Friday 23rd September, 2005


Make yourself a masterpiece

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On Wednesday September 14, 2005, champion cyclist, Michael Phillips addressed Forms Four and Six students of Providence Girls’ Secondary School in Belmont.

Michael Phillips

Photo: Lester Forde

I am here to share with all of you, students, my experiences in growing up, dealing with people, careers in sports, so that you may be able to pick one or two things that can apply to your lives. As a child, your life is a blank canvas. When you get into school, that all starts to change. We all start off with what I will call zero credits to our names. Zero credits are not a bad thing, because you can be in negative credits. This is something that I am going to discuss with you, in terms of branding, name recognition and you being the brand name.

I am going to share with you, firstly, my own personal experiences and how I grew up. I liked the sport of cycling. I used to go into my father’s storeroom where he had all these trophies and bicycles, and I wanted to emulate that and get into that sport. Therefore, my first role model was my father. My mother, on the other hand, used to draw and sketch. From that I picked up that I wanted to draw. It never occured to me that those things would have shaped my career and moulded me into what I am today. At that age, you just don’t see the bigger picture to these things.

One of the challenges you will face as young women is the question of “what am I going to do when I finish school? What is the direction I am going to head in?” In my case, it started with passion. I was extremely passionate about cycling and passionate about art. That led me into developing that skill and learning how to turn it into a business. How many of you here think you are going to become millionares? Self-made millionaires. How many of you dream of spending a million dollars? How do you plan to go about becoming millionares? One young lady stated she would become a high-priced doctor. Several said they would win the Lotto and another said, “By marrying a millionaire.”

Now at the end of this I am going to tell you the easiest way, maybe the longest way to guarantee you have a million dollars. Are you all interested in learning how? With regards to cycling. Like in most sports in Trinidad & Tobago, it was so difficult to get funding. Or it was always inadequate. Hence you would hear stories that you didn’t get this and had to stay home because of that. So you know what I decided to do?

I started to apply my grandmother’s advice: In life no one owes you anything. Instead of getting upset, I decided to apply those words. When someone tells me “No” I use it as an opportunity to rethink my strategy of how to get “Yes.” I use all those “No’s” as challenges to better myself. Those people who told me “No” did not owe me anything. Here I was selling a product, and then I started to recognize that I am “the product.” Basically every decision to purchase a product, off the shelf or from a clothing store which you buy, has been influencedby something. It may be based on the cut, colour of clothing or it may be from advertising that you may pick up a particular product. Now I want you to start recognizing something - you are programmed to be consumers. Have you ever noticed when you are driving on the road and listening to the radio and all of a sudden a certain voice comes on and you just tune in, just like that. You zero in to the voice. The voice you tune into is a person who is paid to record that advertisementand trigger your reaction to listen to it. Because of their voice.

This is why that “voice” is called the “talent” in advertising terms. That voice is there to influence you to buy a product. You see how often you don’t even realize how advertising is programming you? The challenge we face as young people is the fact that now, today, modern day terms, everybody wants to bling. “Oh good, look at that. I like that, I must have that!.” You believe you must be wearing certain items, certain shoes. You must be wearing certain brands. Telling mommy you can not go to this party because you need so and so. All of a sudden, now, you are being programmed to get to your parents’ pockets to purchase that item. Let me ask you this. Have you ever heard an advertisement saying that you are the brand name, you are the product.?

One of your most valuable assets that you own is your name. What is the difference between a regular plain white tee-shirt, and a white tee-shirt with the name Sean John on it? Is it just a name? It’s a brand name. Here now we have individuals who are programmed to think “if I don’t have a brand name t-shirt on, I can not go to this party.” So why I am here today is to inform you that people are not going to spend money on teaching you this. All of a sudden all of your values are placed in everyone else’s name. Have you heard of people getting in fights, people getting stabbed, because of their shoes that were stepped on? That is because that person’s shoe which was mashed, all their identity is on their foot. Just imagine all of who you are and what you represent is on your foot?

