Jake Ballentine speaks to San Rafael students
On April 11, San Rafael Junior High welcomed musician and youth motivational speaker Jake Ballentine. He began his performance by singing Lean on Me encouraging student participation by having them clap their hands and sing along. Ballentine shared a story from his childhood about his first appearance at a school talent show, half-way through a Beatles song he started looking into the audience and panicked thinking to himself, what are these people thinking. After realizing he couldn't remember the lyrics or chords to the song, he ran off stage. Ballentine said, you're going to mess up and people are going to be judgmental. It took courage to do it again. No one cares if you mess up, only if you run off stage. When we don't live up to our potential and if we are afraid, somewhere along the way we are going to start believing what other people tell us. When someone says you can't, they mean they can't. All of your potential is great, valuable things are rare, including you.
Ballentine started playing music on the street, his dreams were all about "me", until five years ago when his grandfather died. His grandfather dedicated his life to helping others and making the world a better place. Ballentine asked himself, how can I be like him. He used all of his skills and talents to help others. Now, Ballentine's dream is to bring a positive message to others. He questioned the students, what is your dream?
After his second song Ballentine told of his academic troubles throughout school. He said he couldn't read very well and he would stutter and stumble through the words. He would read in front of the class and some of the other students would make fun of him. He let what others said affect him. Kids made fun of him and he started making fun of himself and those things became part of him. At age 19, Ballentine found a good mentor. His mentor said when someone makes fun of you, they don't have confidence in themselves. Only listen to uplifting people. Ballentine did that and he was able to graduate college. Only listen to those who lift you up not those who put you down.
Why do you think people put you down, Ballentine asked the students? Some of the students answered, because they want to draw attention away from themselves, to make themselves feel better, to look cool or to have power. Ballentine's next question was how do you get them to stop? Students replied, to stand up for others, tell them it's not cool, tell them to back off. Bystanders have power. Only you can control or change yourself. He shared some of Gandhi's advice on changing yourself, "You must be the change you want to see in the world."
Ballentine concluded with his third song. After the song he told another childhood story about he and his best friend Winston. Winston had a golf ball and said he was going to hit him in the head with it. He told him this several times as they were standing approximately one foot from each other. Ballentine thought to himself, no way he wouldn't hit me with the ball. Winston threw the ball and hit him right in the forehead knocking him unconscious. Years later they were talking about the incident and Winston said I was only trying to scare you, not hit you. I was so focused on you that when I threw the ball it hit you right in the head. We should focus on what is good in the world. If you focus on good, you will see good people. If you focus on the bad things you will see the bad things.
Ballentine thanked two students, Kaden Draper and Logan Labrum, who helped him set up his equipment. He said, "Treat all people with kindness and respect and you can change the world."