Monday, October 5, 2009

Tony's Blog: Transformation is a Transferable Skill

Giovanni steps into my car: "Tony, I got a 98 on my math test! Algebra II"

"Wow" I respond. "That's your hardest subject."

Gio: "I know, at first 'functions' made my head hurt. But I stayed with it, just kinda stared at the page and didn't give up, and finally I got it. I need to stay with it more though because I can't explain how I got it yet."

Tony: "You mean, like how you lost the weight."

Gio: "Yeah, I just found what works for me and stuck with it, no matter what anybody else said."

Tony: "That's your gift. Even when you were big and guys were making fun you stayed true to who you are."

Gio: "Yeah, people are tellin me I should write a book."

Tony: "What do you think they see in you?"

Gio: "That I can do anything I put my mind to."

Tony: "That sounds like Tim" (Gio's mentor). What would you say in your book?"

Gio: "I would tell my story. How I lost all the weight and how that makes me know how strong I am. But, I'm playing basketball now, and even though people are saying I can do anything I set my mind to, I go out on the court and there are guys that are six foot seven! I think that each time you accomplish something, life gives you something else to work on."

Tony: "So how do you keep yourself going when so many others would give up?"

Gio: "They don't see the outcome. So they quit before they get there."

Where is all this wisdom coming from? At 14 this boy was naive as they come, but thoughtful and true to himself. Perhaps having to endure the barbs of his peers, prepared him to have a solid inner core, to be able to stand tall in his own truth. He's still only 16 years old. He gets up every day at 5am to catch the bus from South Central LA to attend Pacific Palisades High School 30 miles away, because "it's a better school and I can learn more there."

Gio continues: "I lost 120lbs. I gained back 20 when I started working out in the weight room." Muscle weighs more than fat.

Tony: "What inspired you?"

Gio: "My mentor Tim." Then he continues thoughtfully, "it was about 50% Tim and 50% me."

That's what mentoring can do. It helps you believe in yourself. Tim is a lifelong surfer, now in his late 60's who calls me from time to time to thank me for bringing this wonderful young man into his life. He is a tough mentor, and full of love. Giovanni met Tim in our Surfing Program and Tim began taking him to surf every weekend. Because of Gio's size, at first he couldn't stand up on the board. So, we all celebrated the new surfing style that he invented: 'the three point stance'. Now he is up and dropping into waves almost at will. He hadn't been surfing as regularly lately, but told me on this trip: "Tony, I found my stoke again."

Now, with pride gushing from every pore, Giovanni tells me about his assignment to give a persuasive speech. His teacher gives a crosswise look when he says that he is going to speak on "Green Skittles vs. Yellow Skittles". Gio then proceeds to elucidate the positive qualities of the color green and how it stands for growth and moving forward. He talks about yellow being the color of depression...

"Now hold on a minute." I interrupt. "How do you know that?" I ask, dumbfounded.

Gio: "It's because of that painting on the wall of the classroom. It was the last painting of that artist who was depressed."

I venture a guess: "van Gogh?"

Gio: "Yeah, I think that's the guy. He was really depressed before he died and that painting had a blue sky but the bottom part was all yellow."

He is referring to Vincent van Gogh Wheatfield with Crows.

He goes on to tell me more about his oration (which got an A). He wants to tell me the last line of his speech:

"When I popped the Green Skittle in my mouth it was like a renaissance, a rebirth of vagrant ideas".

Yes, Gio: you should write a book.

Gio then and now


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