Friday 11th March, 2005


Phillips tells students at Cowen Hamilton:

Set your own goals

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On Tuesday March 8, 2005, champion cyclist, Michael Phillips addressed Forms Four to Six students of Cowen Hamilton Secondary School.

Michael Phillips

Photo: Tony Howell

It’s my first time in this part of Trinidad. Usually most of Trinidad I have ridden to or ridden through, but I’m happy to have extended my knowledge of the roads of T&T.

Your principal was sharing some information with me earlier, telling me a little bit about the school and students. She was telling me generally the students in this school are well behaved. What I would like to comment on is, I appreciate the fact that you all look so neat and tidy. Not many students take pride in their own personal presentation and appearance, which is a very important thing, and it’s one of the things I am going to touch on today. How many of you have actually read the articles so far in the newspaper regarding Ato Boldon, Wendy Fitzwilliam and myself? So some of you know some of it, so what I’m going to do is tell you a little bit more about myself and how I went about setting goals, which is the topic.

Just like you, I went to school, I had some of the challenges you would be facing today, whether it be dealing with friends, dealing with people, dealing with peer pressure—all those different things. When I was going to school, the one thing I knew that I wanted to do was ride a bicycle, represent T&T, because my father represented T&T, so for me that was a goal. How I went about that then took some planning. Because it’s easy for us to say we are going to set goals. How many of you have goals, things you see yourself doing after school? How many of you have actually started writing down and making plans, step by step, how you are going to achieve those goals?

See, that’s the difference: there’s that element of planning, which I had to learn, just like you, when I thought, ok, I wanted to be a cyclist. And luckily for me, because my father use to race I had a direction in which I had to go, which meant I had to learn how to train, I had to be committed to training. I had to understand how much hours I had to put in, where I wanted to go, what were the games I wanted to represent T&T in, whether it be Commonwealth games or World Championships, what were going to be the requirements in terms of time for qualifying times... And all these things added up to being able to wear read, white and black.

If you have a goal of whatever it may be as a career—it may not only be career, it may be in your personal life, what you want to be as a person—If you want to learn how to sing, you may not want to be a professional singer, but you want to learn to play the guitar, or you want to learn to paint...Those are goals you are setting for yourself, ambitions, and the next step is planning. One of the things I did not plan on or set a goal for is actually to become a renowned artist. It’s a skill that I had, and a talent that I had, because my mother used to draw and I wanted to do some drawing myself. But what eventually happened, because I wanted to represented T&T, I found that art for me was a great way for me to subsidise training. So we all know that in T&T facilities and the opportunities you may want or require to be the best in the world are not always available.

I made a decision that I was going to help myself whichever way I possibly could. That way for me was, fortunately, through a schoolteacher. She took me to an art exhibition, and I realised that I would be able to earn money from painting. And being able to earn money from painting meant that I could have bought tyres. I used to swap paintings for gas or accommodation while travelling internationally and it became a means for me to be able to support myself. Again, in setting goals, one of my goals, after realising mistakes of other people, was not to become bitter.

How many times have you seen athletes on television and they complain what they did not get? And in fact what happens is they end up presenting themselves in such a way that they don’t ever achieve the goal. So I set as a goal not ever coming across as bitter, not becoming bitter and presenting myself as always being successful. It may not have been like that behind the scenes, because there were many times I was catching my skin. When I was training with the Australian national team—which came as a result of another goal, which was learning how to become a personality that people wanted to have around, how do I get to where people want to share information with me?

That came from being courteous. Learning simple things, like when you make eye contact with people passing you straight, you say, “Hi, good morning, how are you?”— just being pleasant—and what you find is doors open by just learning how to be pleasant to people. You find that if you are a popular person, people know your name, and you pass people straight, what’s the first thing people think?Gosh, boy, she/he cocky, she/he like themselves” and they feel uncomfortable when they are in your space. So I’ve learnt the art of making people feel comfortable in my space.

Going back to when I was training abroad, the coach for the Australian team came to where I was staying one day and he saw me painting in my room, and he asked me, “How come you are painting? I didn’t know you paint.” So I said, “This is how I am paying to stay here,” and he was so surprised that I was willing to take that risk. Yes, the ideal situation is to be part of a proper structure, but that wasn’t the case. What was I going to do, sit back and say, “Well, this one owes me that, the government should do this”? Or was I going to take up the responsibility of doing it whichever way I could and then change it? That was part of my goals that I eventually set for myself.

So I learned to paint by practice, looking at other people’s work, paintings such as this—this is old architecture—and as I was telling the folks while coming down in the car, I regret not having a camera with me today, because there were a lot of things I saw today that I would love to paint. Now you realise that a lot of your beautiful architecture that you see around is becoming more and more dilapidated, so it is starting to vanish. So part of this is actually wanting to record history. In learning to do this and enjoying it, which is a very important thing, there is nothing more satisfying than being able to do something that you love and to be able to earn a living from it, to be able to be progressive not only financially but in terms of your own character development.

