Welcome to the Join Up Dots Free Podcast Interview with James Sturtevant
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Introducing James Sturtevant
Todays guest joining us on Join Up Dots is Mr James Sturtevant, a man who is on a mission to change lives.
And it seems to me he is doing at the very spot where we need those lives to changed the most…the classroom.
Yes, he is a teacher who is focusing on a very simple principle but one that can make so much difference.
He believes that “A secure and trusting relationship between teacher and students is at the heart of positive discipline and a safe, productive classroom.
The positive effects of building teacher-student relationships impact all aspects of classroom life.
Students come to class and like to be there, they are more engaged in learning, they retain more of what they learn, and their creativity is unleashed. There are fewer behavior issues, lower dropout rates, and more harmony between class members.”
How The Dots Joined Up For James
And that period of our lives when we are going through the system to be pushed out into the real world, is the time when we should be inspired and encouraged to think big, be creative, and love our studies.
And now with a bestselling book “You’ve Gotta Connect: Building Relationships That Lead to Engaged Students, Productive Classrooms, and Higher Achievement” and more and more people taking an interest in his work it seems that this is a mission that we can all connect with at heart.
So when did he realise that its more about connecting and less about the content that he teaches that truly makes the difference?
And did he always have a desire to be a published author, or is he surprised to now see himself sitting proudly in the author section of “Amazon”?
Well lets find out as we bring onto the show to start joining up dots, with the one and only Mr James Sturtevant.
During the show we discussed such weighty topics with James Sturtevant such as:
How he loves it when people live give him an “I believe” statement in life, and will always do his utmost to get to the core of it.
How he never truly wanted to be a teacher, and simply drifted into the role after “slacking” for a few years.
How his life has always been one of socialising and finding the connections, a skill that he will never take for granted.
How a dream is worth pursuing, as long as it is a achievable dream based in realism.
How To Connect With James Sturtevant
You can also check our extensive podcast archive by clicking here – enjoy
Full Transcription Of James Sturtevant Interview
David Ralph [0:00]
Do you have a business that can’t get going or would love to create your own one that works whilst you sleep and is built around the things you love? Well, podcasters mastery is the place to go to learn the six simple steps to create a business that flourishes connecting with thousands of customers that tell you what products they want. podcasters mastery is the online route to business success. Check us out now. When we’re young,
we have an amazing positive outlook about how great life is going to be. But somewhere along the line we forget to dream and end up settling and Join Up Dots features amazing people who refuse to give up and chose to go after their dreams. This is your blueprint for greatness. So here’s your host live from the back of his garden in the UK. David Ralph.
David Ralph [0:48]
Yes, hello, everybody. How are we? How are we all in internet land. I used to say that right in the very beginning in episodes 123 and then it seemed a little bit silly, but there we go. We’re into our fourth century now we’re easing into it nicely. And we’re back into internet land. And we’re also into classroom land, because we’ve got a man on today, who is on a mission to change lives. And it seems to me he’s doing at the very spot where we need those lives to be changed the most. The classroom. Yes, he’s a teacher who is focusing on a very simple principle, but one that can make so much difference he believes, but a secure and trusting relationship between teacher and students is at the heart, a positive discipline and a safe, productive classroom. The positive effects of building teacher student relationships, impact all aspects of classroom life. Now, if you do it, and you do it, right, students come to class and like to be better, they’re more engaged in learning. they retain more of what they learn and their creativity is unleashed. That’s fueled by havior issues, lower dropout rates, and more harmony between class members. And that period of our lives when we’re going through the system to be pushed out into the real world is the time when we should be inspired and encouraged to think big, be creative and love our studies. And now with a best selling book, you’ve got to connect building relationships that lead to engage students, productive classrooms and higher achievement, and more and more people taking an interest in his work. It seems that this is a mission that we can all connect with at heart. So when did he realise that it’s more about connecting and less about the content that he teaches that truly makes a difference? And did he always have a desire to be a published author? Or is he surprised to now see himself sitting proudly in the office section of Amazon? Well, let’s find out as we bring on the show to start Join Up Dots with the one and only Mr. James Sturtevant. How are you James?
James Sturtevant [2:41]
Oh, David. I loved your intro, man. I feel great. I’m doing doing wonderful. What’s Uh, what’s it like in your garden today in the UK? Is it sunny? Is it cloudy? Is it warm? What’s going on?
David Ralph [2:53]
It’s not too bad. I’ll be honest, I’m in a pair of shorts. I’ve got no socks on. I’m looking outside on I can see a hint of blue some clouds, but we haven’t really hit into summer we seem to get one day of real sort of baking hot. And then the next two days, it’s a bit like October again, it hasn’t been a very good one. But you You must have broken up now. Are you in your six weeks summer holidays that go on forever? in a day or probably eight weeks you get?
James Sturtevant [3:19]
Well, you know, we have 10 weeks off in the summer. And that ends for me in three weeks. We start school around here early August, which I don’t I don’t think that that’s nice. It should violate the Geneva Convention. I mean, August is a great summer month around here and we’re sitting in a classroom that doesn’t seem right. He does say
David Ralph [3:40]
to the right, James, doesn’t it? I think every single person who’s listening into this show up generally listening, going to work when they get maybe five weeks for the whole year, and you’re getting 10 in one go and moaning about it.
James Sturtevant [3:56]
Hey, how many how many North Americans Have a better vacation system than a European that doesn’t happen often my friend.
