Jim Fish interviewed Me

Interview with Jim
Here’s my transcription. Let me know what to fix!
(I do have golf clubs in my closet. That’s another story, or perhaps a walking gratitude meditation
to share.)
— jim

Interview with an Expert: Curtis Aikens.
Literacy Advocate and Celebrity Chef Curtis Aikens had taken a day to visit with the students in
my geometry classes. They were fascinated to meet this successful person and to discover that
while he is the author of several books, he was actually illiterate until his twenties, graduating
from high school and beginning college in spite of this. Their questions ranged from “How did
you cheat so well?” to “What’s the best way to cook chicken?” and his answers were gentle,
forthright and sincere. He brought out a side to my students that until then had been unavailable
to me.
For this interview we met over brunch on July 9th, 2011. We talked for over half an hour
while I taped our conversation on my i-phone. The following has been extracted from that
Q. How would you motivate underprivileged high school students?
A. I truly believe that every kid is different, and I don’t want this to sound like a cop-out but the
way I try to motivate any group that I talk to is I try to be just open and honest about me. If they
can connect with me and I can have a connection with them, that’s the motivation. They think “If
this guy can overcome … .” I feel that those of us, grownups, those of us with something, can
share with those without. Everybody wants to achieve, whether they are low income black or
privileged white guy, and they don’t know your story, what you had to go through to get to where
you are in life. I want them to know that I didn’t have it easy. I’m sure there were things you had to
overcome as well. So to bring it back full circle, my way to motivate is to be a wide open book, as
open and honest as I possibly can. That’s my answer, open and honest. And I say “if I can do it,
you can do it.”
Right now I’m in an interesting spot in my life. I’m trying to set an example to my sons, that
I’m taking a huge step back in hopes of making giant leaps forward in my personal life, it’s not
about my business life any more, but in my personal growth. Here’s a guy that’s been on TV, met
the president, and now he’s working in a grocery store. Some people would look down on that.
But this was the job I had when I was in high school, and I loved it then, so why wouldn’t I love it
now? That’s what I want to communicate, that this is okay for me, and okay for him. And I’m
proud of it, the work I’m doing. Whatever the work, if you’re gratified in the work, everything else
just follows. I want people to know that they can walk, not my path, but discover their own path of
joy — and love.
Q. What was your impression from your visit to my classes? What did you like, what didn’t you
A. I did not like that they had to go to school in that building with no windows, with no natural light.
That school was like a prison. When I walked into the office, they were so cold. I think we stood
here for maybe three to five minutes for someone to help us. Then it was like “What are you
doing here?” They were expecting trouble. How can you teach, and how can they learn in that
kind of environment? That room was like a cage. That was hard for me, to see what those kids
have to go through. It was almost like visiting a prison. It was hard for me, getting past that.
How do you get the ideas out into that world where they need it the most? What did I enjoy?
When these children started opening up and feeling comfortable enough to start asking questions
and speaking out. The tough kids. When they stopped being subjects to my talk and started being
participants to my day, I loved that. When I left, I was high. It would be interesting to me to see
how many of your students will miss you. I’ll bet there are several who will do that. I’ll bet you
made a difference in a couple of those kids’ lives. Once I got past the surroundings, I thought it
was a great day.
Q. Do you think a job oriented, career oriented teaching system could work?
A. I told my son, if I had it to do over, I would have gotten a vocation as well as an education. It’s
about having more than one skill level. If I were a carpenter — I can’t drive a nail. I have to pay
someone to do it. I can change a light bulb, but I can’t fix a light socket — if I’d had one of those
skills to fall back on … . Would it have motivated me to learn? There’s no teacher like experience.
I’m not sure it would have motivated me back then.
About a week and a half ago I realized, I’ve gotten what I wanted. I don’t want other people’s
expectations and pressures. I want to tell myself, be wise enough to enjoy it. I’m having a lot
more fun here at the grocery talking than I ever did at the Food Network. I have a walking and
golfing meditation of gratitude. That’s where I’m at. I am successful. Anything else is on top of it.
Now I want to motivate others through my actions. How do I want to motivate? I want to motivate
others to know they can have more, but they have to find it, then they have to learn to relax and
enjoy it. I want them to respect

“If that guy can do it from nothing, so can I.

love u Robin

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