level.
I started to develop this talent when I needed money to
ride. When I was traveling I did paintings and swapped them
for hotel accommodation. Instead of me becoming upset and
thinking I should be sponsored, after all Im representing
Trinidad and Tobago I was able to develop another talent
I had. One thing that kept me from becoming bitter and losing
focus is the fact that I always remember the words of my
grandmother, in life no one owes you anything.
Through all those obstacles, every hardship I had to go
through gave me the opportunity to build character.
Let me just mention to you the need to develop balance in
your life. Im talking about balance in your school
work and with the preparation and development of yourself.
Remember when you leave school and you get a job, you are
probably going to get married. You are eventually going
to have kids most of you. And then you are going to have
to manage your family between kids, husband, house and groceries.
You need to develop that personal character and balance
students forwarded questions to Michael Phillips. Here are
their questions and Michael's responses.
How does one cope with the loss of a loved one? Kizzianne
To greave for a loved one is a natural thing and is never
easy. Hold your memories close to you. Share what you have
learnt from your experiences with that person. Work on being
all that you can be and enjoy your life as much as you can.
In the end, how we are remembered is determined by our actions,
and our interactions with the people that we meet along
the way. Make your time count.
I am a sixth form science student and I would like to know
your views about your artistic career? How did you know
that your work was good enough? I like to draw but I dont
think that I am good enough! Is there any advice that you
can give about schools or contests I can enter? Yours truly,
A. Dear Sasha,
I was fortunate to have family support regarding my art
career. It is something that I never regretted pursuing.
Developing my talent has allowed me to become a more balanced
individual. There are many careers that having an artistic
background can enhance. Art is also a pure form of enjoyment
and personal fulfilment. Every time I walk into a room and
I see art on the wall I take the opportunity to look, decipher
colours and brush work. If your school does not have an
art programme, have no fear, you can learn
from books and going to art exhibitions. If there are others
like you in your school maybe you can help change it and
at the same time practice the art of persuasion. With practice
you will develop confidence and your own style. I know Penta
Paints sponsors an art competition every year so you can
ask your form teacher to enquire for you.
Dedicated to the memory of Peter Waithe