I got the opportunity to attend a business lunch at George Watsons College this morning, something that the teachers put on in order to allow pupils to meet “actual working people”. Not in a “Beer-and-Bingo” way, but more in a “here’s a perspective on life that isn’t your parents one and ooh look what you could also do rather than be a doctor or a lawyer” way.
I think it’s a great idea and even if I can help one poor soul who’s got no idea what they want to do at a time when everyone is laying on pressure for them to make critical, life-changing decisions whilst doing exams and wrestling with puberty, then it’ll be worth getting up at 06:30 to do it.
However, this morning I got more than I bargained for. I’d not really paid enough attention to the e-mail explaining what the format would be so when I arrived I was surprised to hear there’d be a speaker - an ex-pupil of GWC who wanted to say a few words. I was slightly sceptical as I’ve sat through my fair share of awkward public speaking but in the short 15 minutes Mr Donald Brydon took to say his piece I was made to be absolutely, thoroughly inspired.
He picked out and focused on three simple ideas to put forward to these 17-18 year olds…
- Work hard.
This resounded with me so utterly. I’ve found that people lose that aggression as they get older. It becomes easier and easier to sit back. To not engage. To not care. The money is coming in, it’s enough for a car and a holiday - so why bother? If you show yourself to be a hard worker then you will be spotted as such - and you know if you are working hard or not. You can lie and cheat and flatter and beg but achievement doesn’t come about without graft. You end up luckier the harder you work.
- Be curious.
Just because you are a mathematician, don’t feel you have to stick to maths all the time. If you do law, why do it all day? Cross-pollination of ideas gives you leverage to take your work ethic and work smarter with it. Having a more general knowledge allows you to take on different perspectives on things.
- Be frustrated.
This was a thought that had never occurred to me but explains quite sometimes why I am who I am. Never be happy at work. Never be content. Drive on - you made that work? Awesome, you go girl. Now how do you make it better? Smarter? Cheaper? Be upset that these things aren’t working well enough, be vocal. Demand better! (ooh-err, almost too close to Sky speak there).
These were the up-front points, the crux of his speech. If you took these away, then excellent. Once he’d spoke though, he offered to take questions and here’s where I learned another few tips.
- Be honest.
There was a question about his views on independence which he answered truly and honestly. For such an emotional, polarising topic how many bosses would have done the same? It turns out he’d already talked about this to the press but I still thought it was excellent the way he put his own opinion forward instead of dodging it.
- Be humble.
Another person asked if he’d made any mistakes. “Hundreds” he replied and then took the time to detail when he’d been conned by an investor. No wrapping it in a positive light, he’d made a bloody big mistake. Oops. But he learned from it as we all do.
- Be proud of where you come from.
He spoke about how fond he was of GWC and the friends he’d made from there, friends that stayed through the years. He spoke of how his education had made him who he was and that with hindsight he wouldn’t change his decisions in life as it’s made him who he is today. Move forward, don’t dwell on the past too much.
Not bad for before 9am now, was it? :)