My entire life I’ve always been… “different”. This seemed like a curse – something of a weakness even – for the longest time, but I eventually came to realize that it is one of my greatest strengths!
Now, you’re probably thinking, ‘Hold up Chris. First things first – what the hell is “chutzpah”? And uhhh… “Recalci-whaa”!?’ Well, if you’ve read more than a couple of my blog posts so far, you’ll most likely have realized that I fancy myself a bit of a wordsmith. I discovered the word ‘chutzpah’ in a Forbes article I read a number of years ago, and just love it! It’s Yiddish for audacity – something I have plenty of when I need!
As for ‘recalcitrant’ – I had the honour of attending an event hosted by 3M for Mensa, and the word came up in an enthralling presentation about Innovation and Creativity; it’s basically the same as ‘rebel’ – a badge on my sleeve that I’ll forever don with pride.
Back when I was a kid I got into all sorts of trouble. At primary school I was lightyears ahead of the others in my class, and could finish a day’s work in less than an hour; after realizing that punishment was ineffective, it eventually became something of a class “game” to watch and see if I could ‘beat the clock’ – I’d spend the entire day doing what I pleased, then blitz through whatever we’d been assigned in record time.
Initially, the teachers thought I was simply being a little rebel (fair enough – I was), and refusing to work when everyone else had to. But it was assumed that I hadn’t paid any attention to what was being taught day in, day out. It was assumed that I just didn’t “get it”, and so, just wanted to doss around all day.
Actually, it was all just too easy – none of what was being taught was a challenge to me. I had always whipped through the textbooks at home and absorbed the entire semester’s contents in the space of a week, so when it came to learning the material in class, I was ten steps ahead of everyone.
‘So, nothing incriminating. Just… frowned upon!’
At boarding school I had similar issues. But this was the environment that really did nurture my inner rebel! I got suspended (twice), a few “gatings” (these were weekend-long punishments [given at boarding schools] – like a detention that lasts 48hrs), and a fair number of [normal] detentions to boot.
The one reason I was never expelled? Because, unlike every other student, I would always accept responsibility for my actions. The level of maturity that I demonstrated throughout my time at boarding school always garnered the respect of all the staff – from the matrons to the Head Master.
The reasons I was getting into trouble? Just silly shenanigans really… One of the suspensions was because I orchestrated a “dorm raid” on the girls’ dormitories (it wasn’t much of a raid per se, rather just getting around the security measures that separated the boys’ and girls’ living quarters in order to have something of a “slumber party”). And one of the gatings was for “breaking into” the Sixth Form Centre (yes, it was locked… but one of the windows was left open) and playing a bit of pool and darts… So, nothing incriminating. Just… frowned upon!
Asides from a few moments of mischief, I excelled academically – mostly in languages and biology – and especially in sport. I represented the school’s rugby, track & field, basketball, and even hockey teams. My proudest achievement (and honour) was being Captain of the Track & Field Team. Consistently winning at inter-school competitions, fetching gold at District and County level, reaching Regionals and qualifying for Nationals meant I was one of the best athletes in the school’s history of Track & Field.
When it came time to continue my education at university, I had my pick between UCL and Queen Mary [University of London]. Although the former ranked far higher and is an “elite-level” university with presence on a global scale, I knew from my very first visit to their campus that QMU was the perfect fit for me. Possibly the most culturally diverse school in London, I knew that (being from a multi-national upbringing) I would thrive in such an incredible environment.
‘… I became something of a “One Man Army”…’
I found myself quickly being catapulted into a role of massive influence from the word go, when I was approached by a group of fellow students who wanted to “resurrect” a society that had been dormant for a number of years – the Hispanic Society.
Initially, my role was that of Treasurer, and we had the rest of the panel – President, Vice President, Secretary, etc. But one thing I never foresaw was that this group of “social leaders” would disband about as quickly as we formed. It would seem as though none of them had really thought through what was involved in the day-to-day running of a university society. Granted, we were all new to it; but I was astoundingly underwhelmed by their level of commitment.
So, I became something of a “One Man Army” and decided I was going to run things by myself – I would be the President/Treasurer/Secretary/Social Director all rolled into one. I was told that wasn’t “normal protocol”, and that it would be “impossible”. That just made me more determined to make sure it worked! Salsa and Flamenco Lessons, Capoeira & Caipirinha Nights, arranging deals with some of London’s top Latino Bars – I had my hands full, but it proved to be an epic crash course in Events Management, Leadership Skills and Negotiating Skills.
