It’s quite odd contemplating the fact that it has been almost six years since I overcame my speaking problem on Channel 4's Educating Yorkshire.
Walking into Mr Burton's English classroom and struggling to get my words out feels like yesterday. I still remember the goosebumps I got when he asked me to pop some earphones in and read a poem. I looked at every single word on that page until gradually the chorus of the song slowly seeped in and I could hardly hear anyone speaking. As the drum solo began the words in the poem seemed to flow off my tongue.
At that moment I knew; nothing could stop me. All the months of practising my speech had finally paid off. I remember looking up at Mr Burton and seeing him release a breath he had held in since the moment I tried getting my words out. It was truly magical to see how far I had come.
That programme changed my life. I'm recognised on the street and have had people tell me how much I inspired them to take on challenges in their own life. The biggest privilege I have is being able to put Mr Burton's hard work into practice every time I give a speech. Words cannot describe how humbled I am travelling from city to city inspiring students, parents, teachers, governors and many more.
I have met the most amazing people on this journey and it has allowed me to find myself and realise who I truly am.
Seeing the star-struck faces of not only students but teachers when I walk up to their schools is something which continues to motivate me to never give up. It is due to their love, passion and drive that I am able to call myself a motivational speaker.
Growing up with a stammer and not having someone to look up to in regard to stammering it was tough. People would tell me “it would be all right” or “we know how you feel” but in reality, they had no idea of the struggle I was facing. The struggle of stammering isn't something you can overcome quickly, and for me, it took the ticking time bomb of the impending speech in the back of my mind for me to take control.
I am so fortunate to be classed as an ambassador for people out there who struggle with not only stammering but any other adversity they face.
It's absolutely surreal that as well as my visits to schools, I'm also in a position where I have my own podcast. To be in a situation where I am able to host my own show and have a line-up of celebrity guests is so surreal to me. With the likes of Graham Norton, Sarah Millican and Ed Balls; I am so fortunate to be where I am in life.
Without the help of Mr Burton, none of this would be a reality. To have the support of not only my friends and family but also a teacher who constantly pushed me further than what I would have expected from myself.
To all the people out there who suffer from any adversity, whether it is stammering or anything else, seek help. Trust yourself, and trust that teacher who will be there ready to support you, encourage you and help you achieve your dreams. It's so important to have someone who gives you that extra push when you feel like you have nothing else.
I had lost count of the number of times that I was told that my stammer would be the reason why I would never accomplish anything. Not only did I prove them wrong, but I made a “weakness” my strength. I pushed myself to limits that I would never have dreamed of. And when times got tough and I wanted to give up, I searched for help and guidance. That guidance was from Mr Burton. I will always forever be thankful for his support and love.
Musharaf Asghar is a motivational speaker. His podcast is available here.