David Ralph [4:05]
I don’t think we should have vacations at all anymore and I’ll be honest with you, I think it should be that your life is one big vacation you know, you can, you can take time off when you want you don’t actually have to have these, these periods where you exhaust yourself hoping to recharge straightaway seems mad that we’ve got to the point in our technological advancements that we’re still very much in that conveyor belt of the five weeks off a year and use some spare. Yeah, seems bizarre, isn’t it?
James Sturtevant [4:34]
Well, yeah, and I have to say this real quick. I visited the UK in 1988 for the first and only time and it was one of those summers around here that was just god awful hot and that we didn’t have much rain. And I remember I came to the UK and everything was so green and it was cool. And I thought this is a pretty cool place. So I love the UK sir.
David Ralph [4:56]
You’re winning us over you say you’re winning us over. We we don’t like you. amount of time you have off but we’re winning is over. So when you’re in the classrooms, obviously you are but you first of all, you seem very happy individual and going through the school system as I did in the 70s. My teachers were either miserable or lunatics.
James Sturtevant [5:19]
We still have some of it.
David Ralph [5:21]
Yeah, I don’t remember any inspiring ones I actually wanted to be with So how have you got your sort of spark and your your humour to sort of flourish so much?
James Sturtevant [5:33]
Well, that’s, that’s, I’m sorry to hear that, that that was your experience. This is a this is interesting. I think you and I are probably contemporaries. I, I went through school in the 1960s in the 1970s. And I had some good teachers, but but I think that this is a public misperception, at least here in the US, not that it’s true in the UK as well. Teachers are better now than they’ve ever been. They have to go through more Training. They’re more committed. There’s this feeling that education is sliding off the cliff. But I can tell you in the United States of America that we’re getting better education than when I was a young person. And there’s not a lot of tolerance. I don’t think for that attitude anymore. We are held more accountable. I, you know, maybe I’m going against the grain here, but I think public education is better than it used to be markedly better. And I think one of the things are, I think the teachers are better I think that they’re, I think they’re, they care more about their students. It used to be more about the teacher or the subject and now you just can’t get away with that. So I I think that number one, I appreciate the compliment, but I think I’m more of the rule than the exception now. I think that there’s a lot of teachers like me,
David Ralph [6:50]
yeah, no, I think you’re right. And I think that the difference nowadays is certainly teaches a younger looking maybe that’s my age I I go up to my school, and I think can’t tell the difference between the students and the teachers. That’s the first thing. When I was growing up my whole lessons were basically based around, can you dodge a blackboard rub up this lump of wood that would get launched across the room if you happen to be talking, and could sort of main children. So I do think it’s a is a different way of operating. And I think in many ways, it’s so much better, as you say. But one of the reasons we wanted to get you on this show is I know that you’re a man on a mission on inspiration. And the education system in many ways I feel is trapped in the you’ve got to get results. You’ve got to get a level of reading and writing which is great. You need that, but not without dreaming not without coming out the upper end with the idea that you can tailor your own life. It’s you that can do stuff. Do you feel that is something that is still lacking today?
James Sturtevant [7:57]
Sure, I do, David, and I want to tell you before Like early on in this conversation, I’m going to give you an I believe statement. And and this is what motivates me and drives everything I do. And I like it when people give me I believe statements because I like to know what motivates people. I like to know what motivates people, I’m voting for people who are trying to sell me stuff. So I’m going to give you an I believe statement. And I think that this is a universal, I don’t care whether you teach in the US or the UK or South Africa or East Asia or the Middle East Latin America, it doesn’t matter. I’m hopeful that most teachers, all teachers want the same thing for their students. They want them to do well on whatever standardised tests their nation is requiring. They want them to succeed at the college level. They want them to compare favourably to young people around the world. But I I hope they want them to find happiness. And here’s what I believe. I believe all those things are so much more possible. So much more likely, if there’s a strong bond between teachers and students. And you said it in the introduction, man, we become so focused on the manufacturing process of learning, we often lose sight of the fact that this is a people business. And when we do that, we get into trouble. So that’s what motivates me, David right there. I think
David Ralph [9:28]
everyone should be motivated by that, shouldn’t they? And yes, is that the, you know, the whole education system without getting too political? Because that’s not what this show is all about is in many ways, it’s out of date. Yes, you’ve got computers now. Yes, you’ve got forward thinking targets. Yes, you’ve got more holiday even anybody deserves in your lifetime, every single year, and then have creatures training days when you’re supposed to be back. That’s a bugbear of mine. But it’s still a conveyor belt, for the It’s all corporations, isn’t it? It’s it’s about getting them out the upper end to then go into a job and to accept when you look back on films like I suppose Dead Poets Society is the classic one. That is all about seize the day. Do you sort of look at that and go? That is it is the message. That’s what we need to get into not just the classroom, but the households of the world and the kids brains because the kids I’ve got one opportunity to live a life that we didn’t have. And I think it’s our mission to make sure that they don’t waste 25 years sitting behind the desk thinking that that’s all there is. I think they should be deep sea divers, they should be you know, global explorers. They should do anything they want. And the classroom is just a triangle between the classroom the student and home. God, that’s where the true connections got to be, isn’t it?
