Monday, 2 November 2009

"What a fantastic time to be alive."
John Nesbilt

Before half-term my whole computer system failed to work and I couldn’t log on, log off or do anything. Over half term I normally stay in touch but I couldn’t log in from home either and so with time on my hands I decided to relax, unwind, read and do the things that had had to wait...
I read the final Stieg Larsson Millenium Trilogy novel "The Girl who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest", the latest Terry Pratchett Discworld novel "Unseen Academicals", the Malcolm Gladwell collection of articles "What the Dog Saw", the Sebastian Faulks novel "A Week in December" and re-read several of my favourites! I also visited Leicester, Oxford and Lichfield to catch up with family and friends. During the week I found myself thinking constantly about the opportunities and challenges we face here in Leeds; the unrelenting pressure from DCSF, Ofsted, the Audit Commission, National Strategies, Government Office, Uncle Tom Cobley and all; the need to do more, to do it faster and better and more efficiently and effectively; the need to eliminate the things that don’t make a difference; and the need to focus relentlessly on outcomes as well as processes. As Woody Allen put it…
"Most of the time I don’t have much fun and the rest of the time I don’t have any fun at all."

Increasingly you realise that the things that make a difference and the things that matter are the same as they always were:

  • drive;
  • determination;
  • commitment;
  • inspiration;
  • creativity;
  • enthusiasm;
  • passion;
  • achievement; and
  • hard work.

Pablo Casals, the great cellist, was asked why he still practiced for five hours every day at eighty five years of age and he simply replied "Because I think I am getting better."

We all need to understand that if you are willing to take risks, open to change and prepared to work hard you have the ability to create a better future. Releasing potential is about:

  • growth;
  • learning;
  • education;
  • adventure;
  • discovery; and
  • hard work.

We all need to develop a culture and a working environment where we stretch ourselves, challenge each other and try to do better, while at the same time thinking team, and looking after each other. In this kind of culture mistakes don’t matter, failures don’t matter because the mistake riddled life is richer, interesting and more stimulating and that’s how we all learn, grow and develop. The only people who don’t make mistakes, remember, are those that do nothing.
Of course there will be those colleagues who say I’m not clever enough, not talented enough, not special or unique enough to make a real difference, so why should I bother? Interestingly, the Los Angeles Times reported recently on a five year study looking at great artists athletes, scholars, scientists. What made these people unique, special, talented was not that they were specially unique, specially talented or different, it was their drive and determination and hard work that made them extra-ordinary.

So it’s true, no-one can make anything of their lives by simply being talented, gifted or a genius. The message we need to give our children, our young people, our colleagues and our families and friends is that everyone has talents, gifts and potential and it’s work, sheer determination, persistence and hard work, that transforms those gifts and talents into genius.

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