Now let me give you a story, true story. I am in a sports store of someone I know. The owner is chatting with me, and a guy walks in off the street — backpack, jeans, tee-shirt.You can profile that this person does not own a car — walks up to the most expensive pair of shoes and looks at it. He says, “Boss!” The store owner says, “Mike, hold on, I have to attend to something here.”. He goes up to the guy and says, “Brother, that go look real good on you. What’s your size?” Sends one of his assistants to get the size, kneels down and puts the shoe on the person himself, tells the customer to walk around on it, get the feel of it and see how good it looks on their foot. The guy buys the shoe on the spot and walks out of the store a very happy man. The owner looks at me and says, “Michael, you think I would ever buy a pair of shoes that cost $1,100? Eleven Hundred Dollars? You have to be out of your cotton pickin’ mind! “I will never do that, and I own this store and a chain of stores. ” Now he would have much preferred to sell sporting goods and accessories rather than shoes. If that man had bought a thousand dollars worth of cricketing goods, he would have felt more satisfied about the sale. But you know what? If I don’t sell it, somebody else will. And that is because you have been programmed. I started to realize this in trying to market myself, becomming the brand name. The more I started to do, the more I realized I don’t have to wear this and that. Most of my clothes don’t have any markings on them, don’t have any special brand names on them. I buy my clothes according to how they fit. If I have to wear jeans like these, it is because it is the only jeans that fit!

Does anyone know the size of their waist? 28 - My thighs alone are 28 inches!! So therefore if I wanted to buy different kinds of jeans, I can not. My reason for purchasing is based on quality. How long is this going to last me? Not how is this going to make me feel or that my peers will look at it and accept me. Not at all. My value is based on what I do to create value to my name. I am my own brand name. Just as you are your own brand name. Now, looking at the blank canvas, as you enter school you start to add some colour. Start to add some credits to your name. This is the foundation to begin building on. Know and be aware that how you deal with people is going to base the value of your name, and how people remember you.

I want to bring up an unfortunate incident that occured a few months ago. On many occasions a colleague of mine would describe to me with utmost pride about his daughter who was running his business, how competent she was and how happy he was in having her work with him. The influence she had on other people and her relationship with people from all walks of life. One day he got the news that his daughter got into an accident and was in the hospital. Her condition deteriorated and they were informed that she had passed away. She was a past pupil of this school. It was tragic how she passed away, but what would have been worse was if she passed away without having a positive impact on anybody throughout her lifetime.

I had a similar experience in Cuba where I was racing. I got into an accident and woke up in the hospital covered in blood. I had cuts to the side of my head. At that I started to ask myself some questions, because cycling was everything, nothing else mattered. I started to ask myself, if I died right there and then, what would I have done that would’ve influenced anybody’s life in a positive manner? You have the opportunity here with your classmates to form relationships. It could be someone you are picking on every single day, or even someone you are courteous to every single day. One day you are going to meet that person when you leave school.

That person may be in a position to help you, or to make life difficult for you. Let me give you an example, a story that I love to give. Some years ago, while driving in my car, I stopped at a stop sign. And all of a sudden, “Bam!”from behind. Somebody had run straight into the back of my car. I had spent so much time on my car. It was something I was extremely proud of, as it was an antique car. A young lady jumps out of her car. She is upset and emotional about the whole incident. “Oh my God. I am so sorry.” She is upset and I am trying to calm her down. Even though she is the one who ran into the back of my car. She’s saying, “Look at how nice the car is. You must have spent real money on that car.” And then she looks at me and says, “Hold on. You are Michael Phillips!.” I’m trying to calm this lady down, and reassure her not to worry about it. Now my approach may have been different if she had come out of her car and was aggressive about it. You know there are some people in the world that are wrong and strong. Assessing the damage, it was just an iron bumper. It would only need to be removed and straightened out. Don’t worry about it. Don’t fuss up your head either.

Some years later, in fact this year, I’m in an office having a meeting with somebody who has to make a decision about some sponsorship of me, and I am talking about a significant amount of money to put on my event. I’m talking to this person, trying to convince them to invest in the sponsorship, trying my best to sell the product. But throughout this meeting I feel I recognize this woman from somewhere, but I just can not place where, exactly. At the end of the meeting, I said to her, “I’ve been talking to you for all this time and I know your face from somewhere.” She starts to giggle and blush, and then she relates the story of how some years ago, someone ran into your vehicle from behind. It’s you? I ask in shock.

Now, just imagine, if on that day of the accident I got out of my car and shouted, “Woman you blind?” Stop.. Stop is red”. Guess what? That would have meant, “Well, boy. No money for you.” What I am trying to tell you is that common courtesy has a dollar value to it. Some people don’t think there are any profits to be made. I’m not saying to go through life, wanting to profit, but when you do things like that ensure that you treat people with respect. What you are going to find is that somewhere down the road, it will pay off for you.

