Thinking About the Consequences of our Education System, Bullying, our Health System, Coach Azul, Cameron Harold and FREE Publicity


I listen to a lot of podcasts. I was listening to them while commuting to and from work. Then last year I suffered a back injury and I have been waiting at home, consuming pain medications and exercising for what seems like forever, for ACC to approve spinal fusion and a discectomy so that I can get back to work.

Around a week ago they notified me that they are not going to pay for the surgery on the basis that I have degeneration in my discs that was not caused by the injury. It ‘rendered them symptomatic’ and I am now waiting for an appointment with the Waitemata District Health Board, whilst working on a review claim with ACC, New Zealand’s Government Accident and Injury insurer, who I feel could have had me back at work 6 months ago. They are still covering me for the back strain, but my specialist has said that they have tried everything bar surgery. “We’ve painted ourselves into a corner” he said.

I’m told that the North Shore Hospital spine surgeon is fantastic, but they also told me they have to legally see me within 4 months. In other words, just because it says “urgent’ on your case file, doesn’t mean you will even get to speak to someone anytime soon.

So I’ve had a lot more time to listen to podcasts while exercising, strengthening my core, whilst awaiting the needed surgery I still need, so I can return to work. I suspect there are thousands of people like me, numbers that get recycled in meetings focused on saving money. Ironically, when I work I am saving citizens much more money, but I digress.

One of the podcasts I enjoy is from Azul Terronez called Born to Write. If you follow me, you know I am passionate about writing and storytelling as a means of sharing a message on my various blogs and books.

The latest podcast from Coach Azul really resonated with me. The guest was Cameron Harold, a writer, entrepreneur, business mentor and founder of the COO Alliance.

He talked about some struggles he had growing up when he was told that he was  not academically in the top 40% of students and how he battled in his mind with that through school and university.

His story to becoming an entrepreneur resonated with me but from a different perspective, particularly the education part. It fascinates me how education systems seem to fail at both ends of the spectrum, contrasting with today’s apparent dumbing down of some generations whist the skill levels that create our greatest achievements are held back, limited to those who often achieve despite the system, rather than by its design.

I was one of those kids who didn’t fit in school, particularly once I got to high school. This was not because I wasn’t in the top 40%, but because I was in the top 2%. I’m starting to write about it, but not at this stage for publication.

I used my smarts to survive in a school (being a good guitarist helped) where the height of success was failing exams and getting into the school rugby 1st 15. In my school an A+ meant getting bullied for showing up the other kids. We had streaming, but being in the ‘Ac 1’ class also put a target on the back of your head.

Even teachers who tried to encourage kids to do well were on occasion beaten up and thrown down stairwells because the kids they tried to help were embarrassed in front of their peers. I liked sport (I played in previous schools, hockey and club soccer when living in Holland) but the thought of having to stay at school a minute longer than I had to (for training) was anathema.

The podcast I listened to this morning was about getting FREE publicity. I learned similar lessons to Cameron Harold early in my career, when I was racing landyachts as a hobby sport, and I was looking for sponsorship to send a team from New Zealand to the USA.

90 Mile Beach

Me on my Class 5 Winger on 90 Mile Beach

I needed publicity to attract sponsors for a sport where one minute you see the yachts racing over the sand on a long beach or on the tarmac of an air base; and for the next half an hour or so, you sit there waiting to see them briefly again as they would fly around a mark, crashing into each other on 2 wheels. It was a great spectator sport for about 4 minutes of each race that could take up to an hour and a half.

I did two things. I got a well worn small book from the library. I don’t recall what it was called but it may as well have been called “Get the coverage you want by giving the media what they want”.

One of the things it said to do was to ask them what they wanted. That seemed to simple but I did it. I rang radio sports journalists, I rang TV, I rang magazine editors and I rang newspaper sports writers. I introduced myself and gave a quick pitch of why I was ringing, explaining the challenges of a fast exhilarating sport, with yachts on wheels doing over 100 kph on the beach that no one had heard of.

Next thing I found myself in the newsroom of the New Zealand national daily, speaking with the Sports Editor. End result, they got some great stories, we got global TV coverage, we got international magazines and radio stories, we got sponsors and our team (unfortunately I had to pull out at the last minute) went to the Nevada Desert and won the America’s Cup of Land Yachting! And I learned how to get more than my fair share of media coverage for my employers and my modest entrepreneurial ventures.

Ironically listening to Cameron’s story, and despite being very gifted intellectually, I didn’t do any university study until much later in life, because I spent many of those teenage years rebelling against a system that had no place for bright people. I’ve had a pretty exciting life so far and I feel I have made a strong contribution in my endeavours, but I also wonder if I didn’t live in the land of Tall Poppy Syndrome, how much more I could have achieved if the education system had acted on what they discovered about me and nurtured it.

Which sort of brings me back full circle to my ailing back. I have now sat down too long writing this and need to do some stretches and exercise as I wait for my number to be called by the Waitemata District Health Board for my first specialist meeting, so I can have my surgery and get back to my job. When you’re a number in the system, a few pages in a manilla folder, you are equally invisible if you want to work and be productive as someone who will quite happily live on a benefit.

Does any of this resonate with you?