James Sturtevant [10:54]
Sure. I agree with everything you said. Absolutely. I I am down with whatever you He just said, David because, and I did like the Dead Poets Society and i and i love Robin Williams character. And I love the speech he gave when he looked at those kids in the 1950s and said seize the day. And teachers didn’t do much of that back then it was more about the assembly line more about conformity. You know, I can tell you that my first day of kindergarten, which is when you’re five years old, here in the United States of America, my first day of kindergarten was 1966. So, you know, I’m 54 years old, if you do the math, and, you know, I look back on those times. And it could have been from centuries ago. There was such emphasis on conformity. It was, it was the rule.
David Ralph [11:47]
Well, kindergarten was created by the Nazis, I believe, wasn’t
Unknown Speaker [11:49]
James Sturtevant [11:52]
Well, you know, something we did a good job of emulating that. Yeah, surely. When I when when when I think about like the The the advantages I had as a young as a white, male, Christian, I mean, it’s, I had all the boxes, check that you need to check. But you know, there’s a lot a lot of kids that couldn’t check those boxes. And I think back to 1966 America, I mean, if you weren’t white if you weren’t male, if you weren’t Christian, you just weren’t taken seriously. So it is a it is a better time to live now than it was then. And you know, I experienced that in my life. And it sounds like you did as well. These are better times, much, much better times. They’re better times to be in the classroom. They’re better times to be in the world and they’re better times to be not white, not Christian and not male.
David Ralph [12:46]
I don’t think they’re petty at times.
Unknown Speaker [12:49]
David Ralph [12:50]
You know, I’ve got rose tinted glasses, but in the 70s Yeah. Obviously, I remember every summer being amazing, which probably it wasn’t, but there was A lot of us just going out on our bikes and building camps in woods and, and just kind of exploring and being free and it was always what time do I need to be home when it gets dark. And now it’s it seems more contained. You know where kids are, they’re behind their computers, they’re sort of indoors all the time. It doesn’t seem to be that adventurous spirit, which is probably going to hold the generations back unless we do something about it unless we allow those those restraints to be loosened somehow, whether on the class, for example, I’m just talking off the top of my head now. I used to love it when I was at school, and we used to take the lessons outside. And we used to suddenly do under a tree or something. And I say to my kids, it really hard did you go outside? No, we couldn’t even loose now. We can take our jackets off. And we used to do those kinds of things in the 70s. I remember James I’m getting on a rant. Now this is where sort of health and safety goes out the window. I remember when I was about 10 years old. Happiness experiment where we had to see how much water displacement would occur from a water bomb. And so we borrowed ladders, and we’re only 10 and climbed up onto the roof of the school to lob them off and then sort of mark the actual displacement of water. You know, the explosion. Now, you wouldn’t do that today, would you? You wouldn’t allow kids to go clamouring on roofs of schools and stuff. Did it hurt me? No, I’m still here today. Was it fun? Yes, I remember it. You know, it’s that kind of adventurous spirit, isn’t it? That’s what we need, sir. We need adventure.
James Sturtevant [14:36]
Well, you know what, that’s a true eureka moment, isn’t it?
David Ralph [14:38]
James Sturtevant [14:41]
But I will say this in defence of modern education. There is incredible emphasis on safety because of legal issues and all that. But kids are encouraged to be more creative in the classroom than they ever had before. And so that’s, you know, it’s all trade off, man. I mean, like, you know, yeah, this is bad, but this is good. I can tell you that instruction is more individualised and creativity is absolutely encouraged constantly. I mean, we’re more into project based learning than we ever were in the 1960s and 70s. I remember being in high school in the 1970s. And it was just a massive exercise in rote memorization in many of my classes. And that’s not the way it is anymore. So, so yeah, I mean, helicopter parents screw everything up. I mean, when I was a kid, you know, I used to walk from my elementary school home and it was about, I don’t know, a quarter of a mile and it took me two hours because I took off excursions. So so I’m with you, my man. I mean, I agree with what you’re saying is trade offs. I’d say the helicopter parents have made us hyper sensitive and how copter parents do you? Are you familiar with that term? I wasn’t
David Ralph [16:02]
until I started doing this show. So I know what you’re saying now, but explain it for the listeners.
James Sturtevant [16:07]
Sure, it’s parents who are ultra controlling who want to micromanage every aspect of their kids lives, and they just totally screw him up in the process. And so, you know, they have swooped down and made things really tense in terms of doing things like throwing water balloons off roofs, but I can tell you in the classroom itself, where there’s a tremendous emphasis on creativity, thinking outside the box, doing things your own way. So it’s all not doom and gloom. My friend,
David Ralph [16:42]
did you always want to be a teacher? We start joining up your own dots person.
James Sturtevant [16:48]
I love this question. I am so prepared for this question. No.
I went into it. It was total default. I mean, just total default. I grew grew up in a little college town. I live in a place called Ohio. And if your audience is familiar with North American geography, you have the Great Lakes. I live right below great. Lake Erie, which is the least impressive of the Great Lakes. I live in flyover country. Have you ever heard that phrase before? I haven’t, but I do
David Ralph [17:19]
know that area quite well. I’ve taught that area. It’s very well very good.
James Sturtevant [17:24]
It I live in a vast cornfield that stretches from the Appalachian Mountains to the Rockies.
