Hey everyone! Here is an excerpt from my new book, Confidence of a Champion, that will be released in August. This excerpt talks about the magic power of momentum in reaching goals, and an incredible school teacher who used it to his advantage. I hope you enjoy!
God bless, Tim Marks
You’ve had days in your life when everything seemed to be going your way. All the traffic lights turned to green. You closed every sales call you made. Every crucial confrontation was resolved in a way that strengthened the relationship. Every step had a bounce in it. Your spirit felt lighter, food tasted better, the sun was shining, and you were on fire for life.
When we are feeling good, we become people magnets. Opportunity comes out of the woodwork. People want to work with us. If we are a coach or leader of some sort, our team responds to our guidance. Things are clicking. We just feel like we are on a roll. It’s such a simple concept, but so often ignored: when you’ve had a victory, use that positive feeling to your advantage. Take action right away, push the gas pedal down even further and create even greater results.
One teacher used the power of momentum to transform his students’ belief in themselves and ultimately their results. In 1974, a Bolivian-born mathematics teacher named Jaime Escalante took a job at Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, an area more commonly known for producing gang members than math whizzes. However, Escalante was not your average math teacher. He had a ferocious love of the subject and of inspiring young minds. He also had a rock-solid belief that these kids were smarter than they, their parents, or even the school administration thought they were. Most people had written them off simply because they lived on the wrong side of the tracks. Escalante knew better.
One of the first things Escalante did was raise the bar of excellence for his students. He would demand they answer a math question just to be allowed into the classroom. He made them do a test at the beginning of each day. And he didn’t just offer basic math; he offered advanced placement calculus. You can only imagine the reaction these C, D, and F students had toward this, let alone the status-quo principal of the school. But Escalante started talking to the students about getting jobs in engineering and science. He began to cast a vision that they would make it into university, that they could be at the top of their class, and they could change the entire direction of their lives. He started to breathe belief into them that they could do something extraordinary.
After a few years of teaching, he laid down a challenge: the school would have students take the highly difficult Advancement Placement Calculus exam. This was a very difficult exam, and no one wanted any part of it. But this man was on a mission to change the culture of his school and to make a breakthrough for his students; he knew that he just needed a small victory to get the ball rolling. If he could show the students that some of their peers were capable to taking the AP Calculus test and passing, he knew the other students would begin to believe in themselves a little more.
And so, Escalante rigorously pursued that first victory. In 1978, he convinced five students out of 3,000 to take the test. Two of them passed. This was the first small victory that Escalante could leverage. Building on that victory, he won over the minds of a few more students the next year. In 1979, he convinced nine students to work with him and take the test; seven of them passed. Word of his students growing success began to spread through the school. Kids who thought they never stood a chance started to believe that if their friends could do it, maybe they could as well. In 1981, Escalante attracted fifteen students, and fourteen passed the AP Calculus test. The ember of belief had been nurtured into a small flame under Escalante’s guiding care.
In 1982, eighteen students passed the test. In 1983, his class size doubled overnight, as did student success: thirty-three students took the AP Calculus test and thirty of them passed. And by 1987, seventy-three students passed the test. Escalante wasn’t just inspiring the students at Garfield; he was inspiring the entire country. Everyone wanted to know what this guy was doing. A book about his remarkable achievement was released, titled Escalante: The Best Teacher in America. This inspired the 1988 movie Stand and Deliver, starring Edward James Olmos as Escalante. Not surprisingly, having a Hollywood movie made about your high school math teacher is not a normal occurrence for most students, and only added further fuel to the fire. By 1991, the momentum Escalante had created attracted 570 students to take the advanced math placement exams.
What was Escalante’s secret? Momentum! Lowell Thomas said, “Do a little more each day than you think you possibly can. By pushing yourself a little farther, by stretching for that “impossible” goal and attaining it, you can create a tiny victory. Each victory builds our belief and confidence that we can reach greater heights. Never squander a victory; use the confidence it produces to take further action and build momentum, just as Escalante did with his remarkable students.