Eric Samuel Timm of Rochester, Minnesota, combined art, humor and wisdom in a presentation Thursday morning at St. Albert Junior-Senior High School.
The motivational speaker’s appearance at St. Albert and 10 other area schools was sponsored by TS Bank as part of its 20th annual TS Promise.
“TS Bank has been doing this for 20 years because they know students are the community’s best asset,” Timm said. “You literally are the future of this world.”
Timm dived right in, painting on a large white canvas as students and staff watched. A head began to take shape, but it wasn’t until he finished and turned the canvas on its side that people recognized the image as the face of Albert Einstein.
Einstein, of course, was a highly regarded and influential scientist, Timm said.
“It’s absolutely amazing how he changed the world with science,” he said. “I realized my life isn’t much like science. It’s more like art.”
While science questions generally have one answer, life’s questions have more than one answer, Timm said.
“It’s a piece of art, and it’s being made,” he said.
Sometimes life gives us things we didn’t ask for — like broken bones. If a person suffers a physical injury, it’s normal for them to seek medical treatment, Timm said.
“Why do we think, if it’s in what we consider the mental health realm, it’s weird to ask for help? We have to remove this stigmata that seeing a counselor is weird,” he said.
Mental health matters — especially during adolescence, Timm said. He recalled going down a giant slide when he was a kid and realizing afterwards that his swim trunks had torn on his way down. This was the worst kind of embarrassment for a junior high student and just one of the instances when he was embarrassed.
“The circumstances you find yourself in aren’t always something you would choose,” he said.
Repeated negative experiences can leave someone with fear, Timm said.
“If you put fear into the ground and you cover it with dirt, a tree grows — and the leaves on that tree are depression,” he said.
A fear that the future will be like the past — that bad things will continue to happen to you, for example — can cause depression, even though the future is not always like the past.
Besides circumstances that just happen to you, life includes circumstances that result from choices you make, Timm said.
“The circumstances you find yourself in aren’t always something you would choose,” he said. “Sometimes, it’s the things we choose that don’t end up so well. Your choices, they have weight, they have value, they have impact.”
One way to overcome a feeling that you are trapped in a pattern of bad experiences is to make new memories, he said. That helps keep your mind from always focusing on the past.
Timm fought his own battle with depression. He recalled an experience that became a turning point in his life. A teacher asked how he was doing. Usually when people asked that, he just said he was doing fine — whether he was or not. This time, he said, “‘I’m not doing so good. I feel miserable.’”
The teacher asked him to tell her his story, he said. Her willingness to listen gave him hope.
“If it wasn’t for you — a teacher — I probably wouldn’t be here,” he said to teachers in the audience. “In my backpack, I had a note written in my own hand describing how I was going to kill myself. If you have a note like that,” he said, addressing students, “you need to show it to someone — a caring adult, not a friend. A friend will tell you what you want to hear, a teacher will tell you what you need to hear.”
Timm thanked teachers for what they do.
“The greatest thing you’ll ever give any of these children is not a diploma, it’s hope,” he said.
A windshield is bigger than a rear-view mirror, Timm reminded students.
“That’s because what’s ahead is always bigger than what’s behind,” he said.
Becoming an international speaker has been a 15-year journey, Timm said. He worked in retail while working on his dream, became general manager of a store and revised his dream. Some of the greatest things in his life have just happened — meeting his spouse, having children, etc.
“It’s been more discovery than it’s been intentionality,” he said.
Along the way, Timm discovered he could “use art as a vehicle to land a message in a very … compelling way that engages students.”
“Students don’t want to just sit there and listen to somebody,” he said. “I want to meet students where they’re at and take them to where they need to be.”
Timm said he gains insight by visiting with a lot of teachers.
“They relay what they’re going through – what’s happening with their kids,” he said. “And I have kids of my own, too.
“I’m not saying anything groundbreaking at all. I’m just saying it in a groundbreaking way.”
Timm was scheduled to appear at Atlantic, Southwest Valley and Griswold High Schools today as part of TS Promise.