I once met a man. Stephen D Norval, his name was. Tall, long blonde hair, reeked a bit of the Benson and Hedges cigs he smoked every chance he got. I instantly disliked him.
Long story: My one mate forced me to go on a four-day “workshop” hosted by Stephen. “Just go!” he said. Boy, was I sceptical. I don’t need any more John Demartini-Stephen Covey-John Kehoe mind-power bullshit in my life. “Just GO!” said my mate. “I’ll even pay for you”. This was in November 2002.
So there I went and begrudgingly attended this workshop. I mentioned sceptical? You have no idea. This tall, lanky dude came in, introduced himself as our trainer, and proceeded to verbally beat the crap out of us! And then he started swearing. Like a drunken sailor on shore-leave who discovered at the bar his wallet was stolen at the whorehouse. And then, quite soon, the penny dropped. Scepticism evaporated and I sat there, mouth agape, at the pure marvel of the teachings he gave. They say life has no instruction book – crap. Stephen was on that four day workshop delivering just that – life’s instruction book. How to live, how laugh, how to not put up with bullshit. And most of all – how to love. There was no bullshit in this man.
Steve’s workshops required a “team” to assist him. I instantly signed up to be part of the team members for his next workshop. It was tiring, hard work, but anything but thankless. Sitting in the back of his workshops, doing what needs doing, I realised something: I want to be a teacher like this guy. So I spoke to Stephen, and asked him what do I need to do to become a teacher like him. And he told me. And he taught me.
In September of 2006, I broke off from these workshops and volunteering on them for personal reasons. But that did not mean I broke away from the philosophies taught at these workshops. But it did mean that I was no longer a protégée of Stephen’s. I was on my own, on my own path.
Years rolled past, and now I am a teacher. Not like Stephen, but like me. I do not teach what Stephen taught, but I’m still a teacher. And anyone who has been to my classes will tell you about my unorthodox, outlandish, eccentric way of teaching. Anyone who has been mentored by me will tell you how I don’t take bullshit. I am respected in my teachings because I simply call a spade a spade, and nothing is personal. I am the teacher I am today, because of the teacher Stephen was to me.
As I’m writing this, I’m frickin’ crying again.
2016’s relentless march is carrying on. I have found out last night that this great man who has given so many people so many gifts, has made the ultimate choice. We have lost a great man, and a great teacher, and a great giver of gifts.
The greatest gift Stephen gave me, was the gift of authenticity. This is why I broke away from his workshops a decade ago – it was brilliant, but not what I wanted to do. I needed to find out what is the authentic me. And the authentic me, professionally at least, is the photographer and photographic teacher I am today. So if you come to my workshops, and think I’m full of myself, I swear too much, teach in weird ways…. thank Stephen. He taught me.
This is what I’m doing now – thank you, Cap’n, for your teachings, for giving me the gift of authenticity. Without your teachings, I would not be the teacher I am today.
(Image Credit: Gerhard van Rooyen)