Just imagine if you are picking on somebody every single day. Are there any bullies in this school? Alright, I am not going to ask you to point them out. But, just imagine driving down the highway one day and your car shuts down on the Beetham, and there is one car coming down the highway and driving that car is the one person you used to pick on every single day. What is the likelyhood of that person wanting to stop for you and risk their own safety. Very unlikely when you start thinking along those terms. Referring back to the canvas, we have colour, and now we start to add some detail. You are working on becoming your own brand name, starting with your network marketing, which is basically meeting other peple.

Photos: Lester Forde

Anyone here ever heard of Amway? That is a company that does not advertise. No mass media. It is through meeting other people and telling other people about their products. Basically, the advertising available to you as an individual is network marketing. You can look at a person and say she’s a real dog or she helps me out with my homework, she is a very nice girl. You wouldn’t believe how that sort of news travels.

Network advertising is something else. Do something bad to one person and that person may tell 100 other people. Do something good and that person may tell one tenth as many people. That basically is how it works. So for your canvas, you add in your colours, painting in some details and building on your brand. You are becoming your own brand name right here in school and you will become your own brand name in the workplace, based on how well you do your work.

It’s the same thing in network marketing or in mass media. You can do a bad job and all of a sudden it is flashed all over the newspapers. That is how you have to be thinking, in terms of your name as your most valuable asset. Even when you are leaving school and writing exams you cannot do anything without signing your name. You can not get a driver’s permit, you can not even get your passport without signing your name. Do you realize how important your name and your signature is? Dole Chadee. What impact does that name have on you? What impact do you have when people say your name. You are seeing the stages here of how any painting comes into being from a blank piece of canvas. This is the finished prodcut of what I intended to have that blank piece of canvas look like.

I like wildlife. One of my goals is to become one of the best known wildlife artist in Trinidad & Tobago, and then the Caribbean and then the world. That is my goal. When I was in secondary school, I never used to think like that. It happened only when I started learning how to become my own brand name. I am giving you a headstart in giving you those useful tools to apply to your life.

Now, look at this painting and note the signature. When people describe their art collection, they will tell you they have a Karen Sylvester, a LeRoy Clarke, a Lisa O’Connor, but they will never tell you that they have a parrot in a tree, or a coconut tree. They always refer to their collection by their names. The more I paint, the more I improve with my painting techniques and the more my artwork increases in value. This is considered to be an asset. Meaning that if somebody buys this painting this year, five years from now they will be able to sell it for more.

Learn to tell the difference between asset and liability. So my boy who walked into the store and bought a pair of shoes for $1,000, do you think that was an asset he invested in or a liability? Just think in the sense that if he needed to walk from point A to point B, spent $350 dollars on a pair of shoes, and the portion that he didn’t use he put in mutual funds. Anything that devalue is a liability. Anything that appreciates is an asset.

I want you to choose the system that will bring you success; the one in which you learn to identify assets. Each and everyone of us here has a talent. How do you turn that talent into a business? I used my art to help sponsor my cycling. When I could not get a yes, I went and sat in front of a canvas and I painted until someone bought my painting. Then I would buy tyres or whatever was needed for the next cycling competition. A painting is something that appreciates in value. If you want to learn how to be successful, you have to start telling yourself these things. If you want to be successful, do you think you are going to get the answers you’re looking for by hanging out with people who don’t have the answers?

It’s all right to old talk and lime for a portion of time during the day, but beyond that, you need answers to be able to be succesful. Every obstacle you will face is an opportunity to develop character. Know that when you encounter a challenge, to confront it. Label it as a challenge, not a difficulty. A challenge is something you step up to. A difficulty is something where it’s beating you down. Do you want to be the person who runs the other way every time something of great challenge comes along? Know what your goals in life are, the type of person you hope to be. Look at who you identify as a role model. What are they doing with their lives and how did they go about getting to where they are today. You are the artist. What do you want your masterpiece painting to portray?

Michael Phillips presents a career handbook to Ms. Rodrigues, P.E. Teacher of Providence Girls, Belmont, on behalf of the Association of Female Executives.
Michael Phillips presents a basketball to Ms. Rodrigues, P.E. Teacher of Providence Girls, Belmont, on behalf of Trinidad Publishing Co. Ltd.




©2004-2005 Trinidad Publishing Company Limited

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