So, you know, I grew up my dad was a
college professor. And I grew up in a small town called New con core. The college is called the scam. It’s just this pretty idyllic childhood to be honest with you. But I never took school that seriously. I looked at it as this huge social opportunity. And then you know, when I got into high school, I did my share of partying and you know, chasing girls and I love sports. But I never took school. Seriously, we have a phrase here in the United States called slacker. And slacker is somebody who just kind of goes to school like I did for the social aspects and isn’t very serious about the academics. Right about my 17th birthday, I started to look at my life and realise that I was growing up pretty darn fast. And my current trajectory was gonna lead to very few choices. And I was fortunate enough to get into my dad’s college. And I just started to apply myself academically and it actually came pretty easily. And I graduated from a scam College in 1983, with a double major in history and political science. And I really didn’t know what to do and a natural evolution at that point would be go to law school. And I started to really consider that and it just seemed like law school would be reading these really endless Boring material coming in the next day, and then arguing with it, arguing about it with really intense people. And I thought, that sounds like hell. Like what I want to do, but you’re
David Ralph [19:12]
quite aware, to realise but he did see my hell. So yeah, you had an understanding of yourself.
James Sturtevant [19:20]
Yeah, I’m Yes, I did I give myself credit for that. And so I just kind of meandered up to Ohio State University, which is a large public university 60,000 students and Columbus where I live now. And I said, You know, I like history, I’m gonna go ahead and get a master’s degree in history, which was fine. I enjoyed that. I got my master’s degree, but I didn’t really have an interest in getting a PhD. So I thought, well, I’ll just go out and teach for a couple years, you know, earn some money and, and, and see what’s out there. And the second I got in that classroom, David, this this was really important. It just felt so comfortable. It just felt so easy. It’s so felt inspiring. And I came to the conclusion pretty quickly that this was a pretty good lifestyle. I mean, I like coming to work every day I enjoyed interacting with the kids. And you know how life goes, I mean, one year turned into two turned into five. And before I knew it, I’d been doing it for a while. I did take a brief detour from teaching and I think this story will interest you. I had some daddy issues. So you know, my father was this published author that was a history professor and I was teaching the three branches of government to 14. So I felt like hey, you know, history professor, published author, you know, I’m teaching you know, judicial bears the executive branch, and I, I actually, which is a shame because my dad thought when I was doing was wonderful. He was very supportive, but I felt like I needed to do more. I needed to accomplish more. So I I actually left education for a grand total of three months. It was like in my early 30s, went into the private sector and sold business equipment. And I just I just tested it. I just hated everything about it. Came back into education right after that with a little bit of a sense of resignation. But I knew that it was a job that I really enjoyed. And I just gotten married I had a couple kids and and so like, a lot of people might look at that situation and say, Oh, my gosh, you, you. You put up the white flag, you surrendered and you went back into your career and you just did what was safe. But I did feel so comfortable in this job. And after I got up with those feelings of a little bit of failure, I started to reinvent myself as a teacher. And you know, that was 20 some years ago and I just have to tell you the story. I know I’m going on here a bit, but it really leads into to why I’m doing what I’m doing right now. Five years ago, 2010 summer, you know, I was looking at, okay, I got about five years left before I retire. I mean, I’ve been successful things have gone well, I could really kind of ease into this retirement thing and then do whatever the heck I want in life. But I had a student teacher that year. And here in the United States, we have something called student teachers. They’re like apprentices, you know, they come and they practice teach, and you show them what they do right and what they do wrong. And David, I got this guy from Otterbein University, which is just down the road from where I teach, and he was like this really good luck.
Here in the United States, we have American football. They’re like the kings of the United States that mean all the girls love the football players in the UK.
David Ralph [22:52]
Do you know that? Well, well, UK man, always podcast
James Sturtevant [23:02]
Man, well, I feel honoured my friend.
This kid comes walking into class the first day, he’s 22 years old, really good looking guy. All the girls in my class, look at me and look at him. Like, they’re like, Whoa, this is a massive upgrade from Mr. Stern amount. So they’re all on board. I got a lot of athletes in class and they were drawn to this guy. But David, there was a handful of students, a handful of outliers, maybe about five, but that’s a significant minority in a class of 30. And they’re looking at this guy thinking, Oh, my gosh, they sent us another jock, social studies teacher, you know, here’s this other pretty boy that’s gonna come in here and we can’t stand him already. So I pulled him aside pretty early on and and I talked to him about this. And I said, Hey, I can teach you the manufacturing process of education. It’s no problem. It’s easy. It’s simple. We can we can talk about it. Your mission is to bond with those kids that are standoffish, that aren’t going to give you the time of day now Fortunately for all parties concerned, Charlie Riley, who teaches beside me now, is this really perceptive young man, very mature young man. And he thought that sounded like a lot of fun. So we said about, you know, we’re building relationships with those kids that were really reluctant to do so. Now, a couple weeks later, his professor from Otterbein University came up and she was observing him to see how he was doing and I kept looking back at her and you know, I noticed she was smiling and nodding as she looked around the class, and she was watching him to a certain extent but she was really keyed in to the whole atmosphere in my classroom. So the lesson concluding she came up and we were talking and she was complimentary of him. And David, this is gonna sound self promotional and I want to apologise for it right out of the chute, but he came up to me she said, I’ve been in a lot of classrooms. This is the best I’ve been in the atmosphere. Fear in here is amazing. How in the world did you create this atmosphere. Now, you know, I pride myself on having the ability to string together some words to form coherent sentences. I had nothing. I sat there sputtering for 20 seconds because I was totally unprepared for this rather logical question. She left and I had to do some classwork to get my keep my licence. I called Otterbein University where she’s from and said, Hey, your professor asked me this question. I had no idea how to answer it. How about if I do an independent study, figuring out how to bond with students? I went to work that summer with a lady called Diane Ross is a history excuse me, education Professor down there. And over the summer, man, we just we just talked and bantered and read and laughed. And at the end of the summer, she said, this is really good. You want to turn into a publisher and that’s exactly the turning point in my career from five years ago when I decided to write this book to now it’s just been an absolute blast. I’ve enjoyed every second of it. And I was a guy that was, you know, kind of ready to just kind of move on out to pasture, like we say about race horses here in the United States, and it revitalised my career.
