I have known Esin for many years now, first, when he was one of my students and then, as a colleague. During our various conversations, it became very obvious that Esin had lived an interesting life, with lots of different experiences, very different to mine and it was because of this, I knew he would be the perfect person to help me with my new 1st year university students.
The university where I was employed was in East London and had a very diverse student population with around 50% of the cohort coming from ethnic minorities; there was also a wide range in terms of their socio-economic status with the majority coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and all the social problems that are associated with that. I knew that, even with the best intentions, I would not be able to connect with this large group of students easily as they would likely perceive me to be something that I really wasn’t (crusty old white woman who had it easy). I needed someone who could reach them, who they could identify and relate more closely with so that they would listen and start to believe in themselves, and this is where Esin came in.
I’d been on the receiving end of Esin’s personal training, and he had such a wonderful way of making me feel anything was possible if I worked hard enough. His ability to motivate and educate was exceptional, his practical application of knowledge incomparable but I knew that these attributes were not confined to personal training. I asked Esin to come in to speak to the new students, to help them tap into their inner strength and motivations so that they would embrace the opportunities that academic study could give them rather than run away when it started to get difficult. I remember the session vividly, there were 2 crusty academics (myself included) present to inform the students what was happening and then Esin became the centre of attention – all eyes were on him, and all ears were listening.
Esin produced a remarkably engaging and interactive session that was punctuated with humour but also some serious stories to help illustrate several important points. The students were enthralled, literally hanging on every word that this man, someone who has known adversity, obstacles, and hardship, was uttering. In their eyes, he had walked their walk and yet he had achieved things that they were currently only dreaming of, but, if he could do it, surely, they could too – if they could tap into their inner strength and tackle their weaker areas. And this what Esin’s talk was all about, finding the courage to look inwards in order to change the outwards, to shift away from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset and to not be afraid to experience failure because it’s a valuable learning opportunity.
Although the session was interactive with many of the students participating, there were some who only listened but what blew me away was that, after the session had ended Esin had an enormous queue of students, including those who were quiet, as they wanted to speak to him some more, to ask more questions, to thank him to congratulate him, it was an immensely pleasurable sight to behold and what was even more pleasing, was that he was the topic of conversation amongst the students for weeks afterwards. He had made such an incredible impact on these students, here was someone telling them that they could achieve and better still, he had given them the tools to do it. He had a wonderful effect on their attitude to learning, they lost the look of doubt that would often creep over their faces, it was if they could hear Esin’s voice even though he wasn’t there so instead of withdrawing when things got a little difficult, they’d stick with it, engage and ask questions.
I still find it incredible that someone could have such a positive impact on another in such a short space of time, but Esin did, he connected with those students in a way that I never could, and they took his “lessons” with them for many months, demonstrating resilience when the going got tough, as well as bravery as they were more inclined to reach out and ask for help, even from a crusty old white woman!
Should I ever be in the position of engaging a speaker to help people achieve no matter what the goal, even if the odds are stacked against them, I would give Esin the job, he is without doubt, the most able, engaging, relatable and knowledgeable speaker that I’ve heard, he is a joy to listen to and learn from.
Dr. Kim Hastings – Exercise Physiologist (The Open University)