This poster represents the event that you heard about earlier, West Indies vs the World Cycling Series. This is an event where we have countries such as Australia, England, Argentina, Venezuela, Colombia, Belgium that I brought to Trinidad to compete. Going back to goals, when I set specific goals for me in the cycling arena, I had achieved medals that I always wanted to achieve. But I’ve always found that the glory of winning was always short lived and a couple days after winning a medal was like, you know, “What’s next?” There was always that empty feeling, especially since my sport in T&T was dying, so, regardless of what people were doing on the international circuit, you have the sport locally dying. So there really was not that feeling of true success.

At age 28 I made the decision that I was going to quit my own personal cycling career and start this event called West Indies vs the World. Again, the goal there was to create a positive focal point for the Caribbean, because before when we raced on local soil it was as T&T. But internationally the brand name West Indies is better known than T&T in any sporting circle. This event now is going to be broadcast in England this year for the first time because of the name West Indies vs the World Cycling Series. Our cyclists now have the opportunity to represent the region: instead of being six 1/2 million people, it’s now just under 30 million they are representing, and also being seen by an audience that’s the same as international cricket. So that’s the opportunity they have available to them. And in setting that goal, again, I made plans of what steps I was going to go through to get to that goal.

I have bicycle manufacturers calling to say they want to sponsor the West Indies Team, they want to sponsor the series, and it’s all based on a vision, putting out those goals, planning and asking questions. None of the things that I want to achieve and you want to achieve is possible without asking questions. There is no move that I would ever make without asking somebody that I thought would have gone through the same experience before, or would have made mistakes in the directions that you want to go.

What I am saying generally is, don’t try and reinvent ways. There is no reason to make a mistake that somebody else has already made. One of the reasons I am here today is to share with you some of what I have done to become successful and then some of my mistakes. One of my main mistakes in my entire development is sometimes allowing people to get the better of me. At one point in life I almost allowed someone to change my game plan and my goals by playing the game in the cycling arena by their rules, which meant being obnoxious to people, being aggressive to get what you wanted, not aggressive in an assertive way, but aggressive in a way that made people feel uncomfortable. When you have other people influencing you to change your game plan and to go that way, it’s not a recipe for success. After having some experiences that turned me away from that different road, I realised that the ideal thing to do was to have respect for my fellow man. Not so?

You have respect for the people that are around you. You may be doing well in a particular area and that does not mean you take the opportunity to belittle other people

around you. There are many people that may be good at one particular thing, say, for instance, art. If it is I can paint like that and I’m in art class in school and someone else is having difficulty in even drawing a stick, man, if you catch yourself going up to them and say, “You can’t draw . What you bothering for”—just think of that as opposed to showing the person how to draw. Just think of how great this country would be if everybody who has the ability to earn a living, own a company or run a country, were doing it in a way that was not just thinking of themselves but thinking of everybody around them. You think this country would be a much better place? Just think of you personally in your classroom, and somebody sitting next to you having difficulty with schoolwork and instead of you heckling them or giving them old talk, what about helping them with that school work?

On the other hand, there is a different type of student—any of you in here know the student who, when you put up your hand, they suck their teeth? They tell you, “Put down yuh hand, nah, you always putting up your hand for everything, yuh is a nerd, eh.” You have two types of students: you have the type that are very, very driven and they want to be progressive in the classroom; and you have those that have difficulty understanding what’s happening. A lot of people sit back when they don’t understand what’s happening and they throw their hands up in the air and say, “You know what? I done.” Then the other part of the profile is, “That homework, I’m not bothering with that. I don’t have to do that. I bad.” Then you see the dress code starts to go, and instead of walking to school with the purpose of learning the purpose is looking cool, so then they develop their stroll.

Then instead of taking pride in what the report card says, they take pride in the shoes they wear. So everything means that they standard out in school because of the brands they have on. If school code says no gold chain, they coming to school with a thick chain—it might not be real, but they coming to school with it anyway. Why? Because they have to show they bad. They can’t do the work, they don’t understand, so they have given up and have chosen another profile to be able to make their way through school. For those students who are the ones that are putting their identity into the pair of shoes that they wear, or the chain that they would wear around their neck: set the goal of learning at least one thing. Tell your teacher, “Miss/Sir, I can’t understand everything, but at least I want to learn one thing.“ Learning does not end when you finish school. In fact when you stop learning it’s because you are dead.

I went to a junior secondary school. A lot of people thought a junior secondary school student would not amount to much, and in wearing a junior secondary school student uniform, going to school every day in that uniform, I had people looking at me like, “Junior secondary student? Oh gosh, lock up everything, run. Them is something else.” But today I’m here in front of you displaying my personal achievements, helping you to be able to set those goals, having you understand that you have the ability to set your goals, to ask the questions, to be able to get the answers to achieve those goals. How many of you here feel today you have the ability, you have the power to go forward? One of the things you have to develop is self-confidence: getting this information—applying the information, more importantly—is just the foundation rules in starting to become successful.

Photos: Tony Howell

Special thanks to:

Association of Female Executives of Trinidad and Tobago

for making available to the school library and student body of Cowen Hamilton Secondary School, copies of the

“Trinidad and Tobago Career Handbook”

presented by Michael Phillips at the school visit on March 8, 2005.



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