David Ralph [26:10]
But the fascinating thing about that whole story and I let you go, because you’re a storyteller, I can, I can see why your classrooms are so engaged. The fact that you, you don’t just put two words together, you put 100 words together and make them all enjoyable to listen to, which is the biggest compliment I can give you sir. Now, if we take you back right to the very beginning when you was at high school and he was only there for socialising. Now socialising is just a an element of building connections, isn’t it you are there to engage and to have fun and to enjoy yourself and hopefully allow other people to be in your vicinity to enjoy themselves as well. So you will already fine tuning your talents when you feel at a time you were probably just partying and wasting it. Usually You were born connector born engager. And a connector?
James Sturtevant [27:04]
Well, let me tell you let me add on to that because that was a that’s insightful, sir and I and I’ll give you some credit for picking up on that. And I’ll tell you why stories are so important here in just a second. But not only was I doing what you were saying, but I was also a slacker, which really gave gives me a tremendous advantage now in dealing with students who are also slackers. You know, there’s a lot of kids that just fly through school who gets straight A’s, and then they, they come into the classroom and they’re just dumbfounded. Why everyone doesn’t process the world like they do, and why kids just don’t do the right thing. Well, you know, they should just do the right thing, man, they should just do their assignment. I mean, I get their mindset I get how they how kids can sit in your classroom and think the whole thing is just a ridiculous game. I understand that. That viewpoint and and i think it’s a tremendous advantage I have. So yes. I was working on my connection skills, which are really important. But also, me being there when I was 16 years old is one of the biggest advantages I have as a teacher today,
David Ralph [28:11]
I think absolutely. And I do think on Join Up Dots we touch on this a lot, but the real essence of you cannot be denied. You are who you are.
James Sturtevant [28:20]
Can I add one more thing in there about storytelling and the power of that? Have you ever heard him an author here in the US called Daniel Pink?
David Ralph [28:28]
No, I don’t think I do.
James Sturtevant [28:30]
But he’s a famous author. He talks a lot about motivation and you know, right brain left brain and I read one of his books. He’s very popular here in the United States. And he talked about this concept of storytelling, and how powerful it is, and how education is served so well by storytellers. And he wrote this book. And it was really interesting because he sets the reader up. Early in the book. He throws out some factual information like data. And then early in the book, he also talks about this guy called Garry Kasparov, who was a Russian chess champion, who took on IBM bought this computer in the 1980s called Big Blue kinda reminds me a deep thought from the hitters Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. So, so big blue was this amazing computer that they could play chess. And so Garry Kasparov took on this, this computer and lost and was really discouraged by it. And it brings up this old story about, you know, someone, a human fighting against technology in a very valuable way. So later on in the book, Garry Kasparov, excuse me, Daniel Pink challenged the reader to go back and remember two things. One was the data point and one was the story of Garry Kasparov. Every reader has read that book, everything about the Garry chapter broth story immediately surfaces on their hard drive. They know all of it. They can’t remember the fact they can’t remember the fact that to save their lives. And here’s what Daniel Pink says, Our difficulty retrieving the isolated factoid and our relative ease summing the sad saga of Garry Kasparov aren’t signs of flashes of intelligence or impending Alzheimer’s. They merely demonstrate how our minds work. Stories are easy to remember. Because in many ways, stories are how we remember. So when you mentioned something about storytelling, I’m sorry, I went off on that tangent because I know I, I can go on. But boy, that was perceptive of you.
David Ralph [30:37]
But I think that’s how life operates, isn’t it? We don’t remember the words we remember how it makes us feel. I’m going to play some words now. And I play them every single day on the show. And people email me and say, I’ll keep on playing them, keep on playing them. And if you asked me to actually quote them word perfectly, I couldn’t even though I listen to him every single day, but now Have I make me feel? And so I’m gonna do it again? Yes, this is Jim Carrey.
Unknown Speaker [31:04]
My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that that was possible for him. And so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant. And when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job. And our family had to do whatever we could to survive. I learned many great lessons from my father,
Unknown Speaker [31:23]
not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want. So you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.
David Ralph [31:30]
Now, instead of having I don’t know if I still do this, I’m showing my age, the home time Bell When the bell rings and everybody clears off out of school. Why don’t I play something like that? To leave you with a kind of motivational quote as you’re walking out the door?
