Headmaster’s Assembly – 26 January 2018

The triangle of success


“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it. ” 

We are born with certain skills and talents. Some of us have been blessed with multiple talents across a wide range of diverse interests. Some of us have fewer talents but all of us have something – some talent, something we are good at. This may not be something that is recognised in our school, indeed you may not yet have discovered your talent. I have lost count of the number of young people I have taught or been with in school who did not excel in school yet once they left, they flew. They succeeded, and I am speaking mainly academically now, because they had found what it was they were good at doing and believed in themselves. One boy I was with at school was an average student who managed mid 60s for most things. He managed to get into engineering – just – and the next four years was the top student in a class of 400 at a top university. You see – the talent that was always there came out.

It was clear that this young man was not particularly motivated at school and was content with mediocrity. His attitude was one that also needed work.

Let us take this from the classroom into sports. Many of you have extraordinary sporting talent yet that does not always translate into performance. Talent on its own is clearly not enough. You need to have a reason for doing what you do – you need motivation. Some of us are motivated by fear, some by excitement and the occasion, some by financial reward, some by inner satisfaction. Many of us need someone else to motivate us – a coach, teammate or spectator. And so, the inner talent needs to be fed by outside motivation. Let us go back into the classroom for a while. You may be talented in Mathematics but may need a committed teacher to motivate you to let that talent shine through.

So what of attitude? Attitude is how you think about yourself and your own performance. This takes the whole concept of success back internally – back on to you. Attitude is how you approach things – positively or not, with optimism or pessimism, believing you can or believing you cannot. And so this triangle of performance which starts inside with talent, moves outside to an external motivation – call it a desire to win, a coach or teacher – and then returns inside us all in the form of our attitude with which we do what we do.

It is no secret that I dislike people with poor attitudes. I have always tried to surround myself with positive people. I often use the advice from top companies when employing people is that you hire on attitude and train expertise. It is almost impossible to make someone enthusiastic about their work if they are not naturally so. It is easy to train someone to do what needs to be done if his or her attitude is right.

I have coached many sports teams at the highest school level – some successful and some not. We have won games we should have lost and lost games we should have won. In every case, without fail, when we succeeded despite being against more talented people, it was because of motivation and attitude. If you had to ask your sports coaches who they would choose – a talented sportsman whose attitude was poor or a less talented man who worked hard, was positive, responded to coaching and had a great attitude and there would be no contest at all. The player with the good attitude gets the spot every time.

You will encounter moments when you will be up against people who are more talented than you are. There will be times when you are faced with a really tough Maths test, you may be asked to play a piece of music you simply thought impossible. An external motivation and internal great attitude will get you past so many of these difficulties.

On Saturday we play our first sports fixture as a school where many of you will be playing. You have the talent to do well, but so does your opposition. What will make you different, what will make you successful is how you choose to play, the attitude you have when you start.

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

― Marcus Aurelius

“Attitude is a choice. Happiness is a choice. Optimism is a choice. Kindness is a choice. Giving is a choice. Respect is a choice. Whatever choice you make, makes you. Choose wisely.”

― Roy T. Bennett