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An inspirational empowering story about turning negatives into positives



How would you react if someone said to you “You’re a nothing. You’ll always be a nothing?” Tell them to go jump probably. And that’s the polite version.  

Not a very empowering comment is it?

At age 15, an impressionable time in any one’s life, I attended a rough and tumble Christian Brothers College.  Our form 4 English teacher, we now say year 10, was a strict, clever, stand up guy in his late fifties.   He smoked in class but that was OK.  It was the mid 1970’s after all.  Forget the maths, I’m 49.

To save embarrassment let’s call him Mr Smitherton.  He might still be alive.

No one ever spoke in Smithy’s class unless spoken to first by him.  He ran that class with an iron fist.

One day during the middle of a lesson I committed the most heinous crime.  I whispered something to my adjacent class mate. Good if you get away with it.  I didn’t.

“You.  Stand up.  What’s your name?”

“Peter Cahill Mr Smitherton”

“Who do you think you are?” 

A difficult question to answer at the best of times.  As a shy 15 year old, impossible. So I didn’t.  In front of 40 other boys my face just went tomato red.

“You‘re a nothing.  You’ll always be a nothing”

With escalated volume “Now sit down”

Well that was a humbling experience.  Or should I say humiliating?

I just pushed that out of my mind until the next day. 

One of the toughest guys in school came up to me in the yard.  And it was a tough school to begin with.

“Hey Cahilly, I spoke to my mum about what Smithy said to you yesterday.  About you being a nothing.  What he said was terrible.  My mum reckons it was a shocking thing to say and that no one should ever say that to anyone.  And I agree so don’t worry about it.  Don’t take any notice of it.”

I was surprised.  “Thanks mate”

To be the recipient of such compassion from a super tough guy like him was a bewildering experience on its own.  I saw his street fighting skills on a few occasions.  They were exemplary.  Anyone stupid enough to be his opponent was taking a huge risk.  I’d rather be a novice lion tamer.  At least with a chair and whip, survival might be an option.    

His comment impacted me on two levels.  His compassion and support for me was one.  The severity of Smithy’s disempowering comment was the other.

I didn’t realise it until many years later but subconsciously, self empowerment and empowering others became a crucial part of my life from then on.  Nowadays, if I see or hear people being disempowered I react quickly and assertively in their defence.  

If I see or hear people disempowering themselves with their own words or their own behaviour, I have this uncontrollable urge to say so.

I don’t get it.  What right does anyone have to disempower another human being?  And why would we disempower ourselves?  Yet most of us do it blissfully unaware we’re doing it.

For me, Smithy and tough guys were a good combination.  Good for the world too. – a Global Empowerment Initiative â€" is one of its positive outcomes.


© Copyright 2009



Peter J Cahill  is the founder of a Global Empowerment Initiative – Eliminate Small Business.  His new book “Eliminate Small Business & Grow Rich â€" A Simple Powerful Wealth Creation Guide for Entrepreneurs” will be released soon.  Go to

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This Uncategorized article was written by Peter Cahill on 10/28/2009

Peter is a Property Entrepreneur, Property Valuer, and Registered Builder. He has 33 years experience successfully dealing in the residential and commercial property markets of Melbourne Australia. Educated at RMIT University. Managing Director of Domain Hill Property Group. Special interest in helping and encouraging entrepreneurs.