James Sturtevant [31:45]
Yes, sir. That’s good. I I’m with you, man. I think that that’s wonderful advice. And,
you know, I think education is like every other job. You get so overwhelmed with the minutiae. The details that you forget the big picture often and that’s the big picture right there. So that’s the big picture. That could be a whole course right there. That quote
David Ralph [32:09]
is fundamentally simple, isn’t it? But it’s the world’s scariest thing, even though we know in our heart of hearts, what we love doing, the actual doing of it, is what actually the actual doing of it’s not too bad. It’s the thought of doing it just before you’re about to do it. I’ve done numerous videos while doing this show that I’ve literally had sleepless nights until I press the button and started doing it. And afterwards, you just have to deal with it. You just do the stuff. Now for the kids that have got a dream of being a motor mechanic or being a gymnastic or whatever, which plays to their, their abilities to use their hands or move or be creative. We really need to hold back Don’t wait on saying to them, you know, working in office, work in a bank working back because it’s gonna get to a question. Point weld or the majority of employees are just unhappy and dissatisfied, or is that a simplistic way of looking at it?
James Sturtevant [33:08]
Well, you know, I don’t know. I don’t really know how to answer that question. It’s an interesting thought. It’s something I deal with all the time. I mean, I deal with 1718 year old kids who are struggling I have I have a son at home that struggling with this. He’s 22 I mean, people are it’s kind of like the Jim Carrey was like The Drew Carey quote, I mean, people are afraid of making mistakes or doing the same thing. It’s, you know, sometimes kids have ridiculous dreams they want to be they want to be an NBA basketball player and they’re five foot three, you know, do you have an obligation to
Unknown Speaker [33:47]
base that mistake?
David Ralph [33:49]
Is that truly ridiculous? The fact that Yeah, they might be a dwarf and they want to play in the basketball league. But the fact they’ve got that passion to do it, they may not end up
Unknown Speaker [33:59]
as a You know, David, but
David Ralph [34:00]
they could get close, they could end up working in that environment or something.
James Sturtevant [34:05]
David, that’s wonderful that you say that I think that the thing that you have to do as a as an educator, the fine line you have to tread is you have to not discourage. But at the same time, you have to promote open mindedness towards options. I think that that’s the fine line you travel and there are many cases like that most kids have a pretty good handle on themselves. Most kids have. Unfortunately, most kids need motivated to try to get those dreams or they even attempt to, to strive for them. So that’s that’s kind of a rare case. But you know,
David Ralph [34:40]
on the way to dream James is quite often that you’ll get lost and find a better dream. And I know that’s wrong. So if I were going to become a basketball player, even and it’s that classic Rudy films, remember that movie film about the
Unknown Speaker [34:55]
David Ralph [34:56]
good. I cried like a baby at the end of that now. He had no reason to keep on going for it. And he should have, he should have just given up, basically. And he could have ended up becoming a doctor or something. I don’t know. But he kept going for it. And that is inspirational that he had no right to achieve, but he did. So in fact, dwarf Albert, and I don’t know if that’s politically correct, cooling drops, but that very small person that’s
Unknown Speaker [35:23]
not well, I’m
David Ralph [35:25]
gonna get some Snow White and the other six, but I’m gonna let you go. But um, if he really wanted to go for it really wanted to go for it. He could get close enough to that dream to think that he’s achieved it. Maybe he’s not doing that.
James Sturtevant [35:38]
Oh, exactly. And, you know, I think I agree with you, I think that you shouldn’t discourage. Here’s one thing that’s interesting about that movie, Rudy. And for those of you unfamiliar with a story, it’s just it’s just someone who just refused to give up. There are some people in life who are totally wired that way that are just so determined and Nothing can hold them back. And he was one of those guys. Now, when you go through I’ve been through 10,000 students in my career. And man, each one of them’s different. I mean, it’s just like a snowflake. You know, like, this kid. This is what motivates this kid. This is what motivates this kid. This is what drives this one. Some kids, and you have to be you have to get to know them really well to know how to respond to some of their hopes and dreams. There are some kids who put up unrealistic goals and then when they don’t achieve them become devastated and depressed. So you have to use some judgement when you’re when you’re dealing with these type of issues. I would say in that kid’s case, let’s say that this short kid that wants to be an NBA basketball player, you know,
David Ralph [36:50]
don’t use the word James.
Unknown Speaker [36:54]
I said short kid.
James Sturtevant [36:57]
What’s gonna happen in that situation if that kids like it Rudy, and he is determined, and nothing’s going to go to hold him back. Then you’re his cheerleader. You’re so you go, man, get after it. Good luck. I’m with the 1,000%. If it’s a kid, and there are kids like this, who puts up these unrealistic dreams, then doesn’t achieve them then goes into a deep hole and can’t achieve anything. That’s where you don’t discourage. But you always offer the options because they might not have the ability, like you said, to find other things on the journey. They might not be able to do that without help. So in that kids case, I would be Yeah, man. That’s great. I hope you make it. And you know, there’s a lot of people that want want to do this. Let’s just make sure that we explore some other options. Like when you retire or, you know, if you decide you want to do something along the way, so it’s a fine line, but I’m going to tell you, man, sometimes when you watch a movie like Rudy, it’s like everybody should be like that. Everybody’s not like that. Kids are very different and respond to failure in different ways. Did you cry James?
David Ralph [38:07]
Did you cry at the end of Rudy, do you know what you went up?
James Sturtevant [38:11]
You know what? I’m not ashamed to admit at all that I’m a male that can project cry in movies. I mean, I get the wall wet beside me. But for some reason that one didn’t get to me. I watched there’s a movie that’s popular in the United States right now. Oh crap. It’s called it’s got Amy Poehler and it’s this Pixar movie. I can’t think of the name of it right now. It wiped me out. And I was with my daughter who’s 19 years old. It was very embarrassing.
