Growing up, I battled with severe depression. Overall, I don’t remember a time of not feeling depressed as a child. I have memories of feeling happy but they were sprinkled in here and there, never consistent.

In elementary school, I started out with straight A’s and still ended up on the A/B honor roll. In seventh grade, I changed school districts and my grades plummeted to D’s and F’s. Instead of being questioned about why it happened, I was punished; outcasted by teachers and grounded at home.

In eighth grade, we had moved to a new area which meant … a new school again. My mom told me that we were in a way better area and if my grades were good then I would make more friends. As miserable as I was I managed to fight my way back up to the honor roll, but it didn’t do anything for my popularity. I had an accent so I stood out and I didn’t fit in anywhere because I was one of the poor kids, but even the poor kids thought I had money because my parents owned their own business, they didn’t know enough to know that just because someone is self-employed it doesn’t mean they’re successful.

Being on the honor roll didn’t get me any more love and approval at home either, and my dad was constantly telling me I had to take over the family business when I grew up so I slipped into a thought process of “what’s the point anyway?”

In my ninth grade year, I flunked out and had to finish the year in summer school. Again, no teacher questioned why I went from A’s and B’s to mostly F’s. Instead, I was outcasted again and looked at as “the bad kid” in class even though I just sat there quietly and never acted up. The rest of my time in the education system was very much a “rinse and repeat” process.

What no one knew was that I was planning my own death pretty much every single day. I was miserable, not just at school but in life in general. I didn’t want to exist and the roller-coaster ride that was my report card was an unconscious cry for help. I was trying to signal someone to come rescue me from the deserted island of despair, yet no one answered the call. Until…

Before leaving high school I met two teachers — Mr. Taylor and Coach Calderone, who tried to do just that, and now looking back I see that they succeeded.

At different times they each had pulled me aside, pointed at my transcripts, and said something like “this isn’t you, you’re better than this and I’m not going to let you accept this from yourself anymore.”

By the time they came into my life, I thought I was too far gone to be saved. The only reason I was holding on was because my family was getting social security assistance after my had dad passed away, and being based on how many kids were still in school I believed the only value I had to offer in the world was to exist until that deal expired on my 19th birthday or graduation, whichever came first.

Coach Calderone pulled me aside only weeks before I planned on ending my life delivered his statement to me. I had planned that day years before and had a constant countdown in my head of when it was going to happen. When Coach spoke to me it didn’t change me overnight, there was far too much damage done. I don’t think I even acknowledged him or what he said. All I remember is there was a certainty in his tone and posture that made my unconscious mind take notice. That day, he planted a seed, and when that time came that I planned on ending it all, I didn’t.

Now, I’m an international speaker, best-selling author, and a breakthrough and empowerment coach. I am in an amazing relationship and have an absolutely awesome family. It all developed from a simple sentence spoken by two different teachers a few years apart.

In NLP we hold the assumption that, “people are not their behavior; accept the person, change the behavior.” Mr. Taylor and Coach Calderone displayed just that, even though they’d never heard of NLP.

These two gentlemen created a soft place in my heart for teachers. At the time, I hated school and anything related to it, specifically teachers, yet these two still were able to use their position to influence me in such a way that literally saved my life.

This past Friday, on August 17, 2018, my wife and I had the great privilege of hosting a training event for the teaching staff of a school. The director of the school had asked us to help her and her team to step into their own power and to be able to help their students do the same. Just the idea of having the opportunity to be a part of something like this lit me up inside, and then to actually see it come into fruition was indescribable.

I tried for hours to write about it but was left completely in awe.

This team showed up and they showed up to play full out, not allowing anything to take them out, not even the probability of physical harm.

Simon Sinek and many other great thought leaders talk about knowing your “Why” — and this team of teachers at Phoenix Montessori Academy had no doubts about theirs. They know who they are, what they are doing, and most importantly why they are doing it. Knowing their vision for their school and all who come through it as a team member or student is inspiring, to say the least.

Most schools mark a small ripple in a child’s life, but Phoenix is creating tidal waves of self-actualization and empowerment.

If you listen to the media, we are in some of the scariest times to be alive right now. Maybe that’s true, but we’re also in a time where awareness is spreading, and when I see such an impact being made as the one at PMA, it excites me.

Montessori schools have turned out some very strong-minded individuals. Julia Childs, Sean Combs, Steph Curry, Jeff Bezos, Princes William and Harry, as well as the founders of Google, all came through Montessori education. Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple Inc, is a huge advocate for the free-thinking system that Montessori incorporates and it’s obvious to see why.

The vibe of this school is totally different from anything I experienced in my years as a young student lost in the system. The system I went through was focused on prepping students for the next test, Montessori — and specifically PMA, are focused on preparing children and young minds for life.

I have faith that the ripples and waves they’re creating at PMA and other Montessori schools will create a global movement. Listening to the media it sounds like all hope is lost, but being in that room yesterday, I would say that hope has never been more found.