There comes a time in some people’s lives when they reach their lowest point.
Quite often they dig deep, try very hard to “push and go through” or as the lyrics of the National Anthem go, press “upward and onward”.
That’s what happened to MC, host, journalist, and motivational speaker Joel Manning, who is in now in the north-east of England pursuing a master’s degree in sports journalism at the University of Sunderland.
Before heading out, he chatted with Easy, sharing his story and talking about how that leap of faith he took when he was at a low point landed him on this path.
“After leaving Queen’s College I went straight to UWI [Cave Hill] and I did my bachelor’s in management with a concentration in human resources because my mother told me I had to choose something because I couldn’t stop in the house. I honestly don’t like school, and it was between that, marketing, and something else.
“At that time, I wanted to become a writer full- time and I wrote letters to my mother to drop out of school in my second year. She took them, ripped them up and told me I had to go back. I did an extra semester because of my delinquency. I literally walked out of exams. I had to pay because my last semester at UWI was when Barbadian students had to pay and my mother made me pay for the courses I had to do over and for wasting her time,” he said, shaking his head at the memory.
“From there I did a master’s degree in financial management at UWI again. I finished that in December/January this year. I hate numbers but I did it because I was given the opportunity and it was paid for. I said, ‘I don’t have a job, there’s was nothing on my horizon right now, let me go back to school and kill some more time’.
“It was challenging because I hate finance and it’s hard to wrap my mind around numbers. The people who were at my master’s level classes, they made it easier for me. They treated me like I was their child, checking up on me, making sure I came to my classes, helped me where I needed help. Without them I would have failed my master’s degree,” said Joel.
His focus is on personal branding, something that piqued his interest in 2011. He then starting giving motivational presentations two years later after accepting an invitation to give the feature address at his alma mater’s graduation ceremony. He returned to address an all-boys assembly on what it meant to be a man.
“That filtered off into what is now my primary presentation – personal branding. It’s about knowing your brand, why your brand exists, investing in your brand and selling your brand. That was what I told those young men – about having an identity. A lot of things are being said in society about young men and the fact that they’re not contributing and are distracted. I told them that how far they go is up to them.
“I also told them that the things they see now as the highlights of their life will not matter four, five, six years from now. I was speaking from my experience, which I always talk about. I don’t try to sound pretty. I was able to tell them that because of how big social media is right now, they might do some things to get in the spotlight.
“There was a point when I first entered UWI when I was always seeking popularity and I wanted to be the centre of attention. I am confident now, but I was cocky back then. I’ve always enjoyed being the centre of attention and, funnily enough, it was after that fall from popularity (owing to a rumour which he said had no merit) that I started looking at things differently.
“I went from having literally 70 to 80 chats in my phone – that was how much I enjoyed the spotlight – to having one. I would just talk to people because I enjoyed a lot of people knowing me, wanting to be around me and hanging out and saying I know all of them.”
In 2015, Joel entered the media doing “a bit of writing and photography” and on-camera interviews for Crop Over, which sparked his interest in broadcast journalism. A year later, he launched his show Cross Talk, an online series highlighting Barbadian culture and providing a platform for people to tell their stories.
But it took Joel, who is celebrating his 27th birthday this week, till the latter part of 2018 to truly realise that people wanted to hear what he had to say. He spoke at primary school events, government departments and agencies, organised and hosted an event on personal branding and in March this year he flew to Antigua to make presentations at the Rotaract Club of Antigua’s retreat.
Then the calls stopped. He had to find a job. So, after staring at his ceiling for about five days straight, he made a bold move.
“During that time my passion kicked in and caused me to send an email to SportsMax. I asked a friend for an email address there and decided to take a chance. I got a response from the vice-president, who told me that if I was willing to fly myself up, they’d be willing to host me. That is how I got a chance to fly over to Jamaica to do the live shows. It was literally at a point where I was at my lowest.
“I begged my mother for the money, and she was willing to invest in me and let me go. That is how I’m able to head to the UK to do this master’s degree, which ends in November 2020. … I always had a passion for sports.
“In 2017, I got an opportunity to be the marketing and communications intern with the CPL [Caribbean Premier League], which came through UWI because of the master’s degree. I am able to work 20 hours a week in the UK, so I’m looking at having that chance to make connections with people in the major sporting networks and companies.
“I had no aspirations of heading to the UK. that wasn’t on my mind, but because somebody saw my clips from SportsMax and asked me if I would consider becoming qualified because I never did anything in relation to media or journalism, I am here.
“I’m telling people don’t turn down opportunities just because it’s not ideal for you at that point in time. My opportunities were not ideal for me then, but they were afterwards. … If you get ten opportunities, take eight. everything will not work out but see where they will take you and even if it’s not where you want to go, there is something you will learn. I might have hated finance but that degree helped me …”. (GBM)