David Ralph [38:40]
I never used to cry or anything but now I literally can cry at the most bizarre things and I don’t know what’s coming.
James Sturtevant [38:48]
They talk about when people are age start watching these children’s movies. It just it just destroys us. You know, the kids are sitting there watching going What’s his problem, but you know, people want to learn just devastated. When after we finished recording this, I’m off to see Terminator.
David Ralph [39:03]
And God, I hope I don’t cry. I hope I don’t cry in the middle that that would be bad. Right. So what I want to do now I want to play the theme of the whole show because it’s been very inspirational this content. It’s been very much looking at your path but also the path of everyone who’s on their own personal journey. And this is a man who was on his own personal journey and is no longer with us. But his words are
Steve Jobs [39:30]
Steve Jobs. Of course, it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college, but it was very, very clear looking backwards 10 years later. Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something, your gut, destiny life karma, whatever, because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to Follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path. And that will make all the difference.
David Ralph [40:06]
you bind to those words as well, James,
James Sturtevant [40:08]
I was really on board with those statements. And I have to ask you the question, was that the quote that inspired your show? It certainly
David Ralph [40:17]
was. Yeah, it certainly was. And I could have called the show connect the dots. But I called it Join Up Dots for numerous different reasons. And I quite like the fact that Join Up Dots in many ways doesn’t make sense until you hear that speech. And so many people do what you’ve just done. Where are Is that why it’s called fat? So yeah, it is.
Unknown Speaker [40:41]
So I get that question a lot.
David Ralph [40:42]
Oh, every now and again. So so where where are the dots in your life that the profound ones when is the big dot that you look back on and you go, yeah, that probably was it. We’ve already talked about some of them about being a slacker and socialising. And being able to go on forever in a day and and all that kind of stuff.
James Sturtevant [41:05]
Yes. Now in this in this instance I’m going to talk about looking back on my life and and such an interesting prompt. And I thought about it and I struggled with it initially, because you know, I guess I’m unique. We’re not unique. I guess I’m not the majority. I don’t have a lot of regrets. I just don’t have a whole lot of regrets. I was thinking about this last night. What about your hair?
David Ralph [41:34]
What about your hair?
James Sturtevant [41:36]
You know something, man. I’m glad you brought that up. I know your audience can’t see me on this gorgeous board, man. But here’s what but you know, here’s what I did. How
David Ralph [41:47]
I can’t believe I said that. I’m now plaid shirts. All right.
James Sturtevant [41:50]
No, no, no, I’m fine with it. Man. Women don’t say things like that men are upfront about it, which I like better. You know, when I was a young guy, I started losing hair and, and I don’t care who you are, if you lose your hair, that’s not a good thing. You don’t like it. But when you teach in a public school and you have anything about you, that looks off, you can rest assured that your students are going to point it out to you on a daily basis. If you wear an outfit that doesn’t match, you’re going to hear about it. If you get a pair of glasses that look funky, they’re going to tell you so here I am this young guy teaching and these kids were like, you know, you’re losing your hair, you know, it’s like, thanks a lot. I wasn’t aware of that. So at some point, I just said whoa, with my hair, took a razor and shaved it all off. And the one thing you get out of kids man is you get honesty. And they’re all like thank you for doing that you look a lot better. And they see pictures of me now when I had a little bit of hair here and there and they’re like, you look 10 years younger now than you did 20 years. Because you shave it off so, so yes, I embrace my embrace my head. I’ve a nice looking head. So
David Ralph [43:06]
he sent me round, which is good, isn’t it?
James Sturtevant [43:10]
Yeah, yeah, I mean, I get a lot of compliments on my head and, and it’s very in style right now so so I just go with it and the second I shave my hair off, I stopped thinking about my hair, what a liberation. You know, I think a lot of guys are trying to kind of hide the fact they should just shave it off, man just just go for
David Ralph [43:27]
you know what you did James and this is the metaphor and the message for the whole show. You let it go. You let it go and you move to the next point of your life. And that is such a powerful statement to make generally, isn’t it?