Despite the criticism and doubts, I cracked the f*ck on and ran things single-handedly for three of four years (I spent a year abroad, thus the society was “put on hold” that year). It was one of my proudest achievements from my time at QMU.
‘… his word on this was somewhat biblical…’
My recalcitrant ways also saw a resurgence from the beginning when I declared [on Day 1] that I wasn’t there ‘to get a degree’, but for the experience. Thing is, everyone was yappin’ about why they had come to university, what drew them to languages, why they picked QMU, and what they planned to do with their degrees once they graduated… To me, it was just a piece of paper! I knew I would never ‘use it’ [with the aim of pursuing a particular career path]; I was more concerned with having the time of my life, being an influential member among my peers, and creating a tapestry of memories that I could look back on fondly years down the line.
What baffled me the most though, was the uniformity and “common behaviour patterns” that I observed early on… I remember one of the first course modules I took was taught by the #1 authority on the subject (in the WORLD)! His name was Ralph Penny – Professor of Spanish Linguistics; his word on this was somewhat biblical, and so unrefuted that HIS [own] textbook was the only one he would use to teach, and most other universities would use it too if they were serious about teaching the subject to the highest level of excellence.
Singing Ralph’s praises to one side, it was my fellow students that I just couldn’t understand. We would be sat there for hours at a time listening to the man drone on in a monotone voice; it seemed as though everyone was paralysed by fear. Despite the glazed over expressions on their faces (clearly NOT absorbing what was being taught), not one person would ask a question.
Now, for the first few classes, I was on top of things and “with the program”. But there quickly came the day when I had a burning question… My hand thrust upwards, hanging for quite some time before Professor Penny realized that his attention was being [silently, but respectfully] solicited. His face LIT up!! Suddenly, there was a sense of vitality and joviality to his voice as he gleefully answered my question(s).
After that class I received the praise and thanks of many of my peers – they were so grateful that I had asked so many of the questions that they hadn’t found the courage to ask themselves but had been pondering for weeks. In my head it was simple: if you have the world’s leading expert on a subject that you’re trying to learn more about in front of you for HOURS (i.e. at your disposal), then why the F*CK wouldn’t you ask them a question!? Clearly, if YOU are not the expert, but you have the BEST in the world in front of you… I mean, I’d be picking their brains as much as possible!
But alas, it had been considered somewhat audacious to even conceive of the mere notion of (disrespectfully?) asking a question; surely this would demonstrate the poor quality of the man’s teachings, right? Heck no! It would only demonstrate the bloody obvious: that *I* am the student, and he is the master. Humble and respectful, in my opinion.
‘I then “polish those gems of wisdom” so that I can share them with you…’
Post-university – and a decade on – I have always continued in my ways. Never being afraid to ask questions. Never shying away from debate. Always seeking enlightenment. And certainly, always pursuing the truth based on facts that can be proven (as opposed to “a la mode” fads and popular ideas that are often too good to be true).
In my career as a Personal Trainer (the various chapters of which I will open up on in future posts), I have vehemently held onto my integrity and sought to inform clients on the information that is commonly held back from them by big corporations. Details in the Terms & Conditions that Head Office(s) would rather a prospective customer “skim over” (or just neglect to read at all); the truth about what supplements being sold actually work and which ones are just a waste of money.
I ensure that as an expert on health & wellness I stay up-to-date with the latest science-based, factually accurate, unbiased information possible. I then “polish those gems of wisdom” so that I can share them with you here on this blog.
I don’t care if I’m not “falling in line” with the views of big corporations, and I’m not scared to expose their dirty secrets! Yes, I have the absolute Chutzpah of being an Industry Recalcitrant, but that will never change, and you’ll always be able to rely on that!
Ladies and gents, I hope you’ve liked getting to know me a little better. I wanted to start writing a little about who I am, my background, and what makes me tick so that you – my audience – can gain a more personal insight and perhaps relate in some way.
You can Like and Follow CXP on Facebook and LinkedIn (I’ve just launched Instagram, Tumblr and Medium TODAY! And I’ll have my podcasts coming out next month… So, stay tuned!). As always, it’s a pleasure writing for you, and I look forward to connecting in the next post.
Yours in Training,
Chris Atkinson | Master Personal Trainer, SDO