The Conversation: Motivational speaking

Rouser of the education world Action Jackson aims to take people who are stuck in first gear and shift them into fourth. He speaks to Trevor Averre Beeson

Rouser of the education world Action Jackson aims to take people who are stuck in first gear and shift them into fourth. He speaks to Trevor Averre Beeson

Q: Jackson, how did you become a motivational speaker?

A: I've always been driven by the idea of success and puzzled over questions like: "Why am I on this planet?" I wanted to help people answer those questions. I heard a motivational speaker, Les Brown, say: "Find what you love to do, combine it with what you can do to earn a living, combine the two and you will have a satisfied life."

Q: When was the first occasion that you spoke to an audience?

A: At university - on the subject of procrastination. I put up posters, hired a room and people came. That was back in 1998.

Q: For a young man you have an extraordinarily wise head?

A: I had a Christian upbringing. It was fun, but there was a lot of self-analysis: "Who are you? What is your calling?" Family and parents are important in gaining wisdom.

Q: Who do you mainly talk to within education?

A: I talk to 13-year-olds at school, 16-year-olds and 17-year-olds taking exams, college and university students. And, of course, groups of teachers. I figured if I was going to help young people, I needed to "influence the influencers".

Q: What is it you get from your work?

A: A sense of refreshment. Life is hard, people go through life thinking this is their lot and nothing can change. I think of it like a car in *first gear: I want to get them into fourth.

Q: What impact do you think you have in schools?

A: From the feedback we get, the key word is confidence. Across the board, people report that they feel more confident. Young people taking exams get to understand the holistic nature of life, that they have to be in charge. In the real world, confidence is an asset you can trade - the confidence to achieve.

Q: Where do you want to be in five years' time?

A: I want to be the Jonathan Ross of motivational speakers. I think the media plays a big part in how the world thinks about itself. I want to be part of that - so that motivation can come positively flooding through your TV screen. I am using the web and MySpace to spread the message.

I was amazed to hear the other day that a headteacher had downloaded a clip of my work and shown it in a Year 11 assembly. A student emailed me to say it had changed his attitude to study. That's powerful. I want the media to be a force for the good, particularly of young people.

Q: Are you worried about the young?

A: Every acorn becomes an oak; the ugly pineapple is full of sweet juices. Adults have to bring this out in young people.

Q: You trade in a long list of aphorisms. Where do you get them?

A: Some I make up, some I hear. They just feel right and communicate what I feel about the world - they're better sometimes than regular sentences.

Q: Do you have a thought that you would offer school leaders?

A: Humour often reveals a truth. Prevention is better than cure. Catch the young. Intervene in Years 7 and 8. Train the child and you have the man forever. Don't overlook teachers - they unlock and develop the spirit of the nation.

Pop stars and footballers give little to young people. Teachers are worth so much more - the Teaching Awards should be prime-time viewing. And empower parents - once you do, they will make a powerful joint force that will help the young people of today enormously. The youth of today start with the parents of today.

Q: Sum up your role in schooling.

A: I am the masterpiece of God's creation, designed and destined to transform people's lives with love, truth and passion. Schools are powerful places. Teach children who they are, what they need to learn, when they say, and give them the task. Life isn't easy, so do it early.

Trevor Averre Beeson is executive headteacher of Salisbury School in Enfield, north London


Name: Jackson Ogunyemi

Age: 28

Job: Motivational speaker

Specialises in: Life coaching

Education: Holloway Boys' School; City and Islington College; Middlesex University

Previous jobs: Basketball coach; youth work

Special interests: Basketball, singing, acting, dancing, reading

Career highlights: Getting an email from a student saying: "Because of you I am now an investment banker."

Favourite saying: "You don't have to be great to get started, but you have to get started to be great."

Least likely to say: "I give up."

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