James Sturtevant [43:43]
Yes, yes. And I have a wonderful story about letting go that’s as part of my Join Up Dots experience. You know, like I said, I don’t have a lot of regrets. And that’s not to say that I don’t have some things in my past that I probably should regret more. I mean, I’m done some moronic things. There’s been times when I haven’t treated people well. And I do occasionally grieve those selfish moments. But they made me who I am. You know, I like to think I’m a fast learner. And boy, my mistakes have been my greatest teacher. And I have to tell you this one story because it was the biggest learning experience of my career. And it takes a few minutes. Am I okay with that going with that you go for it, sir. All right. Back in the dawn of my teaching career, I was confronted for the first time with a group of students who were nothing like me. Now your audience can’t see me but I’m a white guy. I was teaching in an urban poor school. A lot of the kids were African American. They were you know, all poverty. I mean, it was a it was it was a very poor school. But I just gotten a master’s degree in history, and I was all gung ho to teach these kids and I look back on it and I failed to appreciate To that I was as alien to them as they were to me. You know, I didn’t really process that I didn’t, I wasn’t self aware enough for that. And I, in retrospect, I just came on so strong and tried to form a relationship with these kids. And they wanted nothing to do with me. As a matter of fact, they’d also undermine a lot of things I was trying to do in the class. And the whole month of September, I’m trying so hard to build a relationship with these kids, and they’re just like, you know, we don’t want to have anything to do with you. And I’ll remember that I felt like a failure. I felt like I was failing at this job. And it was really frustrating. And so September worked its way into October and they all came falling in after a weekend one time and I had a pair up and they were working on an activity. They were not interested in the activity. Man, they wanted to talk about the weekends. And they were they were they were like, you know yammering on about what went on, you know, we went to this bar that you We did this that, you know, and it was really frustrating as an educator. So there’s a couple guys that by my desk couple young guys, and they’re and they’re real loud. And and David, I was real close to saying, look, fellas, you’re going to need to get a start on this now, because the periods gonna be over soon. But something in me told me that this was a great learning opportunity for me. And then if I shut up, just shut my mouth pretended like I was working on something at my desk and kind of listen to the conversation. I might learn something. And that’s exactly what I did. And these young guys were talking about their weekend and I mean, they were doing all kinds of stuff. They were party, I’m using 1415 year old kids. They were, you know, doing all kinds of things they shouldn’t be doing. And when they were talking about their parents, some of their parents were not very responsible people. And it just dawned on me at that second. Okay, here I am. I’m an adult. I’m trying to become part of these kids lives. May the adult figures in their lives have been pretty transitory. It’s a rational act on their part to be standoffish to be like, you know, well, you know, we’re not gonna let you in right away, it’s gonna take a while to get a relationship with us. And, you know, it just dawned on me that the problem in that class was not my students, it was me and my attitude, and my expectations and my limited perspective. So what I did is I made this this switch and i and i do give the young me some credit for for figuring this out. When I had interactions with these students, if that became confrontational, that what I had to do is I had to pull my ego out of the situation and just kind of watch as a removed observer, this interesting interaction between me and this young person and try to figure out what their motivations were. Great decision. So just a couple days later, I’m in class and we’re talking about, we’re talking about civil rights. You know which these kids had heard about civil rights, their whole lives. They knew all about civil rights. And I asked the question, who was the first African American baseball player to make it to the major leagues in 1947? The answer is Jackie Robinson. These kids had heard this answer. Since they were five years old. They knew the answer. Some kid puts up his hand goes that’d be Adolf Hitler.
Everybody in the room disintegrates into laughter. I mean, just just a cascade a waterfall of laughter. Now, before I had my Yuri, can experience there’s that word again. I probably would have got frustrated by that. But David, all I could see in my mind’s eye was Adolf Hitler in a Brooklyn Dodgers baseball uniform. And I just broke up laughing. And I will never forget the looks on their faces. They were like, Oh, wow. uptight, Mr. Stern Amman’s laughing for a change. And pretty soon we were all laughing together at that. The same thing was a major breakthrough. The other decision I made after hearing that conversation was, you know, developing a relationship with these kids was gonna take long time, it’s gonna, I had to be patient, it wasn’t gonna happen overnight or in just a couple weeks. So I became more patient, I withdrew my ego out of a situation. And within a couple weeks, I was pretty cordial with those students. And by springtime man I had, those are two minor adjustments I made in the way I interacted with those students.
Unknown Speaker [49:33]
That that paid huge dividends.
James Sturtevant [49:36]
Now, when it comes to, you know, talking to the younger self, that’s an example of where I made a mistake and learn from it. What’s plagued me is my successes, particularly successes that came too easy just because of my personality or, you know, some skill I have. When those things happen often I became A little I my ego got inflated, I stopped listening, I stopped being interested in what other people say. And I became less empathetic to others. So when I look back on my life, man, my, my failures have been wonderful teachers and my successes have been burdens. And you know, I can think of like, in my social relationships, you know, when I was a young person going out with girls, when I crashed and burned when I got when I got blown off when I got broken up with that’s when I learned how to become a better boyfriend. So, you know, you’ve probably heard this a version of this before, but if I could give my younger me some advice, it would be, have great fondness for your fail failures there. Your teachers have great suspicion of your successes, they can undermine you, and also be patient life is a marathon. If you keep trying things and learn from your mistakes, opportunities will present themselves and that’s exactly what happened to me. I was ready to just kind of roll on it. To the retirement years and here I am talking to David Ralph from the UK. That’s pretty cool.
David Ralph [51:06]
Perfect story, perfect story. And the efficiency of that was so amazing. We’re going to skip the sermon on them. I normally send you back in time, but why do it twice? Because you you covered so much in that. So what I’m going to say to you, sir, is thank you so much for being on the show. Thank you for being so engaged and just sort of happy you just seem like a happy person. So, which is really nice to see. Because believe me, as I say, teachers, I know absolute lunatics. I should have been locked up all of them.
Unknown Speaker [51:35]
David Ralph [51:36]
our audience connect with you?
James Sturtevant [51:38]
As far as connecting with me I really enjoy interacting with people and my email is p as in Papa, J is in jump. s t u r t as in Tango, e. v is in Victor vector email@example.com. I thought I’d lay the neighbours alphabet on you see here.
David Ralph [52:02]
We have over links on the show notes. James, thank you so much for spending time with us today joining up those dots. And please come back again when you have more dots to join up because I do believe that by joining up the dots and connecting our past is the best way to build our futures. James, thank you so much,
James Sturtevant [52:19]
David. It’s been wonderful. I can’t thank you enough.
David Ralph [52:24]
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